Forget Jedward – if you want the world’s most famous twins, look no further than Ron Weasley’s prank-happy brothers.
We caught up with James (Fred) & Oliver (George) Phelps to talk about the shocks and heartache set for the characters in The Deathly Hallows, and how its similar to Saving Private Ryan.
The duo have gone from strength to strength in the franchise, and while they left Hogwarts long ago, they’re back for the final battle with a sizeable impact.
Sky Movies: So you both had no experience acting before Harry Potter – what made you want to get involved?
Oliver Phelps: Without sounding like we’d gone into it for the wrong means, a day off school. <laughs>
James Phelps: We’d had no acting experience beforehand, and it was a day off school as Oliver said. We went to the audition in Leeds and it was packed – they were casting for every part, and we weren’t even wearing the same clothes. We saw loads of other twins in the same clothes, so went over to BHS to pick up some matching ones. Then we met the casting director, so we couldn’t have bumped into anyone better.
OP: We owe her and Chris Columbus a lot.
SM: What would you say you’ve learnt during your time working on the series?
JP: I think just the whole aspect of how a film works, from pre-production, through production to publicity. Oh, one other thing – how to dye our hair.
We also learnt how actors work – when you’re sitting there watching the who’s who of British actors working their trade you realise you’re in an incredible position to see how they work.
SM: What do you reckon has been your most surreal experience?
JP: When we were at the studios it wasn’t unusual to have celebrities showing their kids around. We had Liam Gallagher and people like that – people you’ve grown up with. My first album was Oasis, so that was pretty cool. And they knew who we were, which was the weirdest thing.
SM: How would you say The Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2 differ?
JP: I think it starts off with Harry Potter trying to avoid getting captured by Voldemort. They’re trying to work out how to get away. My character gets pretty battered in the process, and that’s the first time you see that Voldemort’s not a normal bad guy. He’s just ruthless. Then it really starts to get dark, the more desperate he becomes to get Harry. And then in Part 2 it all kicks off at the school.
OP: Part 1 picks up exactly where Half-Blood Prince left off and it kind of builds from that. Part 1 is kind of like a typical Potter movie in that it’s about exploring things, while Part 2 is full-on action. It’s a war pretty much.
JP: When we filmed the Battle of Hogwarts sequence, it was like a scene from Saving Private Ryan. All these gothic buildings had been totally obliterated. The first time we saw the decimated Great Hall, it was sobering. I think it’ll look fantastic on screen.
SM: **SPOILER ALERT** James, your character Fred dies in the books – how was it filming that? In the book it was relatively ‘off-camera’ and it was only at the end of the battle that it hit the readers and characters. Is it similar in the film?
JP: We’re not sure yet. They’re working on a way that brings it in without making it the end of the battle. When we shot it, I was just lying there and I could hear what was going on. That’s when you see how good the actors we work with are – Oliver was bloody good.
OP: With Julie Waters and Rupert Grint there too, it really made me realise how great actors they are. The second time we did it, we just let rip, and on camera it looks great. It was pretty strange to be doing that. I know I never want a Eucalyptus torch [a prop they blow into your eye to make you cry] again – I could barely see afterwards.
SM: How was it filming the action scenes?
JP: A lot of fun. It was kind of a mixture between sword fighting and, I guess, tennis. There was one scene where we’re fighting away and there’s fire blowing away and people blowing up.
SM: The Weasleys are well known for pranks – was there anything like that on-set?
JP: Yeah! I’m not sure if Fred and George have rubbed off on us, but yeah, we’re known to be the pranksters on set. We’d wind up anyone really.
One of the girls in hair and make up had gone on holiday. We wrote down her car registration details, found out where she went on holiday and really went to town on it. We called her up and told her she owed NCP Car Parks’ £1000, and by courtesy we had to tell her when it went over a grand.
We put on a really smarmy voice when we rang, and she didn’t get it until right at the end, when we gave our email address and asked her to email it back. We bluetoothed it to everyone in the studios, but they do get us back with the odd thing every now and again.
SM: So what do you guys have planned for the future?
OP: To stay acting, that’s the plan!
JP: I’d like to give everything a go really. I did a small independent movie after Harry Potter filmed in an abandoned hospital, which was completely different. I’d love to give theatre a go too, people like Michael Gambon raving on about their own experiences.
OP: It’s like when the Weasleys left their home to start up the shop, we need to do the same and make it work on our own.