Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: From Broom Rigs to Showdown

Over the course of the films, the broom rigs have constantly evolved, enabling the filmmakers to achieve more intricate flying sequences and to accommodate the young cast as they grew up. Richardson says, “We ended up with a gimbal-mounted broom with a seat that was molded to the rider who was securely strapped on, so even if the broomstick turned upside down, they’d stay with it. Then the gimbal sat on a six-axis motion base. Between the two, we could get a completely fluid flying movement that could be as erratic or as sweeping as we wanted.”

Nevertheless, the final film required another upgrade, as the rescue sequence involved tandem flying. “For that,” Richardson adds, “we had to build a different type of broomstick rig, which was mounted on a track so we could fly it at high speeds past a table on a hydraulic ramp that tilted and collapsed at the precise right time. The flier on the broom had to link arms with the guy on the table and swing him onto the back of the broom, cowboy style. That was tricky to work out, but I think it came out great.”

Executing the challenging rescue was a group effort by members of the cast as well as the stunt team, led by stunt coordinator Greg Powell. Powell also collaborated closely with Richardson and second unit director Stephen Woolfenden on the explosion of the footbridge, which is one of Hogwarts’ last lines of defense.

Woolfenden’s unit captured aerials of the bridge high above Fort William in Scotland. “It looks down onto the beautiful loch, and the backdrop is stunning,” he says.

The actual demolition was accomplished using a hydraulic bridge located at Pinewood Studios. Powell says, “It’s all on hydraulics, but when it goes, it freefalls down, so it left the stuntmen in midair for that one beat, which looked really good.”

At the bridge, Neville squares off with legions of Death Eaters, which proves, says Matthew Lewis, “There’s a bit more to Neville than meets the eye.” Having played the role throughout the franchise, the actor was happy to see his character realize the heroic potential he always knew was there. “Neville never seemed to be a lionhearted person, not someone who deserved to be in the proud house of Gryffindor. But Harry always believed in him and that made Neville start to believe in himself, and all the strength and valor that was bubbling just beneath the surface finally comes out. Now he’s become this brave freedom fighter, which is really cool and very rewarding.”

Yates says, “By the end of the battle, Neville has been battered and bloodied, but he refuses to give up the fight, which is wonderfully moving.”

 

The battle for Hogwarts is raging around them, but Harry, Hermione and Ron are still waging another war…for the entire wizarding world. The trail of the next, and possibly most dangerous, Horcrux leads them to the school’s Boathouse, where the trio witnesses a pivotal encounter between Snape and Voldemort.

Heyman says, “One of the most intriguing things about Jo’s books is that the characters inhabit a gray area between light and darkness, good and evil, as we all do. Snape’s history, for one, is much more complicated than we ever imagined, and I think audiences will really enjoy seeing his full story revealed.”

“You always knew he had an agenda,” notes Rickman. “It was a question of what that agenda would turn out to be… The risks grew as he stepped into muddier and muddier waters. Eventually, it became about redemption and loyalty and, in Snape’s case—without giving anything away—a certain kind of courage of conviction.”

In the book, the critical exchange between the Dark Lord and Severus Snape was set in the Shrieking Shack, but David Yates got permission from Rowling herself to reset the scene for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.”

Constructed in the Flight Shed at Leavesden, the Boathouse sits on the edge of the water below the Hogwarts castle. Craig designed the building with Tudor-style glass walls, so, he says, “You’re always aware of the fighting in the background, because the fires are reflected in the glass and in the water.”

Water also reflects memories in the Pensieve in Dumbledore’s office, where Harry realizes what he must do. Daniel Radcliffe recounts, “In ‘Order of the Phoenix,’ Harry learned of the prophecy that said ‘Neither can live while the other survives.’ Since then, at every step of his journey, he’s known it would come to a head at some point, and he’s absolutely aware that this is it.”

“Harry knows that his and Voldemort’s destinies are intertwined,” Heyman says. “Confronted with the choice to go out and face the Dark Lord or allow everyone else to die, Harry is prepared to meet his fate. And Dan was amazing. He conveyed a wisdom and a maturity in those scenes that was way beyond his years. He really considered the emotions and the reasons behind each of Harry’s actions and brought a real truth to his performance.”

Yates adds, “One of my favorite scenes is when Harry takes that long walk alone to save everybody else. There’s something really beautiful and haunting in his resolve.”

 

The Showdown

The long-awaited showdown between Harry and Voldemort “brings them back to the place where they each became who they were,” Rowling states. “It had to end at Hogwarts.”

Their battle plays out through the school’s once-hallowed halls. Yates staged the sequence so it was not just two wizards in a wand duel, but two sworn enemies locked in mortal combat that can only end when one…or both…are dead.

The director elaborates, “We have them racing through the halls hurling spells at each other, but it also gets very physical. There’s a point where they have each other by the throat and fall off a high balustrade, and they’re twisting and turning, until you’re not sure where one ends and the other begins. I was very keen to explore that because, thematically, that connection is what we’d been developing throughout the films.”

Craig and his team crafted the set to provide a multi-leveled arena. The production designer says, “Our principal objective was to introduce another element to the battlefield that would provide for more interesting blocking, so David (Yates) was involved in the design plan from the start. We created a series of staircases so that either Harry or Voldemort could be in the ascendancy and the other below, but it could switch very easily.”

“I must have climbed more stairs for that scene than I have in my entire life,” Radcliffe laughs. “But it was incredible.”

Merging practical design and virtual design has always been integral to establishing the worlds of the Harry Potter movies, but that amalgamation was particularly vital in staging the battle at Hogwarts in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.” For the first time, the wide exterior shots of Hogwarts Castle were not captured with practical models, but were instead rendered though the use of CGI.

Yates says, “We constructed a good part of it, as always, but we also built a digital Hogwarts, which gave us the freedom to take the action in and around the school, anywhere we wanted.”

But Harry and Voldemort are not the only ones fighting to the death. All around them the good and evil forces of the wizarding world—including creatures great and small—are engaged in a climactic all-out war, which bring brings back many familiar faces on both sides.