Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley) On Set Interview HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS

     November 9, 2010

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 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 for the rest.

If you’ve watched all the Harry Potter films, you definitely know who Mark Williams is.  That’s because as the father of the Weasley clan, Williams has been in seven of the eight movies.  During the interview, he talked about what it was like having the journey come to an end, what are some of the things he gets to do in the final installments, and a lot more.  Hit the jump for the audio and the transcript:

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: Is being one of the people in this film get you anything when you go to Starbucks for coffee?

MW: No, not really, no. You sometimes get to go in through the “do not pass through this door kind of thing”, do you know what I mean? It can get you slightly into the right, there are slight perks, slightly private areas here and there.

Can you talk about the journey coming to an end? I mean, this is like a huge thing for everybody.

MW: Anybody who has been in all 8 is called a lifer. But I think I’m an honorary lifer because I’ve been in 7 of the 8. Yeah, it’s gonna be difficult for a lot of people, one of the things we’re not sure about within this industry is if ever people would ever make films like this anymore, in a sense of studio and construction based in a way this film has been pursued. For example, the Great Hall is now a 9 year old, 10 year old set, that’s stood with things like stone floors which give it a good kind of, sound, a feeling of reality, rooted in physical reality, the physical world. Now the way things are going at the moment, that’s not gonna happen In this country, some of the biggest films lately have been motion capture. “Tin Tin” for example, it looks like “Yellow Submarine” is gonna go in this country, the Zemeckis film, and none of those are gonna be physically based, so we don’t know, we don’t know what’s gonna happen.

And in terms of the, sort of family of Harry Potter, this is all coming to an end, it must be bittersweet.

MW: Yeah, it is bittersweet for everybody, I mean, I think over these last two films, I have to say  it’s been kind of hard work because the films have been amortized so, I mean, I don’t know what call sheet it is today, it’s day 200 and something, what is it? Day 226, that’s on first unit, so we’re on slate like, 2,000 and something. And because a lot of these resolution scenes in 7B  are big battle scenes, big congregational scenes and there’s been a lot of us here.  So it’s ending on kind of a high note,  a social note and I think when we finish, it’ll actually be bittersweet. But there will be a sense of something achieved that’s never been achieved before, not eight films with the same cast, apart from Richard, rest in peace.

I’m curious, you’ve obviously read the books…

MW: Yeah.

And obviously you’ve read both scripts for the two movies.

MW: Yeah.

How much, this has been the fan’s dream of finally getting two movies to finally capture so much more of the book. What can you tell people about, were there any sequences that didn’t make it that you thought, this might make it?

MW: I must admit, I try not to do that because it’s counterproductive to my input to the film, as most actors will probably tell you. Because if you’re bringing an editorial mindset to it, it’s really no good for your character or your part so, I think all of us tend not to do that in retrospect possibly we would do that, but I have to say that I particularly don’t do that because it’s important for me to be light on my feet and to not say, ‘Well, Mr. Weasley didn’t do that” or “he wouldn’t do that” or “why isn’t he doing that” cause that brings a barrier to the performance that you’re not being paid for.

You get to do some actual big fighting in this film.

MW: Well, yes, we all… there’s a lot of wand work going on, yeah. I’ve just seen Alan do the stuff he’s choreographed, which is very snake-like, very good, very balletic. With Mr. Weasley I sort of opted for a sort of, I put my hand behind my back in a sort of slightly formal fencing manner because I think that’s what he’s like, as he’s ministry-trained. And of course the kids get stuck in, and then most of us are a little bit older than that. And then Julian and Helena’s fight is really spectacular, I have to say.

I’m sure. And you also have some very wrenching emotional scenes.

MW: Oh, God yeah, we’ve actually done those. Those are all behind us and, that was not very nice. It’s not very nice spending days thinking about your children dying. Or being injured in the beginning of, uh…7A? Yes. I’m sorry, we’re not sure about what’s going on about whether they’re gonna be called  1 and 2, A and B…I guess it will be “Deathly Hallows 1” and “Deathly Hallows 2,” but who knows.

Rupert said that you don’t know from day to day what you’re gonna filming for movie one or two.

MW: It’s okay (laughter). It’s not been that difficult.

Do we know where the first film ends?

MW: It’s not been confirmed. Thank you (laughter).

Is that the staple answer that everyone has?

MW: No, no, it’s true. It really has not confirmed yet. I mean, when they edit, it will be the natural break, and you can’t always see rhythmically until you’ve cut it at least in a kind of rough cut. I don’t know how far along they are with the rough cut, they must be getting there…

It would seem natural that it would be after the bank robbery or something.

MW: Something like that, yeah. It will be, you know, rest assured it will be a good point. They’re not gonna just make an arbitrary cut, you know, it’s gonna be to hold — the other thing is that there’s still quite a lot of 2 to go in, so that will have a bearing on where 1 ends. Because they’ve got to — both balls have got to bounce.

I’m curious, when you were given the script for Part 1, were you given both scripts, and were, I guess a lot of us are curious —

MW: No, we weren’t given both scripts.

You were given Part 1 first?

