This page was created on June 4, 2004
This page was last updated on June 9, 2005

A New Direction
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is Warner Bros. Pictures’ third film adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s celebrated Harry Potter novel series, in which Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione, now teenagers, return for their third year at Hogwarts, where they are forced to face their darkest fears as they confront an escaped prisoner who poses a great threat to Harry, and contend with the chillingly foreboding Dementors, who are sent there to protect them.

When director Alfonso Cuarón was first approached about helming Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he had just completed work on his award-winning film Y Tu Mamá También and was not familiar with what he calls “the mythology of Harry Potter.” After reading Steve Kloves’ screenplay and the series of novels, Cuarón was hooked.

“Even though on the surface this is a story about magic and magical creatures, it was the issues explored in it that were so interesting to me, and so relevant today,” says the acclaimed writer-director, who directed the enchanting family tale A Little Princess and was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar in 2003 for Y Tu Mamá También. “Issues about growing up, identity, relationships with friends, the lack of parental guidance and the search within. There are also issues about social class, injustice, racism – things that affect all of us around the world.”

As producer David Heyman notes, “Y Tu Mamá También is a story about the rights of passage from teenager to manhood, and the third Harry Potter story is about the journey from childhood to teenager. The themes are quite similar. Alfonso has a keen understanding of the nuances of teenage life – he is a teenager at heart. Moreover, you only need to watch A Little Princess to see that he has magic in his soul. He is a deeply compassionate man with a great sense of humor. He is a wonderful filmmaker.”

“Alfonso is terrific with young actors, and that’s obviously very important with these films,” adds Chris Columbus, who joined Heyman and producing partner Mark Radcliffe as a producer on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban after directing the first two blockbuster Harry Potter films. “He is also one of the most visually exciting directors working today, and he has an incredible storytelling sense.”

Having spent a total of four years directing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Columbus made a decision “to finally have dinner with my kids!” he says good-naturedly. “Choosing another director to further explore the cinematic world of Harry Potter was really a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we were looking for a director who would be happy to take on an established universe, with sets and a cast already in place, but at the same time we wanted someone who would bring their own point of view and vision to the production. We wanted the audience to continue these adventures with the characters and world they’d grown to love, but be equally exposed to a new perspective.”

Author J.K. Rowling, who reportedly counts A Little Princess as one of her favorite films, gave Cuarón her full support as he endeavored to bring her exciting yet contemplative third novel to the screen. “Jo Rowling asked me not to be too literal with my interpretation, but to be faithful to the spirit of the books,” the director relates. “She’s so eloquent about the world she has created, and equally aware that if you want to make a film that is not more than two and a half hours long, you have to make choices. I knew that if I honored the universe that is Harry Potter, I could potentially make my best film yet.”

Cuarón enjoyed the fact that he “inherited” a pre-established world of sets and cast, as it gave him more time to focus on the story and the performances of stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. For the young actors, the production brought two new challenges: conveying their characters’ adventurous transition to adolescence, and working for the first time without Columbus, their acting mentor.

“I got the chance to put into practice everything I learned over two years working with Chris,” Daniel Radcliffe enthuses. “I don’t think I’d have been able to make an Alfonso Cuarón movie before this, but I felt ready having learned so much with Chris, and equally everything I’ve learned with Alfonso I’ll be able to put into practice with Mike Newell. It’s a continual education for me.”

For Emma Watson, the greatest gift Columbus gave her was confidence, which was crucial to her portrayal of Hermione in Prisoner of Azkaban. “Alfonso made us think about our characters and how they would react to certain situations, which is something I don’t think I was ready to do in the first two films,” she muses.

Cuarón felt lucky to be working with the actors at this age, with their invaluable experience from the first two productions. “They knew everything related to their characters and the universe around them, as well as all the technical aspects, such as special effects, blue screen, and acting against a ball on a stick,” he observes. “Plus, they had matured to the point where they were willing to explore more emotional territory than they had ever done before.”

One of the Cuarón’s main considerations is the inner journey the central teen characters embark upon, in which the fears they face manifest themselves from within, rather than in the form of tangible monsters. According to Heyman, “It was important for Alfonso to encapsulate the way the kids’ lives changed when they hit thirteen. The demons they experience are not just monsters on the outside, such as spiders or the Basilisk. Their demons come from within.”

