Just over half a year after the release of the 20th anniversary special for the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone for you Americans), fans at the Montreal Comiccon had the pleasure of sitting down with franchise alums Bonnie Wright and Matthew Lewis, also known as Ginny Weasley and Neville Longbottom. A full house greeted the duo, who in turn then answered questions from enthusiastic fans. Here’s a breakdown of that panel.
We started off by asking the Harry Potter alums if they carried any characteristics from their characters to their real-life selves. Having played the characters throughout their youth, the line between fantasy and reality definitely got blurred Matthew Lewis said, citing that it became more and more difficult to know where he ended and Neville began. Bonnie Wright would echo this sentiment, saying that there were many different versions of herself as a teenager, so she would get confused between herself and Ginny quite often. But she also saw values in Ginny that she wanted in her life, such as being strong and unapologetically herself, and she’s adopted those qualities in her own life. She also saw the Weasley family as a second family, and thus the Burrow as a second home. She liked how the set would change subtlely between films, as if the house was alive and the abrupt angles in the architecture made it feel unlike any set she had been on. The familial nature of the Weasley actors resulted in longer shoots, as they would often burst into laughter while filming.
While Bonnie Wright accidentally stole one Gringrotts coin during her stay in the Wizarding World, Lewis confirmed he stole a fair amount, including Neville’s final wardrobe from Hallows Part II. But none of this thievery came close to Tom Felton’s or Jason Issacs. In fact, during the 20th anniversary special, Return of Hogwarts, Felton showed up with an empty backpack and would literally unscrew props from the set! What a cleptomaniac.
We then went straight to the deep-cut lore from the books and Lewis was asked about the “Chosen One” theory, in that Neville could have also easily been the child that would upsend Voldemort’s life. This stems from The Order of the Phoenix book, where a prophecy claimed that a child born in the final days of July of 1980 to parents who were seen as threats to the Dark Lord and ultimately taken out of the fight in some way shape or form, would be marked as the Chosen One to vanquish Voldemort. This could have also been Neville, but old Voldy there went to the Potter residence. But Lewis, who has a very big personality, quite unexpected when compared to Neville Longbottom, believes that if Neville ended up being the Chosen One, things would have possibly been a bit bumpier compared to Harry, due to the bumbling nature of the character, but that due to his good heart and intentions, good would have still won in the end.
Lewis went on to talk about his worries about his place in the franchise and, for that matter, Neville’s. Due to his growth spurt, he was terrified that the producers or directors would seek to recast the young actor. But David Heyman, who produced the series, assured Lewis that such an option was never on the table. Likewise, Lewis had no intention of learning the final outcome of Neville in advance, despite a lot of prodding from author J.K. Rowling. Lewis bought The Deathly Hallows at a service station (kinda anti-climactic eh) and discovered Neville’s big moments at the end of the book. But considering Neville is a smaller character in the Potter fandom, he was also worried that the film would cut his scenes to focus the attention on the key trio. Thankfully, he not only got to kill Nagini on screen, but got to go to the Pinewood Soundstage, also known as the 007 Soundstage, to film the bridge explosion scene. Going from being a kid with few friends to filming stunts on the same stage where James Bond is filmed, complete with explosions, was an absolute treat for the young actor.
Both Lewis and Bonnie Wright would also go on to talk about their specific appreciation for the first Harry Potter film. Apart from their minimal roles (both don’t like seeing themselves on screen), they quite liked the fish out of water story of the first act. There was a basic feeling to magic in that movie, Wright would cite and Lewis would elaborate that the Wizarding World was just out of reach, “behind the brick wall” that made it so close to real life, but so far away at the same time. This idea lent itself to there being something more in real life beyond our mundane life and acting, specifically in the Potter films, was the gateway to that sentiment.
Then the duo got into their time on set, specifically about which director and composer they had the best time working with (they were also asked about favourite writer, but since Steve Kloves wrote 7 of the 8 Potter films, he got an easy win). While John Williams was a knee-jerk reaction for the creation of many of the core musical themes, she gave a lot of love to Alexandre Desplat, who did the Hallows films. She actually got to sit in on his recording session at Abbey Road and talked about how Desplat would change the score on the fly, mid-recording, in order to suit his creative desire. That sense of creation, with a master in their element, was an exceptional moment. She also gave Christopher Columbus credit as her favourite director to work with, not perse for his work with Ginny, but for establishing the world in such a way that it created wonder and excitement.
Lewis surprised me by saying that his favourite director on the franchise was David Yates. Yates has worked on every Wizarding World film since Order of the Phoenix and one could argue that his directing style is the least remarkable. But Lewis would also cite that of all the directors to work on Harry Potter films, Yates was the one that understood Neville the most, likely because Yates was something of a Neville himself in his youth he stated. This created a sense of safety and security for Neville while Yates was behind the camera.
That concluded the panel and the duo got a standing ovation from the full house of passionate Potter fans. We hope you enjoyed this recap!