MW: Not necessarily. Honestly, this has been an enormous undertaking to split a book — firstly, to split a book, any book, into two that’s not naturally been done by the author is a major undertaking. And to do that cinematographically is also another major undertaking. So I think you probably have an image of control and overview that doesn’t really exist. It’s also a lot more collaborative than you’d think. It doesn’t go book, script. I mean, the director has a bearing on the script before and during, you know, and the producers as well. So these things tend to be much more organic than perhaps you would imagine, particularly in terms of week to week shooting. And I’m sorry to make it sort of sound vague, but it’s not vague, but it’s not exact, you know what I mean? It’s not chronologically systematic, which a lot of people would like it to be, particularly parts of design and stuff like that.

Has it been easier in some ways to have one director on the last four films instead of bringing in somebody new every time?

MW: Yes. But then that’s meant we can do this. That’s been a factor of these last four films. Because before it was shoot, edit, and then at the end of the edit, pre-produce with the new director, apart from the first two ‘cause of Chris.  But with Alfonso, Mike, and then David’s first one, they were kind of like that. But it’s become much more of a rolling process, which has meant — I have a feeling it would have been very difficult, we would probably be not this far down the line if David hadn’t taken on the enormous task of finishing the project. But then also the continuity of David Heyman and David Barron has also been very important indeed. So that team, the three Davids, has been pretty spectacularly effective, really. One thing that we all find quite amazing is their stamina, particularly David Yates, who — a lot of directors you work with, towards the end of a big project, start to look kind of eaten. But it doesn’t eat David, David feeds on it. It’s amazing really. He’s quite got an extraordinary rhythm through this, and he even keeps his enthusiasm, so.

Your character’s really gotten a chance to grow so much in the last few films, and his role has become expanded. Are you pleased with that and what you’ve gotten to do?

MW: Oh yeah. I would have liked to have killed more people (laughter) in 7B, but then that’s also when you get to see more of Kingsley, which has been great, ‘cause he’s always been sort of this brooding presence in the background, whereas this time he gets to kick ass apparently.

Of all the productions that you’ve done so far, which aspect of the film do you like that you’ve shot so far the best?

MW: I try not to do that. I try not to prioritize, to favoritize. I mean, the thing I’ve enjoyed most is the collaborative process of working with the whole team, and that sounds kind of trite, but I’m sorry, that’s the truth, it really is. And also what’s been great is different sets and different environments. The wedding was great. That was the Quidditch tent we had, which that was great fun. We loved that. So the design, for us, has been a fantastic experience, and especially props and things — I mean, everybody loves their wand. And we were doing work with the brooms, which are fantastic pieces of propmaking, so that was great fun. Mad-Eye’s is titanium, it is made of titanium. With the rise of CGI and motion capture, that’s part of the richness for actors that’s lost, because it does connect you physically.

Is the Ministry of Magic set still…?

MW: It’s been rebuilt. We’re about to shoot on that. That’s a spectacular set. That’s an amazing set, yeah, yeah.

As an actor I imagine you’ve never had an experience like this before, working on these films. Can you ever imagine having an experience like this again?

MW: I’ve done a lot of these kind of films. I was in “101 Dalmatians” and “The Borrowers,” and “101 Dalmatians” was at the time a pretty big build. So I’ve done quite a few of those that have been shot in this country — “Shakespeare in Love,” where we rebuilt the Globe and stuff like that. But this is a different deal. I mean, even “Batman” was — at the time when we shot it in this country was crazy. But this is — I mean, Leavesden is full. We’re now using Pinewood as well.

Can you talk about the kids?

MW: They’re not kids anymore!

Starting from Number 2 when they were, I don’t know, 13, 12, and now they’re full-grown adults, talk about what you’ve seen change in them.

MW: Well, they all went through adolescence, which was a bit tricky here and there (laughs). They’ve been great. We’ve had great fun. When Dan and Rupert were little, after lunch was always useless. Do you remember being at school after lunch in the afternoon when you were either really — you went kind of tired, and then you went really giggly, and then it was time to go home. You remember? So there used to be an hour where they’d just be like, okay, okay, Chris Columbus would be like, ‘C’mon, you guys, action!’ (makes laughing sound). There was nothing you could do. It was great fun.

Is there anyone in particular you’ve kind of developed almost a fatherly bond with?

MW: Well, all of them really. I have been kind of ginger leader, papa Weasley. It used to be quite funny because sometimes — it’s a long, old haul, especially when you’re an adolescent, or a pre-adolescent, night shoots and stuff like that, and I used to have to go and be like, ‘Come on. You’ve already been up all night.’ But I can honestly say they’ve all been brilliant, and just recently I went out with the twins and Rupert, and we went out for a curry and a pint, that was hilarious. There were a load of teenagers with their phones, really polite, going, ‘Can we take a picture of you?’ to the guys. And one girl turned to me and said, ‘And your dad.’ (laughter) So it’s been an absolute pleasure.

I know you have to go, but one quick little question. I’m just curious about what it’s like when you’re doing this kind of shoot and the rehearsal process as actors. Obviously you’re shooting for 200-something days, you can’t rehearse this whole thing. Can you talk about how it is when you get to set in the morning, how you…

MW: You get to set, you do lineup, which is rehearsal, and then you shoot the scene, and that will probably take a week, because these are all big scenes. So it’s like that, that’s what it’s like. It’s daily, you know what I mean? It’s like, ‘Keep going.’

What’s the most pages you’ve been able to do in a day?

MW: We usually do, like most films, we’ll do a page a day, which is two minutes, but sometimes less than that.

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