Archive for the ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ Category

In light of finals coming up, something that Muggles and wizards DO have in common is the fact that they both take exams, both in school and standardized. In the wizarding world they’re called OWLS. In the British Muggle society, they’re called GCSEs, also taken around sophomore year/5th year and take two years to study for. In American Muggle society, they’re called SAT or ACT, obviously taken between junior and senior year.

Another difference is that if you do well in an OWL subject, you get the OWL, depending on the letter grade:

O- Outstanding

E- Exceeds Expectations





GCSEs have a similar structure, also scored by letter grade (from highest to lowest): A, B, C, D, E, F, G. For those of you who don’t know, GCSE stand for “General Certificate of Secondary Education”. They are tested over a variety of subjects, including English, math, several foreign languages, sciences, arts, and even over techonology and humanities. However, for us Americans, SATs are graded by the number score, with 2400 being the highest; they’re divided into three sections of reading, math, and writing, so therefore, 800 is the highest you can get in each section.  In the ACT, 36 is the highest you can get, and like the OWLs and GCSEs, they are tested over a variety of school subjects.

Like American muggles, the wizarding world will have to take several standardized tests before they graduate, including the NEWTs and the WOMBATs. NEWTs can be called the harder version of the OWL, but the WOMBAT is actually comprised of several tests. Based on what you’ve read on Harry Potter, how well would you do on this sample part from a WOMBAT from Harry Potter Wiki?:

Part Two – International WizardryEdit Part Two - International Wizardry section

7. Mark the following statements True or False

7-1. There are witches and wizards living in every country in the world.

7-2. Some countries have wizard royal families.

7-3. The trade in flying carpets has been banned everywhere except the Far East.

7-4.The world’s largest Centre for Alchemical Studies in situated in Egypt.

7-5. The age at which magic may be performed legally varies from country to country.

7-6. Inter-country Apparition has been outlawed due to extreme Splinching.

7-7. There is a wizarding school in every country where wizards and witches are found.

7-8. Portkeys may be arranged between countries only with the consent of both nations’ Ministries of Magic.

7-9. It is illegal to send mail-bearing owls across international borders unless the owl has been granted authorisation.

7-10. The most persistent offender against the International Wizarding Statute of Secrecy is Scotland.

I honestly never thought I would come across any romance across the Harry Potter books and films after I just finished watching the third film. I never even really picked up on the hints J.K. Rowling dropped in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that Ron was romantically interested in Hermione. Nonetheless, romanticism in Harry Potter is not fully introduced until Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where everyone has to start looking for dates to the Yule Ball. The Goblet of Fire film adaptation is also the first film where you see romance: Viktor Krum kisses Hermione’s hand after they dance. Following that, the kiss between Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Katie Leung (Cho Chang) was the highlight of millions of magazines at the time when the Order of the Phoenix film adaption was being filmed. The year after that, the kiss between Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) and Radcliffe garned even more attention than the one in the Order of the Phoenix. Bonnie shared her thoughts about this scene with Seventeen magazine while attending the NYC premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Harry Potter

17:This is a big movie for you — tell us what it was like filming it!
BW: It was great working with (the director) David Yates because he really wanted to develop this relationship Ginny has with Harry, and why it comes about. It’s important, because they’ve known each other so long! It would be a bit weird if it were sudden. So with Dan, we had many more intimate scenes together.

17: What was it like kissing Daniel?
BW: Strange! We’ve known each other so long. That was weird — having to look at someone in a different way. Surprisingly, on the actual day it all seemed to be okay. You just kind of treat it like any other scene. That sounds silly and probably boring to others! But I think in order to make it realistic, you have to just go for it!

17: How many takes did you have to do for the kissing scene?
BW: A lot! We filmed it for two days. And obviously a lot happens in the scene as well. It was probably like 30 takes!

17: Do you have any funny stories from the set?
BW: When Ginny comes down to give Harry this mince pie she made…This short-lived intimate moment gets cut off when Ron sits down between us. It’s an awkward moment that was really hard to do. We just cracked up all day because none of us could stay really serious!

