Earlier this year, I got to visit the set of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when the production was still shooting at Leavesden Studios outside London. As you might imagine, it was an amazing experience and you can read about it here. In addition, while on set, I got to participate in group interviews with a lot of the cast. Here’s Daniel Radcliffe, Warwick Davis, Rupert Grint, Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley), and director David Yates. However, I also spoke to a few other cast members and with the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 getting released next week, it’s time to post my last on set interview and it’s with James Phelps and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley).
During the interview, the Phelps twins talked about the series ending and what it’s been like for them, what items they could have “hypothetically” taken home from set, memorable moments from the films, their reaction to reading book seven and finding out what happened to their characters, and so much more. Hit the jump to either read or listen to what they had to say:
Since many of you like to listen to an interview, you can click here for the audio. Or you can read the transcript below. And for the two people that haven’t seen it, here’s the amazing trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 which gets released November 19, 2010:
Question: We’d love to get you to say your names, to try and distinguish your voices on these tapes—I don’t know if that’s even possible.
James: I’m James, who plays Fred
Oliver: I’m Oliver, who plays George
Yeah we’re gonna have a problem (laughs). Just so you know, when these quotes run, if [the names are] opposite, just know we tried. I definitely wanna start with a Joe question for the two of you: what’s it like in the real world, being in these two films playing these two iconic characters, what perks do you get when you go to Starbucks and whatnot? If any?
James: I suppose the best thing about it, cause we’ve been out with Tom (Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy) who I think is at the other end of the spectrum, if we’re ever out 9 times out of 10 kids especially will feel more welcome speaking to Oliver and I than they will speaking to Tom, even though Tom’s a lovely chap and everything but because he plays Malfoy they all think he’s instantly evil, whereas Oliver and I are a bit more approachable.
Oliver: Yeah we’re quite jokey anyway so we always have a laugh with each other and our friends.
Now, big things happen to your characters in these films. In the past you’ve been sort of comic relief but in these two, you (James) die and you (Oliver) lose an ear. Can you talk about getting to those places for these characters?
James: I guess it’s kind of, even when we were doing the other ones we were comic relief and everything, but we didn’t want to make them like clowns as it were all the time. A lot of the fans that we’ve met have remarked upon the fact that they’re quite glad that it wasn’t as if we turned up and [were goofy all the time]. I guess it kind of makes them more real. You kind of think since they’re so playful they’re sort of invincible to that dangerous aspect but then obviously you discover they’re not.
And for you, Oliver, you have a particular tough time because you watch your twin die. I can’t imagine what that must be like to play?
Oliver: Yeah it was a bit odd, it was a bit surreal as well cause he’s not just necessarily your character brother he’s actually like my proper brother so it is quite strange. But as James said we never tried to shy away from that whole part of Fred and George. So I think the only time you actually see them when they’re not laughing about is in the fourth film when they have a bit of a scrap with each other. Apart from that they’ve always been quite laughy and jokey. So, yes it’s been quite different but it’s also been quite fun, especially the parts in Part 1.
The other question I’ve been asking cast members who have been along for the entire ride, as you two have, what does it feel like coming to the end? Have you given yourselves a chance to think about that or has the realization sunk in that this is it?
James: Apparently the cast and crew who have done all the films are called a “lifer” now, so we’ve been here for life. But yeah, I haven’t really thought about it too much. I guess it’s kind of like when you leave high school, that you’ve been with all these guys for so many years and then you’re gonna go off and do whatever. I never really gave it a big thought, it kind of hit me yesterday when i was driving to the hotel which I’ve been practically living at for the last ten years. I was kind of like “Well, I’m not gonna do this journey for much longer.” It kind of hit me, maybe I should have made more use of the room service (laughs).
Oliver: It was the same for me yesterday when I was unpacking. Whereas certainly on [films] 4 and 5 when we were down [here] every week or so, the routine was just, you know “Sunday night travel down, unpack, da da da” And as I was doing it yesterday I thought yeah I’m not gonna do this much more. So it’s starting to sink in now. At the beginning of the picture we didn’t really think much of it, it seemed to be like we were back at the normal routine, but now it is starting to settle in a bit. But it’s just something you’ve got to deal with I suppose.
Which one of you has been doing some assistant director work?
James: I did it on the last one, I haven’t done it on this picture.
How was that and why didn’t you continue?
James: I thoroughly enjoyed it for every reason I wanted to do it. I learned probably more in my first month doing that about the film industry than I did in my 5 or 6 years previous of acting because I was kind of hidden away from the 5am starts and all this and that, which I quickly learned are real (laughs). It kind of made me a lot more professional as an actor, in the sense that right before rehearsals I would joke around with fellow cast members whereas obviously then you realize people have been there for a long time before you got there and they wanted to get on with their job. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to everybody but the reason that I didn’t continue with it is simply this is the last Potter and I kind of wanted to be spoiled (laughs), but also I couldn’t really continue on that path whilst acting, because if I’m acting can’t really do any running as it were, so I couldn’t really branch out in that.
