So, I had the part. Now I actually had to play it. Though Ellie and Benedict had the luxury of a locations shoot (to cover their pre-Hogwarts scenes), Alfie and I were only shooting for two days; scheduled a week apart. Still confined to “absolute secrecy”, my time at school reminds me of one of the best Dumbledore quotes: “What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret, so, naturally the whole school knows.”
However, just as I was getting ready for my role, disaster struck! Out of nowhere, I lost a tooth. Not literally – I just mean it fell out of my gums. Though on the set of nearly every other film every made, the producers wouldn’t bother to bat an eyelid, on Harry Potter it was agreed to send me over to Fangs FX, as a missing tooth could cause continuity problems.
For those of you who don’t know, Fangs FX is Europe’s major provider of false teeth – the ones you see in movies/TV at least. Their work includes Dracula, Doctor Who, Little Britain and, naturally, Harry Potter. Earlier on in the series, I was told, Fangs FX had had to create lots of fake teeth for the young cast as each one fell out, so off I went to their labs to get fitted.
The process was quite simple, a mold was filled with horribly tasting gum for me to hold in my mouth for several minutes. Once that was done, it would be taken away and turned into, effectively, a gum-shield that was utterly transparent apart from the new tooth. All I’d have to do on set was to slip it on. Then, when the time came in my fitting for the mold to be removed, it was pulled out for us to see – with shock – that a tooth had come out with at the same time. Now I was missing two teeth and had to come back the following week. Second time lucky proved the charm and, when I first tried the teeth on in the makeup department a couple of weeks later, I was swiveled in my chair to see Daniel Radcliffe, beaming and as caught up in the excitement as everyone else. Unfortunately I didn’t get to keep my fake teeth, and have no idea what happened to them. Perhaps they’re in a Warner Brothers’ vault somewhere, or maybe they were destroyed after filming? No idea.
My first day on set was a weird one. We were shooting the Great Hall scene, which was pretty amazing, but Alfie and I weren’t needed until later on in the day. As we were missing school, by law the film had to provide three hours of tutor-based education. This was comfortably everyone’s least favourite thing. Though the tutors were lovely people, the last thing you want to be doing is boring middle school homework when Hogwarts is literally a few feet away – and we certainly weren’t jealous as Benedict and Ellie were called away to do their scene with Maggie Smith (the short bit when Lily is sorted into Gryffindor). As lunch came and went, we’d done nothing.
A little aside, I do have to say how amazing the food on Harry Potter was. We would be guided to the Leavesden cafeteria (which I think was knocked down as part of the Studio Tour renovations), and effectively told to help ourselves. Needless to say, I would be pretty full an hour later. Cooler than the food though was the fact that all around the cafeteria were six massive cabinets, each one filled with props from a particular HP film. I saw the philosopher’s stone, the grim and several horcruxes as well as a huge stack of designs by Mina Lima. The grim teacup is the only prop I haven’t seen on the studio tour though.
Evening came, and with only an hour left to shoot (due to legal restrictions on child actors), we were summoned to the great hall for the shot. By this stage, I think most people were quite tired, but it was amazing to see the Great Hall in action. The torches were being lit with real fire every five minutes while, on our way inside, you couldn’t help but notice that the Entrance Hall was in ruins (they had already started filming the battle of hogwarts). There was a fair amount of pressure, but all I had to do was sit there and clap – what could go wrong? (Don’t answer that).
So, feeling happy with my first day, I went home to be called back the following Friday. Our final day of shooting was, it’s fair to say, much more exciting…
Though at the time this image hadn’t surfaced, there was a little thing on my bucket list that I felt obliged to complete. On the day of my screen-test, once we’d arrived back home, I had begun to reread the Harry Potter book series, cover to cover. I’m a fast reader, so to achieve my goal I did have to slow down a little – particularly for the last couple of books. It was worth it, so that I turned up to set on Day 2 and finished rereading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the set of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I think that was pretty cool.
For me and Alfie, our second day involved being a lot more active as we had to run up and down a corridor about a million times. When we shot the scene, Alfie and I were actually chasing a first year slytherin, but that detail was omitted in the edit. It seemed like a pretty cool shot – a reverse track that saw us run down one corridor before crossing into the one where we smash into Snape and Lily. On the first take, which one of my friends thinks was the one that made the final cut, Alfie actually tripped on one of the fallen books and fell over. Luckily that was one omen that didn’t set the tone for the day. After barely seeing him on the first day, David was at his most approachable when we were working on the scene. Though originally the scene was without dialogue, I suggested to him that I say “Snivellus” as we pushed through Snape and Lily. David agreed that was a good idea, and even gave me a second line later on in the day, where I was supposed to say “come on James” at the end of the brief scene. As you already know, both lines were cut for release in favour of Dan’s voiceover, which makes more sense in terms of the entire montage.
So, I was done. Wrapped. I said my goodbyes, even though that wasn’t the last time I’d visit Leavesden. You see, my family had been offered a special behind-the-scenes tour around the studios, which was even better than the subsequent tourist attraction. On this tour, they were still filming, so I was able to see Robbie again – say hi – and tell him that my teacher loved Krull. To this day I’m not sure if he believed that. We were lucky enough to see the different departments, as well as seeing sets being built and destroyed all in one day. Had my association with Harry Potter ended there, I’d have died delighted.
I was even luckier than that…