17: What do you think girls are going to love about this movie?
BW: The movie gives a lot of power to girls! It shows when girls start becoming interested in guys, and they’re kind of slow on the uptake. For Ginny, she takes control of the relationship because she could see that Harry’s starting to look at her in a new way. And she almost initiates the kiss. It shows girls you can lead sometimes.

17: Do you have any advice for girls who want to do what you do — acting?
BW: What I’ve learned through this film is that nothing is easy and nothing is given to anyone. I think this idea of luck and fame and success through a one-hit-wonder is just so not true. Work hard and be true to yourself!



On the note of extras, there are over 650 children working as extras on this film. They don’t just come from stage schools, but also from local schools and theater groups. Besides feeding and clothing, they also have to have school lessons between filming, even if they are only on set for one day. Although most of the extras are used as background when eating in the Great Hall, we will delve deeper on the experience of what it was like being an extra in the Diagon Alley scene.

As mentioned earlier, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes is one of those places that are meant to be outside but are built inside. As hard as it is to believe, there is no green screen inside despite the loads of toys, including empty gravity hats and dancing chickens; basically, it is “an emporium stuffed with over 40,000 packages  and boxes”. It took fifteen people nearly a year to design and over fifty people to create. According to an extra, it smells like a combination of a tourist and a sweet shop. According to Ben Shephard, who plays an extra in this particular scene (and also mainly responsible for reporting behind-the-scenes info since the  release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire film), stated that his favorite item in the joke shop was the 10-second pimple vanisher.

When Shephard asked Oliver and James Phelps who play George and Fred Weasley respectively, they said, “It’s awesome. [The outside] is freaky, kind of like a twenty-foot version of [Ben Shephard]. [We] think it’s one of the best sets in the film throughout the whole series.” Their favorite items include the puking pastilles and the 10-second pimple vanisher.

When Shephard asked advice for acting as an extra in the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes scene from Dan Radcliffe, replied, “I think you should play someone who’s not necessarily a wizard, just totally confused by everything around you, or surprised.”

The nice thing about being an extra is that you don’t have to be available for all the days of filming, as the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes scene took about five days to film, despite that it is running in the film for 1:22 minutes. Shephard admits that despite being an extra is nice and rewarding, it is actually pretty nerve-racking: even just being a small part of the background action, you’re not allowed to mess up.

Curious about the Pensieve memories? It is clear they are based on Tom Riddle, who eventually evolves into the most evil wizard of all time, Lord Voldemort. Dumbledore and Harry use them so they can learn how to destroy him for once and for all.

According to Michael Gambon, “This is a little boy in [an orphanage], he seems to be odd; he is played by Ralph Fiennes ‘s(who plays Lord Voldemort) nephew; he’s brilliant.”

Said casting director Fiona Weir, “When you’re casting for kids, you turn every stone; you look in every direction, and Hero (Fiennes-Tiffin) had done a little acting before and I was aware of him, so I thought he was an interesting kid and got him in to have a go. I think why these films have been so successfully cast is because they have always cast for the right quality and no other reasons. Hero is a great kid and a really good actor and he was the right kid to play the part. The fact that his uncle is Ralph Fiennes, is neither him nor that, he got the part for him, Hero, completely on his own merit.”

