A very soggy red carpet in Leicester Square squelched underfoot last Thursday, as British acting royalty and young stars who now have the bank balances and empty schedules of actual royalty made their way into the world premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.
The cast and creators of the film were dowsed with intermittent rain and continuous praise during the evening, which was compered by Edith Bowman and Rick Edwards against a soundtrack of five hours of unrelenting screaming.
Proposals of marriage, offers to bear children and shouts of “who are you wearing?” (surely a question that should only rightfully be asked to psychos of the Buffalo Bill variety…) abounded, and as must be the case with every event of this kind, at points it all got a little bit Hyperbole and the Deathly Hallows.
First to greet the fans and form the vanguard of the Potter cast was a platoon of fully-costumed Death Eaters, who preceded to menace the crowd as much as is possible for grown men waving small sticks. Then everything lost a bit of context as the cast of The X Factor tipped up.
It made for a strange combination: on the one hand you’re confronted by the personification of evil, the foot soldiers of the most powerful dark wizard who ever lived, a leather-clad horde of dead-eyed soulless destroyers of heterogeneity concealed behind shiny immobile masks and on the other… well, I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.
This strange brew of excitement and banality was on the menu for the rest of the evening. It swung from the sublime to the ridiculous by welcoming an extraordinary roster of British acting talent including John Hurt, Timothy Spall, Ralph Fiennes, Imelda Staunton, David Morrissey, Jason Isaacs and Helena Bonham-Carter, as well as a bunch of slebs so pedestrian that their sole achievement of the evening must have been avoiding the congestion charge.
But stars there were, and very nice they were too. Den of Geek chatted to a few about their roles in the films, and one theme very quickly made itself apparent: actors love being bad.
When asked how to go about playing an evil character, Jason Isaacs grinned widely and expressed something of a Lord of the Flies perspective on humankind:
“You just relish it. Let out that side of yourself that we all have inside. As soon as you let go of caring what anyone else thinks, you’d be surprised what savagery we’re all capable of.”
It’s a line you could imagine being delivered by his character Lucius Malfoy, though with more strangulated sibilants than the actor’s easy North London charm.
Isaacs moves from suggesting that we’re all just a super-ego away from daubing ourselves in blood and dancing around an impaled pig’s head to another key Freudian idea, the phallic symbol, as he explained to Den of Geek why wizards are so attached to their wands:“He’s castrated at the table you know, Voldemort takes my wand and snaps it in front of the death eaters, he can’t even be arsed to kill me, that’s how beneath contempt I am.”
Lucius doesn’t only suffer at the hands of Voldemort in Deathly Hallows. Isaacs went on to tell Den of Geek that his character in the last two films is a “pathetic, dishevelled alcoholic wreck.” Not only emasculated at the hands of Lord Voldemort, but beaten down by his time behind bars in Azkaban and disappointed by his only son:“Prison has broken him badly. All I can hope is that maybe Draco will restore the family name and he continually lets me down.”
So did Isaacs feel any sympathy for the direction Lucius’ fates have turned? Don’t be silly. “It was great fun playing it and it’s great watching Lucius get his comeuppance.”
Similar relish in tackling the mwah-ha-ha side of things was expressed by Warwick Davis. Known widely for his good guy roles in Willow, Star Wars and the previous Potter films, Davis told Den of Geek “It’s always fun to play a villainous character, and Griphook you know is very much that. He’s a very dark character and there were a lot of levels to him. My character in this story is a little bit more central so it was really exciting.”
Despite admitting lighter, sillier characters are closer to his own personality, Davis told us evil roles win over good every time for him as “there’s more to get your thespian teeth into”, a view that presumably explains his decision to chew up the role of the titular baddy in a decade’s worth of Leprechaun movies…
Timothy Spall is the man behind Peter Pettigrew, or Wormtail, a rat both in the figurative and literal sense and the Judas Iscariot of the Potter films. Betraying his friends James and Lily Potter to Voldemort, Wormtail plays a key part in both the death of Harry’s parents and the resurrection of Lord Voldemort, a scene Spall told Den of Geek was his fondest filming memory.
“Favourite memory? Carrying around a baby Lord Voldemort, throwing him in a pot of stew, chopping my hand off, cutting Harry’s blood and then boiling it into a lovely little Bouillabaisse…”
Showing more personality in a few words than the sum total of every X Factor interview ever, Timothy Spall joked that since the Potter films were now over, so was his acting career, and went on to make what had to be the most bizarre statement of the night. Even stranger than the bit-players’ earnest conviction that yes, multi-millionaires Dan, Emma and J.K had promised they were definitely all going to stay in touch, was Spall’s announcement that he was now a chiropodist and a Portuguese man of war.
Yes, those were his words, and you know what? I’m not going to argue with him.
Showing obvious enjoyment at having played a villainous traitor doomed to rot in the ninth circle of hell, Spall told us he wanted to be remembered in the films as “one of the most disgusting, ugly, vile, naughty little rats you’ve ever met”. That and a foot-care specialist jellyfish.
Evanna Lynch, Emma Watson, Matt Lewis, The Phelps brothers, Chloe Moretz
So did Den of Geek learn anything from talking to the kids?
Well, it seems as if the Potter films have been an amazing journey for all involved: Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) thinks the film is exciting, premieres are exciting, and meeting J K Rowling was, you know, exciting, Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) says her new haircut doesn’t really make her ears cold. Matt Lewis (Neville Longbottom) fell over filming one of the action scenes but then got back up again. And James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley) think the Weasley twins are the best brother characters of any film ever (they must have been a bit busy filming to catch up with The Godfather box set).
Oh, and Chloe Moretz from Kick-Ass and Let Me In absolutely loves comic books, but she doesn’t know which ones and only really likes looking at the pictures.
As for the white hats, a very friendly Steffan Rhodri (best known as moustachioed Dave from Gavin & Stacey) talked to Den of Geek about his appreciation of Doctor Who and Torchwood, saying he’d love a role in either. “It’s become so popular and really good for Cardiff that it’s made there so I’d love to do something. The creator who originally brought it back, Russell T Davies, is an old friend of mine from our youth theatre days so I’m hoping one day he’ll remember me and give me something.”
Come on then Steven, ditch Pond and give Dave Coaches a go on the Tardis.
But no Rickman…
All in all, it was a very enjoyable and exhilarating event, even with the presence of rain and absence of Alan Rickman. And it proved something important to me: if I can do four hours stood in a press pit then I can definitely handle 146 minutes in a cinema seat.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is on general UK release on Friday 19th November. Our review is here.