I have never been as big a fan of the Harry Potter movies as I am of the books, but I do enjoy the movies. I own the first six, and there are some I like better than others. When I first heard about Film Wizardry, I didn’t think I’d be much interested in the book. The movies, to me, are an amusing spin-off of the HP series, but not anything I’d want to study on their own. But then, someone (not sure who) put out a link on Twitter to an article that showed a couple sample pages, and I was hooked. The next time I got a 50% off coupon from Barnes & Nobles, I bought it.
In short, I absolutely loved the book!! I learned so much, and there are so many neat little touches inside. For example, every few pages there are things for you to keep: potion label stickers, a Marauder’s Map, some of Umbridge’s Proclamations, cutouts of Honeydukes products, Ministry of Magic identification cards, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes order forms, etc. There were also interviews with a lot of the cast and crew, telling funny stories about things that happened while on the set. I learned about which parts of the movies were done with CGI, and all the stuff that they did with props and sets, and how they put everything together.
I don’t think I can review this book in a normal way, because it sort of boils down to a list of facts about how the movies were constructed. Instead, I’m just going to bullet out some things that I learned and thought were really neat (in no particular order), then encourage Harry Potter fans to pick this one up!
- Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) was the only child-actor who had acted professionally before doing Harry Potter. He actually hadn’t read the books before auditioning, and initially auditioned for both Harry and Ron’s parts before getting Draco’s.
- The director for Prisoner of Azkaban, Alfonso Cuarón, actually hadn’t read the books or seen the movies and almost declined the position when he was asked if he would direct.
- Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) has a stand-in who is 6 foot 10 inches tall. The book includes a picture of them side by side, which is amazing to see. Apparently there was a lot done to allow Coltrane to seem giant-sized by way of props, like making a lifelike model of Draco Malfoy 30% smaller than his actual self for Hagrid to carry after Buckbeak’s attack.
- Fawkes is animatronic (not CGI) and covered in thousands of hand-painted feathers. He also had a mechanism inside him that let him cry real “tears” onto Harry’s arm in the Chamber of Secrets.
- The scene where Aunt Marge floats up into the air was done by tethering the actors/prop-dog to each other and lifting them up 30-40 feet in the air!
- They filmed the Hogwarts Express scenes actually at King’s Cross, where fans stood around gaping. I would have loved to be there!!
- I adored seeing pictures of the “smaller” version of Hogwarts (about the size of my house), the set for the Great Hall (which has never changed), and all the mini-models of locations!
- They used to use real food on the set for the feasts, but it would rot and start to stink every couple hours because of all the hot lights…ew!
- Rupert Grint (Ron) says he got to keep a piece of a broken horse from the chess game in Sorcerer’s Stone!
- I learned why Professor Flitwick’s costume changed after the second movie.
- Jason Issacs (Lucius Malfoy) always looks like he’s putting his nose in the air because he has to keep his head tilted back slightly to keep his wig on straight, haha!! Perfect for his character.
- It talks about how they made the mask for Moody to wear, and how his magic eye tended to pop out every once in awhile.
- At the end of the book, it had a preview of sets from Deathly Hallows Part 2!
This is just a small chunk of things I learned while reading this book. Many of the characters talked about how they auditioned and got their parts, and how they’ve developed them over time. My favorite part was probably when Tom Felton admitted (trying to be diplomatic all the while) that he’s a little embarrassed looking back on the first movie because of how inexperienced they all were then. He says he likes to think they’ve all improved over time, and I have to say I think they all have. These last few movies have seen marked improvements in my opinion. I can’t wait until next July when the last one comes out!
If you’re a fan of the series and of the movies at all, I highly recommend picking this one up.