And onto Fenrir Greyback, one of Voldemort’s henchmen, who has a rather scary yet interesting costume. He is played by Dave Legano. Said Weir, “It was really interesting with Dave, because when I met him, I did think ‘You’re just a lovely gentle bloke’ but then when I talked to him about his life, different from his other career, I thought, ‘maybe you’re not as quite as dandy as I think you are!’ ” When asked about his everyday job, Legano said, “Well, I’m a professional cage fighter for the past two years; two men enter and two men leave as well. But “mixed-matched-lots” is the term for it, where all the combat sports in the world combined, and you can use any technique you want.” Weir added, “What Dave has is an ability to switch his head to a certain angle where he can completely understand someone who’s ferocious and mercenary as Greyback was.” Legano added, “[Greyback] is a transformed werewolf; he’s an outcast, and he’s shunned by society by being a werewolf, and so rather being drawn into it, he wants to affect as many people as possible, especially young children, so when [Greyback] grows up, being a werewolf becomes the norm.” Michael Gambon, who plays Dumbledore added, “[Legano] is a world champion kickboxer; I’ve met him, he seems quite and amiable man but didn’t go too near him. He looks terrifying- he looks sort of a shark, sort of dead-eyed, and so I stayed well-away from him.” Radcliffe commented, “[Legano’s] a big, tough guy, but I have almost no idea what he actually looks like; I’ve only seen him once [in his costume].” Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in all the films to date said, “It doesn’t matter how close you get to Dave-you can’t tell what’s real and what’s not. Even though I’ve met him in a flash and he’s a lovely guy and a very handsome chap, I cannot look at him in the eye when he’s fully robed up. It’s terrifying.”

Horace Slughorn. You might think that since he was the head of Slytherin House, he might just be as cunning as the rest. Well, he’s not that cunning, but as said by Broadbent,  “Horaces’s weakness is that he has a softeness for stars. He will do anything to get some star names under his wing. He likes collecting them, so it doesn’t take much tempting to comeback and work [at Hogwarts].” Even after Slughorn accepts with the insistence of a pay raise, he states something that Dumbledore agrees with: these times are mad.

And so they are- not just in the wizarding world, but in the Muggle world as well, which is demonstrated by the collapse of the Millenium Bridge over the Thames River in London.

Let’s get back to reality: the Harry Potter crew does not have the budget to actually destroy the bridge. What they did was they sent some crew members down there to film several scenes of daily life at the bridge; even a helicopter had to be used to help with this part of the filming.

“During the actual destruction of the bridge obviously we start replacing more and more of the real elements and we have to take the real bridge and replace it with a CG bridge; we actually replaced the Thames with CG water so we get all of the interaction with the bridge collapsing into the water and the splashes and things, and of course, ultimately at the end we replace all the people at the bridge with CG characters running away from the destruction,” said CG producer Nick Dudman when asked to describe how they “destroyed” one of London’s most famous landmarks. According to him, there were over 1500 special effects in this film total, most of it going to the bridge and Quidditch sequences. Although I’ve already shown you how it works, did you actually know the Keeper’s training was very different from the rest of the Quidditch positions?

At the time behind-the-scenes info for this movie was revealed, how Quidditch was done was still a closely guarded secrets, but then the beginnings of the process were revealed. According to Daniel Radcliffe, “Basically, it’s no main secret other than for a man, if you imagine sitting on a bicycle and taking your feet off the pedals from the ground and just hanging there and leaning forward, and with all the reprocussions that what’s you have. Balance is very difficult, and certain, very important organs are crushed. And yes, the comfort levels are not high.”

Though it’s a subplot, the improvement of Ron’s goalkeeping ability plays an important part in film, as it is the last one that will ever mention Quidditch. Said Rupert Grint, “It was an anti-climax when I first sat down. [Sitting on the broom] is quite painful for one because you are just sitting on a broom and it does, when you’re up there, it does get quite a bit painful, but it’s going to look really cool.”

Although for the most part it was cut out, here’s how they made people collide into the air during Quidditch tryouts. In a blue screen room, there are these two swing sets. Each swing can hold two people, and the person in the back can push the person forward into the blue screen wall, who then falls onto some cushions. These swings can shoot these people as much as 58 ft high. This action is strictly left to the stunt team. When asked how the Keeper’s training was done, Grint said, “I had to [be on a trampoline] for several weeks before I was allowed on a broom. You have to master all these different jumps. They put you on this harness and bungy springs, but it is quite scary. You go about 30 ft in the air. I was holding a broom and they were throwing balls at me and I had to save all these. It’s quite scary. [Honestly,] I don’t really enjoy that part.”

And now the Felix Felicis secrets and the scenes of the potion making. According to Ben Shepard, who also happened to be an extra for this film, stated that the potions dungeons (possibly because Snape’s no longer using it?) is one of the most wonderful sets. Said Radcliffe, “Basically in these scene, this is the first time we see Slughorn teaching and we’re all making potions, and it’s a notoriously difficult potion to make, and we compete with each other to win a bottle of this stuff, Felix Felicis, which is liquid luck. If you take it, all of your endeavors will succeed. And we’re all competing to get it, and Harry follows the scrawled instructions of the Half-Blood Prince in his book and makes the perfect potion.”

When Shepard asked Emma Watson to describe how the her hair deals with this scene, she stated, “This is Hermione in her final stages of potion madness, and she’s meant to look a little bit like Medusa at this point. Hermione really, really wants to be the best, to make the best potion so that she can win the prize, which is this little bottle of liquid luck. She just gradually gets more and more frustrated and desperate as the scene goes on. It’s very unlike her to go wrong. She hates it, she hates not  being the best, she just hates. And watching Harry doing everything against the book says but getting it right is just too much.”

“I’m very impressed that Hogwarts, a school of witchcraft and wizardry uses gas for their bunsen burners,” Radcliffe joked when asked to comment about the set.

And now that Shepard is an extra on this set, he’s going to give what the it’s like to be an extra on set, regardless kid or adult. When talking to his “children”, who by the way, are played by Jacob Davies, Olivia Rhind, Marcus Rhind and Giles Rhind, they revealed that even though they were just extras, being with the stars was pretty exciting. One of them stated, “my friends are going to watch and say, ‘hold on, that’s Marcus and Giles and Olivia (the three are siblings)”. Another said, “I really like acting so this is big for me. A big break, a big payoff. (yes, in case you didn’t know, even the extras are paid.)” They also apparently enjoyed meeting Radcliffe and Grint; in particular they liked Radcliffe for his sense of humor.

…brought to you by

Life at Hogwarts is pretty old-fashioned. Candles and torches line the walls; servants cook the food and clean the sheets; students pack the library to read ancient, dust-covered books. Isn’t it time for the magical world to leap into the 21st century? Isn’t it time for Hogsmeade to install Wi-Fi? Isn’t it time for Hogwarts students to get online? We wanted to revisit what would happen if laptops, smart phones, and social media came to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Click each image to thoroughly see Vulture’s exclusive screencaps of Hermione’s Facebook page, Hagrid’s iPhone, and more.

Personally, I really enjoyed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, and I’m pretty sure Part II will be even more exciting especially with the Battle of Hogwarts, which is one of the parts I’m looking forward to in July 2011 as well as the Epilogue. FYI, for the epilogue, instead of hiring older actors/actresses, a combination of technology and makeup will be used to make the actors look older. As another FYI, for you DVD fans out there, the DVD version will be released on April 15.

Onto the Half-Blood Prince. Like Deathly Hallows, there is just so much valuable behind-the scenes info that I plan to split this into at least 5 parts. Honestly, I thought it was going to the most popular among the other films before Deathly Hallows came out since it was then the most recent, but it ranked #4 on in likes…

  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (personally, this is my least favorite among the novels and the films)
  3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  6. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Since the end of the fourth novel, the other novels have taken a dramatic turn focusing on one goal, which is destroying Lord Voldemort.

“Harry’s character is obsessed in this film with two things,” said Daniel Radcliffe. “One is Draco Malfoy, whom he is convinced has become a Death Eater, and so he follows him and he’s absolutely sure that Draco’s up to something really devious in this film. The other thing is a book, which is his potions textbook, which is a very very old copy; it’s got  lots of scrawls in it from someone who used the book ages ago and the book has this bit in it, ‘This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince’, hence the start of the film. And so part of it is about Harry’s obsession with this book; he won’t be parted from it; he’s kind of addicted to it.”

“I think this one’s a lot lighter than the last one,” stated Rupert Grint, “because the fifth one was quite a scary sort of atmosphere and you still get some in this one because there’s a lot of scary things going on in the Muggle world now; the Death Eaters sense the ‘Voldemort’-sort of presence. In this there is quite a lot of romantic, so the storyline in this one is really quite fun.”

