The New York Times: 20 years of Harry Potter - Daniel J Radcliffe Holland

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The New York Times: 20 years of Harry Potter

20 years later: In separate interviews with The New York Times, Daniel Radcliffe and director Chris Columbus recalled what it took to shoot four key scenes of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  Daniel's (video) interview took place in October in New York.

About no longer being embarrassed by some of the scenes the way he was in his late teens: “Now I’m able to look back and go, ‘OK, you were a kid, it’s fine,’” he said, laughing. “It’s still a lovely memory.”

A version of the interview appears in the print magazine on 14th November 2021, Section AR, Page 12 of the New York edition with the headline: The ‘Harry Potter’ That Started It All.

The Great Hall

COLUMBUS When the actors walk into the Great Hall for the first time, what you see on their faces is the genuine reaction to seeing this incredible set for the first time.

RADCLIFFE It never really lost that power.

COLUMBUS The production designer Stuart Craig and [the set decorator] Stephenie McMillan had such an incredible eye for detail. I opened up one of the menus, and realized they’d handwritten all 400 on parchment paper. I thought, “Oh my God, this is the real deal.” I’ve since never had such extraordinary production design.

But there were a few hiccups.

COLUMBUS The food came in — an American Thanksgiving feast — and it was meant to last for eight to 10 hours. I came back the next day, and it was still the same food! By Day 3, I can only say the scent of the Great Hall was getting a little funky.

There was also a mishap.

COLUMBUS When all the kids file into the Great Hall for the first time, we see hundreds of floating candles in the air. And then something horrible happened — the flames of the candles started to burn through the clear string holding them and started to drop! We had to get everybody out of the set — and then we shot it two more times, telling ourselves, “We’re just going to add C.G.I. candles.”

RADCLIFFE We scattered! I’m sure Chris was more stressed out by it, but as a kid, you’re like, “This is really funny.”

Quidditch

COLUMBUS Our stunt coordinator, Greg Powell, came up with these brilliant rigs that gave all the actors a sense of almost being on an amusement-park ride. What you see on their faces a lot of times, particularly in the Quidditch match, is real — they were a little terrified, but for the most part, as 11-year-old kids, they were having the time of their lives.

RADCLIFFE Looking back, it would have been totally acceptable for me as an 11-year-old in interviews to go, “Yeah, the Quidditch scenes are pretty painful.” But at the time, it was like, “I can’t say anything bad or negative about anything,” so you’re just like, “No, no, no, it’s great.” It was a broomstick with a thin seat in the middle, and you didn’t have stirrups — or, if you did, they were very, very high up — so you were basically leaning all your weight onto your junk when you leaned forward.

COLUMBUS A few weeks before I started the film, I ran into Steven Spielberg. And he said, “There’s one thing you’ve got to do: When these kids get off these rigs, they should be rubbing their thighs like athletes, like it’s really been this incredibly painful experience.”

RADCLIFFE I think on the fifth movie, they made a broom that had more of a rowing machine tractor seat, and we were like, “Why has this taken so long to change? This is much better!”

The troll attack

COLUMBUS Whatever C.G.I. character couldn’t be there in person, I had to be. So in the second film I was Dobby, the Basilisk — and here, I was the troll. In the wide shots I could only shout and act like a maniac off camera, but in the close-ups, I could actually be next to the camera pretending to be a troll. It was one of the most intense physical workouts I’ve ever had.

RADCLIFFE One of the great things about the films early on was that a huge amount of the effects were practical. The shot of us ducking as the bathroom stalls explode when the troll hits them with the club — some of that was very real. It’s always better to react to something that’s there.

The chess game

COLUMBUS Stuart and I thought it would be interesting to build as much as possible so we could get the kids’ actual reactions of being on these enormous chess pieces. The only things that were augmented in C.G.I. were some explosions — though we did some practical ones, too — and some scenes where the pieces actually had to move. I think it was the pawns that had to draw their swords.

RADCLIFFE Of course, they d got an international master to devise a chess puzzle. The attention to detail was really cool.

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