Stuart Craig talks Deathly Hallows: Part II King’s Cross, final battle, Hogwarts sets
In a new interview with ArtInsights magazine, production designer Stuart Craig detailed how he brought Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to life in the Harry Potter films, and discussed some of the newer sets in the final two films, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, including Malfoy Manor, the Lovegoods’ home, the Weasley wedding marquee, King’s Cross, the final battle between Harry and Voldemort, and Hogwarts burned to the ground. Some of Deathly Hallows-specific highlights can be read, courtesy of TLC, below.
I would imagine not having all the books at once was a source of excitement though, for you since you have worked on all of them to get a new book and discover something that you get to sink your teeth into as an artist and work on and so what would you say in the last book when you first read it –that you were excited to work on–getting an opportunity to express visually?
Stuart Craig: That’s absolutely true, you know. The ministry suddenly appeared and that was a huge challenge, every book has something new. In the last book, book number seven, we split into two parts, as you know, into two movies. The challenge of the first part is the whole movie, you never see Hogwarts, the movie takes place with the kids on the run.
From Voldemort and the Ministry turned bad they are hunted and they are on the run so it’s a series of physical locations and sometimes built sets there’s a frozen forest with a frozen lake with the sword of Gryffindor at the bottom of the frozen lake–that’s a set on a sound-stage here in London which has to be integrated with bit of real forest that precedes it. So that was a challenge there something we were quite unfamiliar with really, was traveling to distant locations for landscapes specifically.
In part two, the great challenge is the destruction of Hogwarts. And you can’t just knock holes in what you’ve got, you have to consider that as a new set–again this all important idea of strong profiles making strong images.
And all that fire and this light coming through and big sections knocked down…
SC: The sun rising behind the smoke and all those considerations but as I say the big big challenge was the massive remains of destroyed walls, the entrance hall, the entrance of the great hall, part of the roof of the great hall completely gone, so yea. a big challenge there. and an enjoyable one really–maybe it helped me and the guys in the art department sort of prepare for the end really–we demolished it before we had to strike it completely.
Well, that might have been good catharsis. What about, when I think about the two last movies and i was trying to imagine what would be fun, because I listen to the books a lot, the Lovegood house and the wedding and then at the beginning with the Manor with the body hanging, if i were someone putting together the visuals of the movies, those would be the most exciting part of the movie.
SC: I think you’re right. The Malfoy Manor, the Malfoy house is a very strong architectural set, the exterior is based on an Elizabethan house here in this country called Hardwick Hall and it has massive windows and these windows are kind of blinded out the shutters are drawn so they are like blind windows and they have a real kind of presence an ominous presence, so that gave us the basis for a good exterior, there’s an extraordinary magical roof that’s added and surrounded by forest which isn’t there in reality but again is one of the devices to make it more threatening and mysterious.
SC: And then the interior two floors on stages and very very muscular architecture, very strong architecture form. So that was great to get into that. The Lovegood house is a tower, J.K. Rowling says it’s a black tower, in an empty landscape and that’s exactly what it is, but i again take great care over the sculptural shape of that tower.
But the interior is fantastic and crazy.
SC: Yes! And luna and her father both have eccentric tastes, we asked Luna–Evanna, the actress to actually help us with this, she had painted, decorated the interior with painted decorations on the walls little murals and stuff so that was great!
One of the things I thought was most interesting about specifically the Lovegood wedding juxtaposed against the beginning of the movie is the sharp contrast of the dark and the shadows, and when I think of the book the one little joyful moment is the wedding. Even though of course it winds up a mess, but at the beginning of it, it’s beautiful and there’s a lot of light. How did you work that contrast?
SC: We decided the wedding should be, as wedding receptions often are, in a tent, in a marquee, and that marquee should sit in this flat marshy weedy landscape outside the Weasley house, so the question was do i make it the same, an extension of the Weasley house, with the same eccentricity the same color rather amateurish homemade feeling or something different, and this was the fun of something different and since Bill was marrying Fleur.
Fleur Delacour and we could say that her parents had a big influence on the wedding, in fact Mr. Delacour would probably pay for it as father of the bride, and so that permitted a French influence and so we really went with that there’s a very refined soft interior, painted silk, there are floating candles in little French 18th century candelabra the whole thing has a very elegant and quite un-Weasley look about it.
I was just going to ask you about that King’s Cross station scene at the end of the 2nd movie did you have to think about that for a while? sometimes when you’re working on a scene do you have to sit on it for a while– I mean do you just wait for all the research to come in and sort of spread it all out and just contemplate it for a few days?
SC: Absolutely that. I think flashes of inspiration are for me very hard to come by. I often sit in front of a blank sheet of paper and struggle and struggle and use the eraser a lot. but eventually something will form and something like that which is a difficult concept. You’re talking about with Harry between life and death?
Yes. Yes. there’s not a lot of direction about how the scene is so that’s why i chose that to one to ask you about… it seems like you had to fill in a lot.
SC: We experimented a lot, quite honestly. I mean it was quite a protracted process really but we did experiment the sense of it being very burnt out very very kind of white–so we experimented with underlit floors, we experimented with different kind of white covering everything: white paint, white fabric, and the cameraman was involved in how much to expose it, and a series of camera tests were done, so we got there but with a great deal of preparation and research.
Well, given that the end result was very simple set, a very white platform surrounded with white walls and there’ll be some visually enhancing effects put in, but there was a sketch that Andrew [Williamson] and I prepared that became a kind of template–and then we did all that experimenting. difficult to say how long–experimented over two or three weeks I’d say.
SC: And then in part two the big thing is the destruction of Hogwarts, and I couldn’t just go round an knock holes in what we had I had to reinvent it to a large extent a ruined building has to be — the profile has to be good has to be strong — has to be designed as a ruin rather just the original design knocked around a bit
Also the architecture juxtaposed with the people and the death, you know the way in the books I remember really well the bodies against the architecture. the kind of light that you use in that is going to be very interesting.
SC: Yes, the big stand off, the final stand off between Voldemort and Harry is in the courtyard in front of the school and the light–what is essentially the sunrise, is very effective in that. I have to say I haven’t seen it, just as you haven’t seen part two.
The Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I Blu-ray and DVD sets, out on April 11, 2011 in the U.K. and April 15, 2011 in the U.S., can be pre-ordered on the WB Shop or Amazon.