“To be sitting in Kansas City in an aircraft hanger full of people…”
Harry Potter’s Matthew Lewis (“Neville Longbottom”) was asked if he expected the level of success that the film series has reached when they first started making them. His response? A quick “No”. He seems to still be equal parts surprised, pleased, and grateful for the response it still generates.
Matthew sat down today with host Clare Kramer at Planet Comicon in Kansas City, MO for a discussion about his experiences before, during, and after the epic film series.
To get things started, Matthew described his nerves going into filming. What he found out on his first day on set only seemed to compound the problem. Director Chris Columbus approached him and told him “This week’s all about you.”
“Thanks Chris. I’m an 11 year old child.”
The first day turned out to be the broomstick lesson. The ‘rig’ used to film these scenes may not be the sophisticated (or safe) piece of engineering one might imagine. “Stuck a crane on the back of a truck…put a broomstick on the end of it…strapped me to that…and drove me around!”
Clare: And were your parents like “UHHHHHHH?!?!?!”
Matthew: THEY WERE THRILLED there were like “This is WICKED!”
One fan pointed out that the food in the Great Hall scenes looked amazing. “You’d think so, wouldn’t you. Even though it was real…they sprayed it with WD40 to make it look shiny. So it was real, but not edible.” He pointed out that one of those scenes could take 10 days to shoot. The food would be reheated every 10 minutes. “Rupert got it the worst, man. It was his fault, though. He’d just dive straight in at the start of the day.”
“You’ve got to do that for a WEEK now.”
“I almost died on ‘Chamber Of Secrets’”. During the scene where the Cornish pixies pick Neville up by the ears, he was wearing a harness used to hoist him up. They then wrapped his robe around the harness. When lowering him between takes, his robe was stuck on the chandelier and it was choking him. A member of the crew had to come over and lift him up till they could get him free.
“Yeah I almost died on that one. That was fun.”
When asked if there was a wand he coveted, he couldn’t remember what many of them looked like. He did point out that he did go through a few wands during filming. He would pull it out of the wand pocket in his robe, but just the handle would come out. “Happened all the time! You could probably see it in the background somewhere.”
Clearly being a fan of the book series before the films began, a few fan questions were aimed in that direction. When asked his FAVORITE Harry Potter book, he claimed to be a big fan of ‘Prisoner Of Azkaban’ “because of the twist of Sirius Black not being a bad guy…SPOILER ALERT.” He was also fond of “Goblet Of Fire” because it was the first BIG book he’d ever read.
“I’m reading a grownup book now.”
As for Neville’s progression as a character, “Order Of The Phoenix” stood out. “Book five came out, and suddenly Neville became a different person. He came out of his shell…He didn’t want to be a hero, just wanted to do the right thing.”
On his favorite of the films to shoot, there was no hesitation. “Deathly Hallows Part 2”….mostly because of the bridge sequence. Part of the reason it was special to him is because they shot that sequence on the historic 007 stage at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England.
“We got to blow up a bridge!”
Another memorable scene to all fans of Neville, was the moment he slices the head of Voldemort’s snake ‘Nagini’ clean off. “I had to run up and down that rubble about 100 times that day…and I nearly killed a kid! The blade (after repeated swings), came loose from the hilt! And I was like HEADS UP! But it came down around about five kid extras and sticks in the ground.”
“It was fine. No one died.”
Even though Voldemort was easily the most intimidating of characters to do scenes with, Matthew pointed out something else even more intimidating about his big moment with Ralph Fiennes in #DeathlyHallows 2. “You have Julie Walters, Jason Isaacs, and Helena Bonham Carter all just there watching you!”
Once the series completed filming, Matthew decided to do a play, on the advice of his Potter co-star, Alan Rickman:
“In film you can hide behind directors, you can hide behind incredible cinematographers, and can conjure up the illusion of being good”, but found he could not do so in theater.
Early on in the play’s run he got some bad reviews and wanted to quit. A friend convinced him to carry on and he threw himself into it. He solicited feedback from the other actors and received some theater training from the play’s director. This resulted in the last few months of the run being quite positive and he received some GREAT reviews for his work.
Naturally, many want to know if the kids from #Hogwarts keep in touch now that they’re adulting in the real (Muggle) world. The good news is, they do. Neville lives near Tom Felton, but claims “I’ve lost my drinking buddy for a bit” as Tom is currently filming in South Africa for a few months. He recently met up with Emma Watson for a meal, and even texted with Daniel Radcliffe a week ago – “We all try to stay in touch and try to catch up if we’re in the same city.”
From likely the tiniest of fans in the room today: “How did it feel to play one of your favorite characters from the books?”
“It was a dream come true. It’s a cliche, but it’s true.”