Harry Potter & Order Of Phoenix

@fonofun (888)
October 12, 2006 10:34am CST
LOS ANGELES – We wished we had a camera on our recent visit to the set of “Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix.” Huddled together in a huge open space of the 200-plus acre Leavesden Studios, about an hour’s ride by bus from London, were figures that at first glance looked like Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and their “Order of Phoenix” cast mates: Matthew Lewis, Bonnie Wright and Evana Lynch. But they were not. They were the stand-ins of the young actors and actresses but it was quite a sight. These substitutes, who stand in for the actors before filming for technical purposes (like during the lighting set-up), were of course chosen for having the same skin tone, hair color, height and build as the actual cast. So it was like seeing a set of clones while the real Daniel and company were filming a scene inside a set structure. As usual, taking pictures on the set was strictly forbidden so it was too bad that we couldn’t capture for posterity this set of stand-ins who were dressed exactly the way the real actors were. Rupert’s substitute had the flaming red hair, too. Incidentally, director David Yates is such a perfectionist that he did so many takes of one scene involving Harry and his “Dumbledore’s Army.” By the day’s end, we could recite all the lines in this scene -- and in the voices of the cast. We saw the Great Hall again but this time it was set for a breakfast scene to be filmed the following day. So the seemingly endless rows of tables were set with plates and real cutlery -- not ordinary ones, mind you but gold-plated spoons, forks and knives. We imagined how much a spoon from one of the tables could fetch on eBay. Speaking of cutlery, we had lunch with the cast and crew at the commissary so on our way in, we saw Rupert and said hi to him as he ate just like one of the guys. What was different on our second “Harry Potter” set visit was that we finally got to talk to Katie Leung, whose Cho Chang role was coveted by many girls from around the world, including Chinese-Filipinas who sent letters, photos and audition tapes to the producers. “I feel that I’m very lucky to be chosen out of so many girls,” the Scottish-Chinese Katie told us. She gets to kiss Daniel in this fifth film adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally successful series of books. “Yes, Daniel is a very good kisser,” Katie confirmed when asked. “Yeah, I really enjoyed it (the kiss).” We’ll write more in the future about our interviews with Katie, Daniel (who confirmed that he will do a nude scene in “Equus” when he makes his West End debut next year), Rupert, Evana (as Luna Lovegood, she is the new girl in this movie; like Katie, she won the role over thousands of girls) and others. Other cast newcomers include Imelda Staunton (her Dolores Umbridge’s fondness for pink inspired the motif of our set visit tent), Helena Bonham Carter and George Harris. * * * Back in LA, we interviewed “The Queen.” Helen Mirren, that is. As Queen Elizabeth II in “The Queen,” Helen is being hailed by critics as one of the frontrunners in the Best Actress race come awards season time. And we agree. In director Stephen Frears’ excellent fictional account on what happened in the private chambers of the Royal Family and the British government after Princess Diana’s sudden death, Helen has remarkably channeled the essence of England’s monarch. In person, especially as she appeared before us that afternoon, Helen is not the first actress we would think of to portray Her Highness. But with the help of a wig, frumpy costumes and her renowned acting talents, Helen is Queen Elizabeth on screen, down to the way she clutches her purse on certain occasions. She won the Best Actress award for this role in last month’s Venice Film Festival. The film also bagged Best Screenplay for Peter Morgan and the prestigious FIPRESCI/International Critics Prize for Best Film in the Competition, given by a jury of international critics. Slim and impressively fit at 60, this former companion of actor Liam Neeson looks younger, especially with her short blonde hair. Named a Dame of the British Empire in 2003, Helen, who met the real queen at a polo match, said that with her title role in “The Queen,” “Maybe I’ll never get to meet her again.” But the movie is a fair, balanced portrayal of the Windors. Aside from Helen, the movie also stars Michael Sheen (also dead-on as Prime Minister Tony Blair), James Cromwell (as Prince Philip, he tells the Queen in bed, “Move over, cabbage”), Sylvia Syms as the Queen Mother (watch her say the word “celebrities” -- the stars and designers who attended Princess Di’s memorial service -- as if it were a dirty word) and Alex Jennings as Prince Charles. When Stephen Frears was asked how he guided Helen, he revealed, “When someone starts acting that well, you tend to keep your mouth shut because the last thing you want to do is to make her self-conscious. What you’re really terrified of is actually disturbing the whole thing because