Weasley Twins James And Oliver Phelps Take Us Behind The Scenes Of The New Harry Potter Exhibit
With the Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition opening its doors in central London, fans have a chance to see how movie magic was used to bring the world of Harry Potter to life.
The exhibition, which opened on July 12 at the London Film Museum in Covent Garden, displays a range of photography, from candid shots of the cast joking around on set, to detailed images of the work that went into making iconic locations like Hogwarts a reality.
UNILAD caught up with James and Oliver Phelps, who played fan favourites Fred and George Weasley in all eight movies, to get their thoughts on the behind-the-scenes experience, and the ongoing legacy of the franchise.
For the Phelps twins, the exhibition is an opportunity to reminisce about the years they spent quite literally growing up as part of the Wizarding World.
‘It’s like memory lane for us.’ says James, who played Fred in the films. ‘It literally is. Because whenever I watch the films I don’t see them as the movies, I remember what we were doing behind [the scenes].’
As someone who grew up reading JK Rowling’s books and watching the Potter films, walking through the exhibition was a hugely nostalgic experience, with the tour taking fans on a behind-the-camera walk through Harry’s first trip onto platform 9 ¾ to the culminative Battle of Hogwarts 10 years later. And talking to the twins, it quickly becomes clear that the magic has not been lost on them all these years later either.
‘It’s very immersive, so even if you’re not necessarily a Potter fan, you’re gonna get so immersed in it by the end you’re gonna be chugging Butterbeers here when you leave,’ says Oliver, gesturing to the elaborate bottled Butterbeer bar where we’re sat after having taken in the exhibition.
Of course, their memories are slightly different, whether it’s being transported back to filming the banquet scenes (‘There’s a picture of the Great Hall; even just seeing it I can just smell in my mind the smell of vegetables and steamed sprouts,’ says Oliver) or cringing at photos of their teenage selves (‘Why did I let them do that with my hair,’ laughs James).
Many of the behind-the-scenes shots in the new exhibition show the cast in candid moments in between scenes, where the younger members can often be seen lounging on sofas, as if hanging out in a sixth form common room. There was a lot of down time, and as teenagers on set, the twins gained a reputation as pranksters, teaming up with Rupert Grint (Ron) and Bonnie Wright (Ginny) to play tricks on unsuspecting cast and crew.
According to Oliver, you didn’t even have to be a part of the film to be a target, as he recalls managing to shut down a nearby building site for the day after tapping into their walkie-talkie frequency and telling all the workers to go home.
‘For the most part they were always good-humoured,’ says James, before Oliver adds, ‘but there were some pranks that we’ll take to the grave.’
With most of the cast sheltered from the hype surrounding the films in the outside world, the twins say that they had no idea of the legacy they were building. ‘It’s like we lived on a desert island. To us it was normality…it was just a job, we went to work, we came home, that was it,’ says James.
‘Obviously the books were popular, but I don’t think anyone thought it would be as big as it is,’ echoes Oliver. ‘To think that 20 years since the film came out there are shows all over the world, there’s the exhibition, the studio tour, the theme parks, everything in between – it’s just something that takes on a life of it’s own.’
The opening of the London exhibition comes almost 10 years to the day since the world premiere of the final film, Deathly Hallows Part II, drew almost 60,000 fans to central London. It’s a moment that brought home just how huge the Potter movies had become, and something James says he’ll never forget. ‘Driving here today going past Trafalgar Square, it was 10 years ago that the premiere happened and just shut down London,’ he recalls. ‘Ever since then whenever I’ve gone through there I always think of that moment.’
‘As power trips go it was a good one,’ Oliver adds.
The twins say the bonds they developed with the cast and crew have lasted to this day, with Rupert Grint’s stunt double even acting as best man alongside Oliver at James’s wedding. And while there’s no Harry Potter WhatsApp group, James describes the relationship as ‘like friends from school’ and adds that ‘we still meet up from time to time and have a good little chinwag’.
Twenty years on from the Philosopher’s Stone, the debut of the Photographic Exhibition is the latest entry into a Harry Potter universe that continues to expand and thrive. So despite Fred’s tragic and untimely demise, I wonder whether a Loki-style time-bending spinoff could be next on the cards for the brothers.
‘I think something to do with the Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes,’ says Oliver, before James chimes in to add, ‘They could be like, just the silliest crime fighting duo, going round in a Ford Anglia.’
The Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition is open now in Covent Garden, featuring a collection of behind-the-scenes photos and London’s only bottled Butterbeer bar. Tickets are available to book at HarryPotteronLocation.co.uk