“Harry isn’t so much dealing with the threat of magical creatures, but revelations about his own life,” Cuarón elaborates. “He discovers new things about his identity and those around him that force him to grow up fast.”

Radcliffe tapped into what he describes as “the teenage angst” in Rowling’s novel for his portrayal of thirteen year-old Harry Potter. As he sees it, “Harry is a very angry young man. He’s not afraid to talk back to the Dursleys, nor to confront his own identity, although I think as with any other teenager his anger is balanced with a kind of social awkwardness.”

As Harry confronts startling revelations about his past, Hermione also experiences a coming of age of her own. “In the first two films, Hermione is the sensible one, always knowing what to do,” Watson says of her precocious character, whose Muggle heritage is a point of contention with Slytherin nemesis Draco Malfoy. “In the third story, Hermione decides she’s not going to take it anymore, not from Malfoy or anyone else. She ends up punching Malfoy and storming out of a class. She’s more ‘girl power,’ more outrageous, and of course more fun to play.”

To help the three young actors deepen their understanding of their characters, Cuarón asked them each to write an essay detailing how they viewed their character’s growth from their early days at Hogwarts to the beginning of the third story. “I remember handing in my essay and being so pleased, as neither Emma or Rupert had done theirs yet,” Radcliffe remembers, grinning. “I wrote a whole page on my character. But then the next day, Emma came in and had written sixteen and a half pages!”

“My essay about Hermione made me think of things I’d never thought about before,” Watson confides. “Alfonso asked us to write about why our characters behave the way they do, what’s behind their thoughts, and how things affect them. He calls it ‘taking off their masks.’ I realized that Hermione’s obsession with books and schoolwork is her security blanket. It really helped me to understand her.”

Cuarón is still awaiting Rupert Grint’s essay. “But hey, that’s my character!” Rupert protests. “Dan and Emma helped me give Alfonso all the usual excuses, like the dog ate my homework, that kind of thing. But Ron has never liked schoolwork, and he’d have found every excuse possible to get out of doing the essay, so I was just being in character!”

The director found the exercise incredibly useful, as it gave him further insight into the personalities of his young cast and their characters. “The kids really bared their souls in those essays, and were not afraid of revealing or exploring their vulnerabilities,” says Cuarón, who kept the compositions even after production wrapped. “We often used them as reference during filming, a sort of short hand that helped the kids get into the moment.”

New Characters & Cast Members
In addition to developing the teen identities of the central cast, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban also introduces several mysterious new characters, played by a host of Britain’s finest and most respected actors.

To play escaped convict Sirius Black, the man accused of leading to the murder of Harry Potter’s parents, the filmmakers turned to versatile actor Gary Oldman. “Gary is one of the finest actors of his generation, and one of the brightest, most sensitive and caring actors I’ve ever worked with,” producer David Heyman praises. “Whenever you see Gary in a film, he is compelling, dynamic and dangerous. But there is a vulnerability that lies within him. These qualities of danger and warmth are vital to the role of Sirius Black, and Gary very powerfully conveys all of the character’s emotional complexities.”

“The whole story is based around Sirius Black, the only prisoner to ever escape Azkaban prison, who everyone believes is trying to kill Harry,” Alfonso Cuarón notes. “But Black is a character with many layers. It was an extremely challenging role to play, even for an actor of Gary’s calibre.”

“I’m such a huge fan of Gary Oldman’s, when I met him I was absolutely terrified,” Daniel Radcliffe admits. “But he’s such a cool guy, and he makes you feel very comfortable.”

For Oldman, it was the chance to work with Alfonso Cuarón that initially attracted him to the role. “Alfonso brings such passion and heart to his films,” Oldman observes, “which is partly a reflection of his Latin American background, the infusion of culture and music.”

Like Sirius Black, duality is a key aspect of Hogwarts’ newest Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, Remus Lupin, played by David Thewlis (Timeline, Naked, The Big Lebowski). “Lupin is very avuncular and likeable, but he also has this dark secret,” Thewlis says. “He’s one of the last surviving links between Harry and his parents, along with Sirius Black and Professor Snape. So Lupin is a great comfort to Harry, which was part of the appeal of the role. Many of the scenes I have are with Daniel – no special effects, just conversation – which was very rewarding for both of us.”

“David brings a great warmth to the character of Lupin,” says Cuarón. “He is like Harry’s elder brother, the person who offers advice and support without being patronizing, but he has demons himself. David brings tremendous wisdom and warmth to the role, but it is never simply black and white.”

Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hallow, Gosford Park, Angels in America) joins the cast as Hogwarts’ esteemed Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, a role played by the late Richard Harris in the previous two Harry Potter films. “People often ask me what it’s like to be taking over from Richard Harris and I liken it to King Lear,” Gambon relates. “So many actors have played Lear, and none of us worry about what the previous actor has done; you just take the part and make it your own.”

Gambon does play tribute to Harris in his own subtle way. “I am originally Irish, and on my first day of shooting, the Irish accent just came out. It seemed natural. Alfonso liked it, so I kept it. I think of it as my homage to Richard.”

“What Michael brings to the film is really exceptional,” Heyman says. “Dumbledore is eccentric with a twinkle in his eye, and Michael has those qualities. On the one hand, he acknowledges Richard with the Irish accent, but he also very much makes the character his own.”

The role of the extremely near-sighted yet prescient Professor of Divination Sibyll Trelawney is played by multi-talented actress-writer Emma Thompson. “Because Trelawney is always looking beyond the present into the future, she is completely incapable of seeing what’s right in front of her,” Thompson reveals. “She’s very neurotic and there is something faintly helpless about her, but underneath her helplessness is steel.”

“Emma brings something special to Trelawney,” says Cuarón. “Her performance is very funny, but she also adds a foreboding undercurrent to the character.”

Another mysterious new character in the film is Peter Pettigrew, one of James Potter’s closest friends, who is said to have been murdered by He Who Cannot Be Named. Pettigrew is played by Timothy Spall (The Last Samurai, Vanilla Sky, Almost Famous). “I thought the character an interesting one to play, as he is both repulsive and sympathetic, and he elicits a begrudging sympathy from the audience,” Spall says. “He’s a sort of pariah. Out of a group of school mates, he’s the runt who hangs around and is tolerated because the others feel sorry for him. But he’s really on the periphery of the group, and as with many runts, he’s the biggest troublemaker.”

Other notable additions to the ensemble cast include Julie Christie as Madam Rosmerta, the kind and caring landlady of the Three Broomsticks pub; Pam Ferris as Harry’s overbearing Aunt Marge; actress-comedienne Dawn French as the vibrant Fat Lady in the portrait at Gryffindor Tower; actor-comedian Lenny Henry, who provides the voice of the Knight Bus’s colorful, talking shrunken head; and comedian-actor Paul Whitehouse, who dons the armor of Sir Cadogan.

About The Production
In keeping with the thematic elements imbued in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, director Alfonso Cuarón set out to establish a more mature tone in the characters’ wardrobe, the sets and the look of the film itself. Since most teenagers are hyper-aware of pop culture and fashion trends, Cuarón felt that Harry, Ron, Hermione and the other students at Hogwarts should be no exception.

“What I really wanted to do was to make Hogwarts more contemporary and a little more naturalistic,” he explains. “For instance, I studied English schools and watched the way the kids wore their uniforms. No two were alike. Each teenager’s individuality was reflected in the way they wore their uniform. So I asked all the kids in the film to wear their uniforms as they would if their parents weren’t around.”

“I ended up with my tie totally messed up and my shirt half pulled out,” says Rupert Grint, ever true to character. “It was fun, but it also had a serious purpose in helping us establish individual identities.”

When Cuarón asked Radcliffe how Harry would dress as he became a teenager, “I thought it would have been too much of a leap for Harry to become very image conscious,” the young actor considers. “He wouldn’t wear badges or chains. But he is becoming more self aware, and although his clothes aren’t exactly cool, they are less formal and less childish.”

Much to Emma Watson’s delight, Hermione also enjoys a bit of a fashion evolution. “Hermione is out of tweed skirts and knitted grandma-type jumpers and – dare I say it – wearing jeans!” Watson reports. “She’s not trendy, but more stylish than she used to be. Hermione still wears her uniform with the top button done up, but she’s trying!”

In keeping with Cuarón’s contemporary vision, costume designer Jany Temime made subtle changes to the design of the Hogwarts uniforms themselves. “We darkened the colors and included a hood with the house colors inside, so you immediately knew which house each student belongs to,” says Temime. “To encourage individuality, we gave everyone a choice of singlets, jumpers, cardigans and other variations on the uniform.”

“The changes are not a complete deviation from the wardrobe from the first two films, but more a reflection of the character developments within the books themselves,” Columbus suggests. “We’re not dressing the kids in ultra-fashionable clothes. Their wardrobe represents a gradual change, which reflects their natural transition to teenagers.”

Temime also brought a fresh look to the Hogwarts Quidditch uniforms. “The idea was to make them more modern, resembling gear from a sport like rugby or football,” she explains. “So we introduced stripes and numbers. Because the Quidditch sequence takes place in the rain, we had to use a very modern waterproof fabric, and that in itself gave the uniforms a more contemporary look.”

Creating the look of escaped prisoner Sirius Black was a culmination of weeks of design work between Temime, Cuarón, Oldman and the hair and make-up departments. “We tried all sorts of things,” Oldman says. “We thought that perhaps over the twelve years Black was in prison, his hair has gone grey. His tattoos were Alfonso’s idea. All in all, it was a very collaborative effort.”

For Harry’s confidante, Professor Lupin, Temime chose “tweeds typical of England. Alfonso said that Lupin should look like an uncle who parties hard on the weekends! So we made sure his gown was always unkempt and more shabby than the other teachers’ robes.”

In developing the wardrobe for Hogwarts’ new Divination teacher, Professor Trelawney, Emma Thompson made sketches of what she thought her comically far-sighted character would look like and sent them to Cuarón and Temime.

“I saw her as a person who hasn’t looked in the mirror for a long time,” Thompson says. “She has these huge bulging eyes, and hair that just kind of explodes at the top of her head and clearly has not been brushed in a long, long time. It has probably had squirrels nesting in it at some point.”

Using material infused with mirrors and eyes to underscore the future-minded character’s short sightedness, Temime created a perfectly frumpy look for Trelawney, highlighted by oversized glasses equipped with magnifying lenses. “The glasses are absolutely what make the costume,” Thompson enthuses. “Though if I had to play Trelawney for a long period, I would be blind by the end of the shoot because I can’t see through them.”

Temime’s designs also help give Michael Gambon’s Professor Dumbledore a distinct identity from Richard Harris’ portrayal of the character. “Alfonso wanted Dumbledore to look like an old hippie, but still very chic and with a lot of class,” she explains. “His previous costumes had been quite heavy and majestic, but we took some silk and tie-dyed it so when Dumbledore is walking around, his robes float behind him. It’s a much lighter look, which also gives the character more energy.”

For the mysterious Peter Pettigrew, Temime selected a 1970s era suit and wove silver hairs and a threaded tail into it. “His look is frozen in time, and has become very threadbare and worn.”

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban once again welcomes back Academy Award winning production designer Stuart Craig and his team of talented art directors, scenic artists, draftsmen, storyboard artists, sculptors and set decorator Stephenie McMillan. Having designed key set pieces for the Harry Potter film series, including the Great Hall and the Gryffindor common room, Craig was tasked with expanding Harry Potter’s world within Hogwarts – and beyond – for the third production.

The designer worked closely with director Alfonso Cuarón in the creation of many new sets for the ambitious production, including: Professor Trelawney’s Divination classroom, which was cleverly transformed from Professor Lupin’s Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom with the aid of over 500 teacups; the dark forest, which was built in Shepperton Studios’ largest sound stage; Hogsmeade village; The Three Broomsticks public house; Azkaban prison; the clocktower courtyard; and the feat of engineering known as the Shrieking Shack.

One of the film’s most challenging environments to create, the Shrieking Shack needed to give the impression of being almost alive, “creaking and moving as if being continually buffeted by the wind,” says Craig, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and has won three Oscars for his work on The English Patient, