James and Oliver Phelps are England’s most popular twin actors today. But how do they deal with the separation of their characters, Fred and George, in Deathly Hallows? Total Film Indonesia finds out.
PORTRAITS LORENZO AGIUS
Just like in the movies, the Phelps twins are nearly indistinguishable in real life. We know that Oliver, who plays George Weasley, was born thirteen minutes earlier than his brother James, who plays Fred. We also know they support different football teams from their hometown of Birmingham – Oliver is an Aston Villa supporter and James is a Birmingham City fan. But that’s all TFI knows of what sets them apart. When they entered the interview room, despite wearing different clothes, they still managed to appear completely identical. They also spoke with the same level of enthusiasm of the Weasley twins’ dramatic journeys in similar baritones. All of this might be the reason why James and Oliver Phelps are ecstatic with the directions their characters are taking. That is to say, in two separate ways…
We really have to ask you about what you think of the one scene everyone has been talking about, the Seven Potters. What was it like filming it, with Daniel Radcliffe studying you?
James Phelps (JP) Yeah, it was quite intense. I mean, the whole of that scene just went on… it was a two week shoot. It was night shoots, as well, for most of it, so we were just drained by the time we did it. Because literally you’d act what you’d do anyway and then Dan would come and David Yates and yourself would kind of direct Dan on what to do. It’s proper scrutinising yourself, because it’s like… apparently I stand like I’m pigeon-toed. I stand weird or something. I never realised it until then. And my facial expressions, when I’m concentrating or something, were a bit odd. So, that was a bit weird, but Dan really did… We saw that scene, a couple of weeks ago…
Oliver Phelps (OP) The special effects, as well, and the visual effects… they’re pretty new technology…
JP Even the fact of how the faces change and everything… that was pretty cool!
OP I don’t know how Dan did it. It took something like 120 takes or something. It was something ridiculous, like that, to get every single one. That’s a testament to Dan’s character and stamina, that he would keep going, and do it. When we saw it, it looks fantastic.
Oliver, don’t you lose an ear in the first movie? And what sort of ear would you like to get to replace that one you lost?
OP That scene was pretty cool – I always wanted to be a bit battered. In all the films, playing Quidditch and everything, you never see a scratch on Fred and George. And it was cool, watching the guys in the creature effects department… you really see how they earn their money because it’s fantastic. Without going into too much detail and taking too much away from the people watching it… it was really, really interesting… beforehand, they had to take a full cast of my head and shoulders, to mark the ear, and how they’re gonna do it. Basically, when you go to the dentist, and you get that paste they put in your mouth, to mark out your teeth… but here they put it all over your whole head for fifteen minutes and you’re breathing through straws. And, any ear I could have? Gosh… uh… maybe, like a Simpsons ear, you know, just a little thing.
And James, you lose your life in Part 2. What was your experience filming this?
JP It was cold. I actually fell asleep. They said, “Lie there.” So I did. And then I opened my eyes and everyone had gone offstage, and gone to lunch, and I’d fallen asleep and they left me there. I said to Rupert, “Why didn’t anyone wake me up?” He went, “Well, you were so in character, we didn’t want to disturb you…”
OP The truth was, we saw him and thought, “We’ll leave him.” We like to wind each other up…
So George loses an ear and Fred dies. If you could change the ending at all, would you?
JP (laughs) I’d swap it round, to be honest, in case the sequel comes out… No, I guess it’s cool. I remember reading the part, in the book, and what I really enjoyed about it, if you were supposed to enjoy it, was the fact that it kind of separated them. A lot of people think of twins as together all the time, doing exactly the same thing, but this book splits them up… Obviously, you can’t split them up more than that but it splits them up and that was cool. A lot of people that we spoke to afterwards said, “Don’t you think it’s weird that you’re not going to the same thing?” And I was all, no, because I like it. I enjoy that it shows that twins are individuals, and not one set unit.
OP Even Fred and George’s dress sense, as well, certainly from Half-Blood Prince onwards, they dress in different suits or they wear different ties. I think the only time they wear the same gear is at the wedding but even their characters start to dress differently. I think that’s a really good thing. James and I are proud to do that for twins around the world so they’re not seen as stereotypical.
Overall, how was filming Deathly Hallows different for you?
OP The thing that stood out in my mind was when we were filming certain scenes and James wasn’t there. Normally, when we’re filming, we’ll be in eye contact but… Even to the point where you get picked up in the morning, from the hotel, in the same car, and I’ll be there, on my own… Stuff like that was quite strange.
There’s a new Weasley in this one, Bill…
OP It was really cool. Domhnall [Gleeson]’s such a nice guy, he fitted in so well. He makes me laugh… he’s one of those guys that are annoying because he’s so funny all the time, you know, he can just get you laughing. It was really good to have another member of the family. He and I actually support the same football team, so we went, when Villa were playing West Ham. We got one of the drivers to drop us off at Baker Street, we got the tube over, to watch the game, and that was about his third or second week filming. We got on really well and he’s a really nice chap.
And do you still see Rupert Grint?
OP Yeah, we actually played golf with him the other day.
So you basically kept him as a little brother?
OP Maybe, yeah. We went on a drive around Europe as well, in a thing called the Whacky Rally, which is… you have to spend £250 on a car and do it up. It was Rupert, myself, my friend Stuart, in our car, and we made it look like a lifeboat, with a propeller and everything on the back. We drove it to Lille and drove through Switzerland, North Italy, down the French Riviera, to Barcelona… and people couldn’t quite get over, in the different towns we stopped at, that we hang out outside of filming. Actually, there’s something that scared me – Rupert was driving that part of the journey and it was at nigh. A terrible storm hit just as we crossed over the Swiss border and we were going round a corner on a motorway and we could just see lights, coming the other way… like, round the bend, reflecting off the wall. Rupert said, “I’m sure I’ve gone the right way.” And I said, “Yeah, you have, I’m sure you have.” We were all resigned to the fact we were going to get hit here by a massive lorry or something… And as we turned round the corner, all of us were like (makes a bracing self gesture) waiting for the inevitable. But actually there was an overpass that ran right next to it. So… the relief was… well, that was pretty scary…
You have lots of interesting stories. Tell us of a prank you did on set.
JP We had a bit of a prank war going on with a few of the hair and makeup department. There was one girl, Grace, a trainee at the time – this is on the fifth movie – and she’d done something minute. She’d like, called us the wrong name in a joking way. We left it a few weeks. We knew that she, when we’d had a bit of a hiatus, went on holiday to Newquay, in Cornwall. So we got her car registration number, rang her up, doing a completely different voice…
OP More to the point we found out from her friends where they’d gone…
JP …and where they’d stayed and we really went into detail. So, we said to her, “We’re from NCP car parks and you owe us just over £1000 now. We’ve sent you letters in the post and, by law, now we have to contact you.” She was like, “I’ve never heard of this.” And we said, “No, your car is this car, with this registration. You parked at this location. We sent you letters, in the post, and everything. And you are at this address now?” She said, “Yes, that’s me.” Then we said, “Well, would you like to e-mail our superior? He can get back to you about it.” She said, “Yeah, please…” So we said, “OK, this is the e-mail: email@example.com.” She went, “You bastards!” (laughs) So she was got big time. We decided it was too good so we Bluetooth it to everyone in the studio as well!
OP Where we did it… we were actually sitting in the courtyard. There were no lights or anything. It was three of us – James, myself and one of the guys, Andy – and we were huddled around my laptop, and we were calling her up and recording it. At the time, Liam Gallagher was having a tour of the studios, and he walked by and was, “How’s it going?” And we were, “You’re all right, mate?” And then we just got on with it. That was quite surreal! (laughs)
Now, talking about fans, do you have any anecdotes you could share?
OP I think the one I remember, certainly, is the premier of HP5 in 2007. We got out of the car and did a few of the people round here. There was a group of fans from… I think they just met on Mugglenet… and they all congregated from all over the world in Leicester Square. The first thing they said was, “We know what’s gonna happen. Fred’ll die… Fred will die…” The seventh book hadn’t come out at this point. A few weeks later, the book’s out and we were in Japan. We were reading it and I thought, “How the hell did they know?” So, I think that certainly some fan aspects… they really know their stuff… read into it… I still don’t know how they knew that.
JP Another fan thing… when we were on holiday in Mexico, I was just swimming on my own in the sea. This lady who was about fifty-five – she’s a Mexican lady – swam out to me and said, “Are you in Harry Potter?” I was like, “Yup!” She said, “OK” and then just swam back. I never saw her again. That was pretty random.
These are the last Potter films. How do you feel about this?
JP It’s not gonna kick in for me until we’re on the way back from the last premier for Part 2. To me, I can’t grasp it’s over. I know we’ve got another film to come out after this one… So, I guess when that’s finished, then it’ll kind of hit home that I need to get a real job now.
OP I’m really not looking forward to that. We promote the films… when they come out, we fly to different territories, either in Europe or in different parts of the world. And I’m really not looking forward to that plane journey home, from the last one, because that’s when you know… I’ll probably be sitting there, thinking… reminiscing… probably too much… I’m not looking forward to that, because that’s when I’ll know: that’s it. AA/LJ
Note: This online version of the interview contains additional Q&A answers from the one printed on the magazine (the one in green). They had the taken out due to character limitation but they’re put back here for your reading pleasure.
For more of my articles in TOTAL FILM INDONESIA, buy Issue #13, November 2010.