The Devil All The Time: How Dudley Dursley Actor Harry Melling shed his Harry Potter Roots in That Spider Scene
Director Antonio Campos reveals the cringe-inducing details behind Harry Melling’s key scene in The Devil All The Time
The Devil All The Time is Netflix’s latest buzzy thriller, a Southern Gothic noir with a sprawling narrative and a cast absolutely packed with A-Listers. Robert Pattinson plays an abusive evangelist, Sebastian Stan a corrupt cop, Bill Skarsgard a traumatised war vet and Tom Holland the son trying to undo the damage done by his father.
But it might just be Harry Melling who is the biggest surprise of the movie. Brit actor Melling is best known for his role as Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter series and in The Devil All The Time he is terrific and unrecognisable as a fanatical preacher who pours live spiders onto his face as part of his sermon.
“Harry’s a revelation and just what a committed, inspired actor,” says Campos, talking to us via Zoom from his home in Chile. “Harry and I met and the first thing I asked Harry was ‘how do you feel about spiders?’ And he said, ‘I don’t love them, but I’m willing to get to know them’. And so he was on board to go to that place. And if he was on board to go there, it made sense that he was crazy enough to do the role.”
Though it’s easy to assume the effect would be done with CGI to spare Melling’s discomfort, unbelievably, when it came to the key moment these were real arachnids.
“50 real spiders,” Campos confirms. “It was all observed. It took months to coordinate because we had to figure out how to do it so that we didn’t hurt one spider. It was important that we got that stamp at the end that no animals were harmed. And we weren’t going to get permission to do it unless we figured out how to do it safely for all the spiders. Every spider was in their own little container. We would go, ‘we’re ready to shoot’. And then the trainer, the ‘spider wrangler’ would be like, ‘The spiders are tired, we need 20 minutes’. So then we’re just waiting for the spiders to come out of their trailer. And then we got one take…”
It’s not just the spider scene that makes Melling a standout, his performance is captivating all round, and couldn’t be further away from Harry Potter’s former tormentor. Part of that was the accent, which Melling nailed, with the help of a voice coach.
“The accents were really specific. We got really specific to regions and we had an amazing dialect coach named Rick Lipton and Don Pollock had recorded a lot of the dialogue himself so the actors could listen to it to get the Southern Ohio of it,” explains Campos.
What results is a performance that’s an integral part of an ensemble, which will hopefully help elevate Melling away from his Potter roots towards a diverse career closer resembling that of his co-star, Harry Potter alum Robert Pattinson.
The Devil All The Time is now available to stream on Netflix