Is this something you want to do in the future? Directing? Or do you wanna keep acting?
James: It kind of made me open to a lot of the other sides of the industry. I mean, acting is primarily is where I want to go. But seeing how the visual effects guys work, and the special effects guys and the art department guys, how they work and seeing their visions is really interesting. I don’t think those guys get the recognition they deserve.
Oliver: Yeah I mean there’s some guys who are packing up the art department because there’s nothing left to design anymore, and yet they’ve been here for well over ten years, like much longer than we have. So for them I bet the series ending is even harder.
How did they accomplish George’s ear?
Oliver: I’ll just say that’s a trick of the trade (laughs). But it’s definitely not CGI.
James: We had a picture of it and we were at the pub with our mates and we were talking about what we had done at work and we mentioned there had been a bit of an accident at work.
Oliver: I still had a hat on as well
James: Yeah he had a beanie on covering his ear. The guy was like “what happened?” I go, look at this [pulls beanie off], and they were all “bloody hell!” (laughs). But it was after it had first happened, so the costume was all bloody
Oliver: It looked more like a Tarantino film than a Potter film I think.
James: It was quite funny, the first time they were putting it on the song “Stuck in the Middle with You” came on the radio. So it seemed quite alright that that song came on while they were taking my ear off.
I’m curious if both of you could talk about when you first got the book, and you first read Part 7 Deathly Hallows, and reading about what the resolution is to both of your characters?
James: We were in Japan when it was released and the Japanese hadn’t come out yet, but the English version was out there so I got it and, cause I was on holiday I turned my phone off, and I blitzed through it in two days, I couldn’t put it down. I remember I was in the bullet train, and the part of what happens to Fred, and literally at that second the ticket guy came around asking for my ticket and I’m like, “I just died mate leave me alone!” (laughs)
Oliver: I made the mistake of leaving my phone on, and I got a text message from my friend saying “God what did you say to JK Rowling? She doesn’t like you guys, you lose your ear and James dies!” It was quite strange though because there were guys at the 5th premiere, before it came out, and I don’t know how they’d worked it but they were saying “Fred’s not gonna last! Fred’s not gonna last!” I don’t know how they got it, but they seemed quite confident about it. But yeah, it was very interesting.
When you’re preparing for a death scene, does it actually make you think about your own mortality?
James: Um, not particularly. I’m not really that way, my theory’s kind of like “when your number’s up your number’s up.” (laughs). I did kind of fall asleep when I was lying there once, and I woke up and there was hardly anyone in the hall, and you could see them all like giggling through the window. And I was like, I was really in character there (laughs). No I guess it kind of—I dunno I don’t wanna make it like an old Western where you’re stickin around for ages kind of thing, but it was just part of the acting process I guess.
Do you get a big death scene in the film?
James: I can’t say. I’ll keep that one.
Mark (Williams, who plays Arthur Weasley) was talking before about how they’re not gonna be making movies of this scale, with the giant sets, as the industry goes forward. Have you guys ever stopped to think about the accomplishment of what’s been done? I mean the 8 movies, almost all the same cast consistent throughout, faithful to the source material…
Oliver: Yeah I mean I don’t think there’s any film series anywhere that’s like Potter. I mean I suppose the thing you could compare it to is Star Wars but then again, I think they kind of lost the big sets you know. And it’s a shame that a lot of people just perceive that it’s just going to be ultimately CGI. Whereas like the courtyard outside, that’s just incredible. And yet when we first started we used to go all around the north of England to the castles there, and yet the sets outside [here] you wouldn’t tell the difference from a camera point of view. So it’s really incredible, I think we’ve kind of started to take it for granted, the size of the sets and the detail of them. But yeah it would be weird if they don’t keep on with those things like that. I suppose finance and all of that goes into it.
James: I guess that because Oliver and I, this was the first production we were ever in, so we kind of came into it thinking “wow every movie’s like this, this is amazing!” But it was Robbie Coltrane who told us at the first premiere, “This is like having a Rolls Royce for your first car, so you’re probably not gonna get any better than this so enjoy it and [don’t] take it for granted, and appreciate it.” I can remember, like we were in the Great Hall today doing rehearsal, and I can remember the first time, it was literally like in the book when Harry walks through, and it was fully dressed and had all the background kids sitting there, and it was at the time when the candles were actually floating, and I was kind of “Wow”. And it’s weird that was ten years ago and I was about a foot shorter.
Oliver: I think it’s such an iconic set as well. There’s a lot of things throughout movie history, that people think about that defines a certain film, and I think the Great Hall is certainly up there for Harry Potter. And to be in there again today, it still never loses its magic on us, especially when we haven’t been in there for a while. And it actually seems exactly the same as the first day we went in it. It would be a shame if they do bring it down. We were filming in there when there was a bit of a battle going on, and that was a bit, “whoa what’s happening here?” But it’s still good fun.
Is each film a more exciting experience than the last? Or do you have memorable moments scattered throughout? Like you the joke shop in number 6 and there’s the big brawl in the hall in number 4 with the beards.