you can see that what’s coming out is very good.” Dame Helen has also portrayed Elizabeth I in a TV movie of the same name for which she recently won an Emmy Best Actress plum. At last year’s awards season red carpet action, Helen dutifully stood by as the wife of Taylor Hackford, director of the multi-nominated “Ray.” Early next year, we predict that the couple will switch positions, with Helen in the spotlight as a Best Actress nominee and Taylor, on the sidelines. How difficult was it to portray the Queen? It was the most intimidating role I’ve ever played. Elizabeth I was also a big role, more emotional, but this was more frightening to me because she’s so well-known. She’s an icon all over the world. Everybody knows what she looks like, what she sounds like. I knew that I had to at least get those things right, and hopefully go way beyond the simple impersonation of the Queen. Also, as you know, the British people have a very intense love-hate relationship with the monarchy and with this present royal family. It’s a tense and an emotional relationship, so it’s a dangerous subject to wander into as an actress. So I was very nervous at the thought of it. Were you worried that this film might betray the Queen? I think if it would, I wouldn’t have done it. The film doesn’t betray her. It’s great that we have free speech, but within a free speech society, it’s very easy to take cheap shots at people. But I felt the script was wonderfully sensitive. I thought it was funny, but human. Did you meet the Queen when you were made a Dame in 2003? Actually, I got my honor from Prince Charles, not from the Queen. Prince Charles also honors people. He was the person who did the ceremony. So I didn’t get the Queen. I got Prince Charles. When you read the scripts for Queens Elizabeth I and II, did you feel like saying, “I can do this,” right away? With Elizabeth I, I felt more like, “Oh, I can do this,” because of the extreme breadth of her emotional journey. I loved that. But I also loved the challenge of portraying the interior nature of Elizabeth II -- the fact that you’ve got little to work with in terms of expressing to the audience what you’re feeling. With Elizabeth I, she says it. If she’s angry, she shouts. If she’s sad, she cries. With Elizabeth II, that’s not the way she has ever been, even when she was a little girl. There was always a sense of self-control and discipline, a sense of responsibility and a sense of duty. So she’s a very different personality. But I wanted to make her human to the audience. The Queen laughs. She makes jokes. She twinkles. I met her once in a fairly relaxed situation at a polo match. She would never remember (me). But she was immediately engaging and she wasn’t the Queen we think of, this serious person. I saw a tiny suggestion of it (when I met her). I was desperate for (the essence of) that person to be on the screen. When a portrait painter comes, the Queen is free with him, unlike Elizabeth I who was controlling about the image she presented. She hated having her portrait painted. The queen doesn’t do that. She allows portrait painters to come in and do whatever they like. She lets people see what they see in her. How did you research to come up with this portrayal? I watched all the films and read all the books I could get my hands on. There’s very little film of the Queen where she’s not self-conscious. She’s either in her role as a monarch or she’s self-conscious because she’s being filmed having breakfast. The book I found most useful was a book the royal family hated because it was their first betrayal. It was called “The Little Princesses” by Marion Crawford, her nanny. Princess Margaret and Elizabeth had a nanny up to the time when they came into young womanhood. This woman looked after them. She had a really intimate understanding of these girls. The book is out of print now. But I found a copy. I found that book very valuable although it was extremely sycophantic and very much of its era. Nonetheless, it had a real indication of the character of Elizabeth. Did you also talk to anyone close to the Queen? I didn’t talk to anyone who knew her closely. I think this whole thing of the Queen being cold and withholding to her family is absolute bullshit. The only time I’ve seen Princess Anne really angry was when she was being interviewed. A suggestion had been made that her mother was cold, withholding and had not been a good mother. She said the Queen was very loving. In watching all the films about the Queen, what did you learn about her, physically? Looking at all the films about her, there’s always this sort of gravity about her that sometimes translates into grumpiness because of the way her face settles. I loathe it when people come up to me and say, “Oh, cheer up, love” (laughter). I’m perfectly happy, thank you very much. I think the same thing happens with the Queen. What’
1 response
@sbeauty (5869)
• United States
22 Oct 06
Thanks for sharing your experiences on the Harry Potter set. I'm sure it was an awesome experience. I can't wait until another movie comes out on DVD.