“Hermione’s a mess in this one,” commented Emma Watson. “She’s not the best in potions anymore because Harry’s got this special book, and Ron’s off snogging Lavender somewhere, and that’s kind of rubbish;  she’s getting all these feelings and she doesn’t really know how to deal with them. She definitely struggles; she’s out of her depth in this one, which is really nice; you see a much more vulnerable kind of Hermione I think.”

As stated in one of the previous posts, Draco is given the task of murdering Dumbledore as some sort of public humiliation and punishment because of Lucius Malfoy’s failure in retrieving the prophecy in the fifth novel.

“He’s always envied Harry for being ‘the seeing, old dancing Chosen One’,” stated Tom Felton, “so this is his chance to be the equivalent on the Dark side, so he revels in it.”

Believe it or not, there are over 80 different sets in this particular film: some are inside, some are outside, and some that are built inside that are supposed to be outside, like Diagon Alley; in particular, the fabulous Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. In dark times like these, most of the shops in this area have been boarded up and as you know, Ollivander’s was demolished because Voldemort wants a new wand out of his bloodlust to finish Harry Potter. But more of that later.

There is always a new professor in every Harry Potter novel and film. In this case, it’s Professor Horace Slughorn, as described by Daniel Radcliffe: “Professor Slughorn is someone who years ago, was the Potions Master at Hogwarts, and is the person that Dumbledore recruits this year to come back not only to teach potions, but also becasue Dumbledore thinks that Slughorn has information about Voldemort that he is too ashamed to admit to knowing, and Dumbledore sort of uses Harry as bait in a way because Slughorn’s obsessed with the idea of fame and power and so Harry is the sort of famous, young-kind of wizard of his time and is the perfect source of ploy to get Slughorn back to Hogwarts because Slughorn would want to be around someone like Harry.”

“Dumbledore and Harry come into this house that has obviously been ransacked, and there is a bubble-striped armchair and Dumbledore performs a bit of magic and out of that armchair evolves Horace Slughorn who’s disguised himself as an armchair, so there’s a bit of special effects,” commented Jim Broadbent, who plays Slughorn.  “It’s a very good entrance to the film.”  How was it done anyway?

According to director David Yates, they simply sit  Broadbent on a “shiny” plank of wood with springs on it so when Dumbledore pokes the armchair (in reality, Michael Gambon, who plays Dumbledore, is poking Broadbent), he simply springs up. Said Yates, ” I just said to Jim, ‘Jim, imagine you’re a chair and then you’re turning out of a chair and you have to shake all this fabric off,’ and he did this rather crazy, eccentric, quite funny acting transformation from a chair to a human, all in a performance.” In other words, Broadbent just simply shook his arms and his legs as though he was shaking of fabric in a rather hilarious manner.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the Previs technique was used. First, the scene is animated, then used the computer to do several tranformations of how the actual chair would shrink and come back into a person. Then this was “pasted” onto the filmed shot and the chair-turning-into-pajamas had to be shrunk several times into its true proportions. Watch how this amazing transformation was done here.

So as I promised, this post is about the Quidditch scenes.

For so many years, it was a closely guarded secret, and it wasn’t until after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I that the secret was finally released. You might think, “Oh I already know the answer- it’s green screen!” That’s partially correct, but not quite. It’s more than “riding” a broom in a green screen room- it’s a combination of green screen, building, technology, and machinery.

As Harry Potter movies takes about twice as long as your average move to film, quidditch training can take as long as half a year.

So to help you understand, I’ll take you on a little journey with Ben Shephard, who has been going behind the scenes and interviewing cast since the production of Harry Potter and Goblet and the Fire, through these two vids:

According to many cast members, they said that their experiences  with the brooms  were rather uncomfortable, as the broom handle is very thin. According to Daniel Radcliffe, “blood is drawn from unlikely places”.  According to Ben Shephard, as you saw in the second link, he agrees with the actors that the experience is painstaking yet very fun. And once the broom scenes come to life on the screen, the hard work and painful experiences behind the brooms are certainly worth it and very enjoyable to watch.