Even without the gift of hindsight, I think there was always something inevitable about me and the world of Harry Potter become entwined. Growing up, like most people I was a huge Harry Potter fan. Every night I’d sleep to Stephen Fry’s impeccable audiobooks, and Prisoner of Azkaban was the first film I ever saw in a cinema. As the aforementioned cinema was only a small, independent one (a local theatre that enjoyed moonlighting), my mum managed to get me the massive display posters of both Azkaban and the Goblet of Fire, which served to decorate my room until they were replaced with Stuart Craig’s sketch of the Hogwarts Bridge. In fact, I won my nintendo wii (back when they were the next big thing) in a Harry Potter related competition. National Geographic’s magazine for kids was ran a ‘simple’ question to tie-in with the release of Order of the Phoenix. Asking me to identify the headmaster of Hogwarts, I (being me) immediately named Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Severus Snape and Dolores Umbridge – probably throwing in Armando Dippet, Phineas Nigellus and Professor McGonagall for good measure. Needless to say, a couple of month’s later I received a massive package. The actual Order of Phoenix game was pretty rubbish, but the Wii was pretty amazing to say the least. While I’m discussing the HP video games, I have to say that; as much as I enjoyed the playstation versions of Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets, or the Quidditch World Cup thing, my favourite remains the PC edition of Prisoner of Azkaban – that was fun.
So, all things considered, you can understand my delight when I was asked to audition for Deathly Hallows in October 2009. I hadn’t been acting for very long, and though I’d had castings for reasonably well known projects, this was the big cheese. At the time, long before any whispering of Cursed Child or Fantastic Beasts, I also thought this would be my last and only chance to be involved with JK Rowling’s world.
The first audition, with Fiona Weir, was at an office in Portobello Road, London. Though I was being seen primarily for Young Sirius, they also wanted to see me have a go at Young Snape. In the casting, I was tasked with an adaptation of the train scene from The Prince’s Tale. Whether or not this was ever actually going to appear in the final film I don’t know, but what’s certainly true is that we never filmed it. The only thing I can really remember was how I was asked to try playing the role less theatrically, as this was a long, long time before I really got the hang of naturalism on camera (please tell me when I do). I left the casting pretty pleased, but it wasn’t for another 2 months before I was asked for a recall at Pinewood Studios, on Monday 25th January 2010.
Though my younger sister Hattie would later film elements of Snow White and the Huntsman at Pinewood, I was most excited about the recall because Pinewood was where they shot the James Bond films (and Mamma Mia). This was a special part of the process (all of it was), where I first met Alfie McIwan, who eventually played Young James. Interestingly, it was at this stage that Benedict and Ellie also worked together for the same time, though Alfie and I were acting with other auditionees. I remember that there were a lot of people waiting their turn in a big holding room, with loads of potential Jameses, Siriuses, Snapes and Lilies. When we were called, I met David Yates for the first time. Though I know that not every Harry Potter fan admires him, and even I didn’t like Order of the Phoenix first time I saw it, as an actor he was an absolute pleasure to work with. Even when we filmed our scenes, he was always willing to listen to our ideas and you clearly saw his affinity for the relationships between Sirius, James, Lily and Snape. In the recall we were asked to improvise a couple of short conversations, and at the end (when everyone else walked out) I did something that I’d never ever do nowadays – I asked David Yates for his autograph. As a ‘proper’ actor, I’d never ask for that now, but I was young and happily ignorant. So ignorant, in fact, that I ignored the fact that he signed my autograph book “to young Sirius”.
All the way through my Harry Potter experience, I really enjoyed getting autographs from my fellow actors. At one stage I broke one of those ancient unwritten rules about getting autographs in the makeup room, when I saw Robbie Coltrane. Robbie, being a gent, was happy to sign my piece of paper, and also gave me the brilliant advice of “never getting a signature in biro, as it’ll eventually rub off.” Even now I still have a dedicated Hagrid doll that he would later autograph, as well as weird Harry Potter one inked by Dan. My favourite autograph, however, is probably from David Bradley. Growing up, Filch was one of the scariest characters in the world, so when I met him one day in full makeup and costume I was pretty amazed – even more so when he scrawled this:
Anyway, after the recall I still had to wait a couple of months before I was asked to go to Leavesden for a screen test, as well as an associated costume, hair and makeup meeting. Having been forbidden from cutting my hair (I didn’t complain) for about 5/6 months previously, that’s why it’s so incredibly long in my photo with Dan, which was taken when I was at Leavesden for the makeup.
I still remember far too much about this meeting, as it was one of the best moments of my life. My mum and I were being led from the costume department to the makeup department, as our guide mentioned that Dan was shooting that day. Already I was excited, amazed that I was in the same building as Daniel Radcliffe! Next thing I knew, we were in the corridor outside hair/makeup and a short-looking guy was talking to a little girl (who would later play Young Petunia). He turned around and – OH MY GOD – it was Harry Potter. Though I like to think that I don’t get starstruck that often, I could add little more to the subsequent conversation than a couple of nods. Dan welcomed us to the Potter family, and had to be literally dragged away when he was needed elsewhere. From that moment on, we were on first name terms.
After the screentest, everything went silent for a while. Though now I presume my mum was still in contact with the other mums (Ellie, Benedict, Alfie and I were now all acquainted), we didn’t hear anything for a few weeks. I obviously wanted the part, but at that age so much of it was fresh and fun, I didn’t really appreciate the stakes.
Then one day I came home from middle school to find a soft owl toy in the lounge. It had a piece of paper taped to it, which read “to young Sirius, congratulations on getting the part.” I still have the paper somewhere, and I definitely kept the owl. One thing I certainly didn’t have, however, was any idea of what would come…