James: Yeah it’s kind of like you’ve got, I don’t wanna say they’re all brought into one but it is but if I can—I guess it’s like when you’re at school and you have your certain year groups, but then when you look back it’s all kind of in that same era as it were. The hall especially, I remember loads of things from that. So, like you say the fourth film when we had the beards and we were wrestling around on the floor and Oliver broke the director’s rib (laughs). And the sixth one in the joke shop, that set was probably the best I’ve ever been on because of the detail in all the props and how big it was. I think just little things about the whole studio in general, we kind of know the studio like the back of our hands now so if we wanna sneak away for whatever reason, to wind up the AD’s (Assistant Directors) which, being an AD I kind of learned how to tick ‘em off (laughs).
Oliver: For each film we’ve done there’s always been a different thing you’ll remember from that film. Certainly the first film, the first thing I think of is when we were filming at King’s Cross station for the first time. That was when we started to get a lot of—there was a lot of people who were watching what was going on, and that was like the attention was starting to come there. And then on the second film when we were way up filming in the north of England, which is quite cool. It could have been quite chilly but it was a summer scene. And then the third film when Alfonso (Cuaron, director) was on board the sets seemed to get a bit bigger. And then the fourth film obviously back in the Great Hall again, and the Quidditch World Cup cause that was a great atmosphere as well, there was a real buzz at the time. So yeah there’s lots of things you think about.
Some of the other actors were talking about director David Yates and what he’s really brought to the last four films and the overall scope and scale of the series, could you talk a little bit about what he’s brought to that and how he’s helped you guys with the characters?
James: All the directors have been great, I mean I’m not just saying that because we’ve worked with them, but genuinely they have all been great in their certain ways. It’s kind of like the best college you could get for acting because you have all the great actors around you and really great directors as well. I suppose David kind of made us think more about inside the character, whereas before it was kind of like you’re playing this thing whereas David’s kind of like you become this character and feel what—just like the little movement in the eye kind of thing and why they would be doing that. And that’s kind of helped with, especially in the scene where George has his ear blown off and, obviously Fred doesn’t know when he first sees him whether he’s alive or dead, so that kind of came into “well how would you feel if Oliver’s ear was blown off?”
Oliver: Or even trying to think back to anything similar—if you’ve ever had a moment like that in your life and how you felt at the time. So you get a lot more emotionally attached to it I suppose. Certainly the scene where Fred’s all “laid-out” as it were. But there’s certain parts where you think about what’s happened, like when we used to do the Quidditch games, “what would it be like if you saw Harry grab the snitch at the last [second].” And I just think to like when we used to play football for the school team and everything like that, just things you try to relate it to.
Hypothetically speaking, are there any items that you would like to take home? Or have taken home?
Oliver: (laughs) I mean there’s a few good things hypothetically that would have been nice to have hypothetically, I mean in the joke shop, you know like hypothetically the sweets and everything.
Was one of those things you’re standing on the set and your sort of just, pockets are filling up?
Oliver: But I’d love to have the wand, would be the main thing I’d like. Cause each wand is individual to each character. Fred and George’s wands are shaped like broomsticks.
James: Yeah yours is a broomstick and Fred’s is a pine-cone kind of thing. But I think I kind of messed up my wand when I kind of broke it. And it wasn’t anything action [oriented]
Oliver: It was the photo shoot for the posters.
James: (laughs) I was just messing around and I flipped it up into the air and missed it and it kind of cracked in half and I looked at the prop caller.
Speaking of the wands, I imagine each actor has several identical copies, or maybe not. Have you used the same wand throughout the years?
Oliver: I don’t think it’s the exact same.
James: I know I’ve got three. There’s like a rubbery, like a hard rubber, and then the other two are wood. I know the other two are wood cause I’ve broken both of them (laughs).
Oliver: They’re very delicate.
James: But to look at them you [couldn’t] tell at all. The designs have been the same since the third film, but as far as the actual ones go I think there’s three.
Oliver: That’s another thing that we learned with the props and everything is how detailed everything is. And they’re slightly different, like in the first couple of movies we had the bludger bats and some of them were pretty much foam and others were really hard. We went to the exhibit where [they have] the prop tour and everything and they had the one bludger there and the lady was saying “look at the detail on this”, and it was kind of funny cause I was like “oh I remember dropping that” (laughs). That’s where that detail came from. But then in other props, like even in the money in Gringotts, they are all individually made
James: The individual currency has the heads on it and everything. So it’s a shame that you can’t just have a camera on a set, cause even the newspaper articles, the inside is like that. The cereal boxes have got different slogans about making you fly faster and everything. It’s really incredible the detail and everything.
Oliver: On the newspapers, on the Daily Prophet, they’re completely encrypted and everything but there’s kind of jokes throughout the studio written in and aliases given but you know who those people are. So things like that are kind of fun as well.
I was just curious, how many copies of the Daily Prophet are in your house?
Oliver: Hypothetically none (everyone laughs)