The author of Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey, Bob McCabe, recently discussed his embedding in the Harry Potter films, more specifically in the final nine months of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. McCabe chatted about watching the actors perform at Leavesden Studios, which he admitted was not as magical and glamourous as the films themselves, as well as the final day of principal photography in June 2010.
What was the most surprising thing you uncovered when researching for the book?
Bob McCabe: One of the most impressive things was how normal everyone was. The whole Potter production – all ten years of it – has largely been based in a relatively remote location – Leavesden Studios, where there isn’t much else around. As a result, everyone has found themselves stuck there, making the bets of the situation. And due to the producers keeping an eye on their young cast, everyone has had to balance movies, stardom and glamour with the realities of school and work.
Thankfully, everyone seems to have kept their feet on the ground. There were no egos, no one unwilling to talk for the book, no one who didn’t simply want to help. And, thankfully, no one just back from rehab.
How heavily involved was J.K Rowling in the envisioning of the film?
JK always wanted to keep the two things separate – HER books, THEIR films. That said, she was involved from day one making sure they got it right, and continued to be an advisory presence throughout. But I feel that once she realised she had the right people in place, from producer David Heyman on down, she was confident enough to let them get on with it, knowing that they felt as passionately about her work as she did. In the early stages of each movie, she would provide insight for the filmmakers, especially when they were unsure of what was going to come in the next book.
And to the young cast she was a figure they could turn to on occasion. Many of them fondly recalled the personal letters they unexpectedly received from her, telling them how they’d brought things to life just as she had originally imagined them. Treasured items for all.
Did you spend time during cast with the filming - what was it like watching them film?
I was around the set for around the last nine months of filming. Sadly, the reality of filmmaking is the old cliché that for the most part it’s incredibly boring, no matter how magical the movie. Lots of down time, as everyone waits for the next shot to be set up, to perform generally only a fraction of a scene, then to repeat it several times, and then often to come back to another part of that scene several weeks later. There’s a lot of hanging around.
That said, most of the cast have grown up doing just that, so they’ve worked out how to cope. Dan and Rupert had the best rooms – complete with plasmas, X boxes, guitars, drums and table tennis. When needed back on set, they were ferried in on golf buggies and always right back into their performances.
What do you think the most dangerous stunt was?
Certainly the only time things got out of hand was the final battle of Hogwarts which was a night shoot. The courtyard was packed with almost all the major cast and hundreds of extras and the walls of the school were packed with explosives. One explosion got slightly out of hand and ended up burning down part of the set. Everyone took it in their stride however, with the effects teams basically saying “Don’t worry – we’ll put it in digitally and you’ll never know the difference.” On the plus side, it was a very cold night, so at least everyone had a fire to stand around and keep warm.
Were you there on the last week of filming - what was the mood like on set?
I was on set for the very last day of filming – a Saturday, they finished in time for lunch (which was a barbecue with ice cream provided by Rupert Grint’s own ice c ream van.) The final shot itself was unremarkable but as soon as it was over, the entire cast and crew were assembled on set – we sat and watched the very first trailer for Deathly Hallows Part One, which no one had seen, and then there was a special film showing a clapperboard shot for every single day of the 200 plus day shoot in sequential order.
At which point just about everyone collapsed into tears, I was supplying Emma Watson with tissues as she, Dan and Rupert just cried and hugged each other, and everyone realised that is was all finally over. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
HarperCollins released several new teaser images from their upcoming release of Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey, out October, mostly focusing on the production of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 and 2. The new images featuring the cast, including Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson on various sets including Shell Cottage and Hogwarts, and even a tiny teaser of Rupert Grint's birthday on the seven Potters set in August 2010.
Harper Collins sent over a few new page excerpts from the upcoming release of Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey, including set photos of the Slytherin common room from Chamber of Secrets, and art conceptuals for Hogwarts castle, and various magical items like the Sorting Hat, howlers, deluminators, and sneakoscopes.
French editor Huginn & Muninn released the first photos from the upcoming release of Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey, out October 25th, including art concepts for the various broomsticks used in the film series, Malfoy Manor's layout, Death Eater masks designs, and artistic ideas on how to create Fawkes the phoenix.