Harry Potter : the Great Hall, Severus Snape and the closing
The Great Hall — the cafeteria of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — is the oldest standing set inside Leavesden Studios, the drafty Harry Potter movie factory located outside London. So much drama has been staged inside its towering walls of ersatz stone over the past decade, from the ritual of the Sorting Hat to the intrigue of the Goblet of Fire. But its days are numbered. On a dreary afternoon in March 2010, the fabled hall is seeing some of its final moments of action, as is one of the characters, Severus Snape. We are witnessing the first salvo in the Battle of Hogwarts — the very beginning of the final act ofHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2. The Great Hall's long tables and benches have been shoved aside for Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and a small army of allies — including Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) — to rumble with Snape (Alan Rickman), the apparently loathsome professor of potions. The day's work involves Radcliffe and Rickman exchanging a couple of snarls and threatening quips, and the stunt doubles for Rickman and Smith engaging in a wand duel that resembles an Olympic fencing match. Filming lasts late into the evening. When his part is complete, an emotional Rickman quietly acknowledges the ovation from cast and crew and quickly exits without comment.
During a break, Radcliffe takes a seat in Albus Dumbledore's chair at the head table and shakes his head in disbelief. ''Alan Rickman's last day. Bizarre,'' he says. ''For years, we felt: 'It's never going to end!' Now it's all starting to sink in.'' With his days as a boy wizard coming to a close, the young actor says one of the hardest challenges of shooting the last Harry Potter film has been relishing the moment and taking nothing for granted. ''I've become particularly aware on this film that I'm not always going to be able to play these action-hero-type parts,'' he says. ''You really have to enjoy it, make the most of it, have fun with it.''
Fans of Harry Potter should embrace that wisdom as well, because this is it, friends. The End. The climactic installment in the biggest movie franchise in Hollywood history (total domestic gross to date: $2 billion), and the final movement in a cultural phenomenon that began in the U.K. in 1997 with the debut of J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter novel. Part 2 — adapted from the second half of the author's seventh novel, which was published in 2007 — finds Harry, Hermione, and Ron (Rupert Grint) preparing to take their fight to snake-snouted despot Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) after spending much of Part 1 on the run. The estimated $200 million-plus production Deathly Hallows — Part 2 begins where Part 1 left off, with Voldemort raiding Dumbledore's tomb for the Elder Wand, one of three Deathly Hallows that can grant him immortality. Meanwhile, Harry and his friends, reeling from the heroic death of liberated house elf Dobby, are on the hunt for magical objects called Horcruxes that hold fragments of Voldemort's soul. The quest brings them back to Hogwarts, now run by Snape following the death of Dumbledore a couple of movies ago. ''The new film is just a relentless action movie,'' says Radcliffe. ''It. Just. Does. Not. Stop.''
Okay, it stops a few times — but for some of the most pivotal emotional moments in the saga. A ghostly reunion of departed friends and family. An encounter in limbo with Dumbledore's specter (Michael Gambon), who reveals dark secrets about his past. And, of course, Ron and Hermione's kiss. ''It has to be the most anticipated moment between the two of them in the whole series,'' says Watson. ''In general, though, Part 2 is just plain hell-raising and scary. I get to get my Lara Croft on.''
Both parts of Deathly Hallows were shot simultaneously over 261 days. Keen-eyed Potterphiles will note a number of tweaks to Rowling's climactic tale. The filmmakers have added a new structure to the sprawling Hogwarts campus — a glass boathouse where a certain iconic character will perish. (Hint: In the book, the scene takes place at the Shrieking Shack.) The final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort — a wand duel in the novel — has been expanded to include a chase through Hogwarts and a very physical brawl as the two foes ''apparate'' (i.e., teleport) toward and away from each other. At one point, the rivals seem to fuse, creating a striking, symbolically loaded visual effect.
One of the trickiest sequences for the filmmakers was the movie's epilogue, set 19 years after the heroes' graduation from Hogwarts. Director David Yates first shot the scene during the middle of production, with the young stars wearing makeup to look like the adult versions of their characters. ''I didn't want older actors,'' says Yates. ''If you spent seven movies with these guys, you know these kids, and you want to end with them.'' But looking at the footage, he felt the epilogue fell short of magical. ''We ended up with a scene that, for all sorts of reasons, not just the makeup, just didn't work,'' says the helmer. So late last December, months after the end of principal photography, Yates called the actors back for a do-over. ''We came up with a very simple solution — simple makeup, which may be enhanced slightly with special effects — that's really charming.'' According to producer David Heyman, the new epilogue also led to a change in the portion of the film that plays during the closing credits. ''We thought about a nostalgic look back at how the kids have grown over the previous films,'' says the producer. ''We decided against it because this ending captures all of that.''
Of all the moments in Deathly Hallows — Part 2, the one that may exude the strongest sense of closure comes right before the epilogue, when Harry, Ron, and Hermione stand on a bridge outside Hogwarts, looking back at the school. ''I like it very much because it wasn't just the actors playing the scene, it was the kids reflecting on growing up in this moviemaking world, and I believe a bit of that has ended up on [film],'' says Yates. ''For anyone who knows them or can identify with these three, as characters or actors, it's quite moving.''Now they're all moving on — into adulthood as well as to new projects. Just a year after relishing his last moments as an action hero inside the Great Hall, Radcliffe is singing and dancing on Broadway in a well-reviewed revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying — and Harry Potter already seems to be in the actor's rearview mirror. ''My grieving period has come and gone,'' Radcliffe told EW last month. ''The end of Potter is exciting in its own way.... It's a [new] beginning for me.'' For the rest of us, graduation is still a few months away.