Exclusive: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - RT's Set Visit Preview

We tour the new sets from the sixth film and chat to the stars!

by | December 15, 2008 | Comments

Harry Potter fans: cast your minds back to January. Half-Blood Prince is atop your winter must-see list, Deathly Hallows is still one movie and if you want to read The Tales of Beedle the Bard you’ll need to dig $4m out from behind the sofa. It’s the middle of the month, and RT has joined Daniel Radcliffe and company on day 80 of principal photography on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at Leavesden Studios in London.

We’re here to tour the studio and speak to the stars, and we’ll have a full set visit report in time for the film’s release in July 2009. Before that, though, we thought we’d share a small teaser of our time at Hogwarts.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
David Yates (left) directs Daniel Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright on the Burrow set.

Familiar scenery – the Hogwarts Great Hall, Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room – were present and accounted for, but we also glimpsed three very exciting new sets that will provide much of the film’s visual impact. One of these; an imposing, tiled orphanage, will play host to an important flashback scene involving Dumbledore and a ten year-old boy Tom Marvolo Riddle — a vulnerable, orphaned child, who turns out to be series villain Voldemort himself.

We also caught a glimpse of other new locations set aside for the film’s finale. One half takes place in a giant cave and involves just Harry and Dumbledore. They had created an island of crystalline rock – think the Fortress of Solitude from Superman Returns – in a sea of green screen. This will, after months of effects work, be replaced by a mass of reanimated dead bodies called Inferi.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Ron (Rupert Grint, left) readies for Quidditch with his teammates and Hermione (Emma Watson, right).

“The brilliant thing about [the cave scenes] was that we did them at the at the end of a three to four month period where Michael and I had been working together almost exclusively,” Radcliffe told RT when we caught up with him for a long chat. “For about the first two or three months of this film we were almost the only two actors in. The relationship between me and Michael had really built up over that time and got to the point where after three or four months we were absolutely ready to do the cave stuff.”

We were surprised by a few new additions to the film, injected by director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves in order to visually illustrate events only referenced in the book. “In the sixth book Jo talks about the Death Eaters attacking, kidnapping and striking terror into communities and she plays that idea backstage in the book,” explained Yates. “You read about it but you don’t experience it. We wanted to bring that experience to the fore for the audience so they kind-of felt what it was like and they could actually see what the Death Eaters were doing.”

This was illustrated in two scenes glimpsed in the recent trailer: the Death Eaters attacking London’s Millennium Bridge and a Christmas attack on The Burrow — home to the Weasley family. In the trailer we see Harry running through the reeds surrounding The Burrow, perhaps an attempt to escape — or confront — this movie’s new bad-guy Fenrir Greyback, described in the book as “the most savage werewolf alive.”

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Yates prepares Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore for a scene.

For Yates, though, it’s the quieter, character-based moments that he finds the most exciting, with Harry’s other nemesis – teenage hormones — making an appearance. “Steve came up with this notion that, after Order of the Phoenix, Harry’s in this quite intense, dark place and he’s riding the trains to free his brain a wee bit and he meets this really attractive waitress who he really likes,” he told us. “You immediately set up the notion that suddenly these characters are a bit more aware of the opposite sex. I thought it was a really charming, lovely idea.”

Talking of hormones, we also met Ron’s new love interest Lavender Brown, played by newcomer Jessie Cave. Cave told us that winning the audition was a real surprise. “I just screamed,” she said. “The group in front of me thought I was ill. I really just didn’t believe it.”

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Hero Fiennes-Tiffin is the 10 year-old Tom Marvolo Riddle on the Orphanage set.

But is she anything like the boisterous Lavender? “I’m actually quite shy and I’m not a loud character,” she told us. “It’s quite fun to play someone who is, because I guess everyone has a loud character inside of them waiting to jump out. I’m not saying that I want to jump out and be loud, but people can imagine that’s what they’d be like!”

As Harry Potter enters his penultimate year and the threats on his life become ever more real, perhaps it’s comforting to know that not everything has to be darker and more intense. Join us again in July to read our full experience on set, as well as the rest of our in-depth interviews with Daniel Radcliffe, Jessie Cave and David Yates, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton and Bonnie Wright.

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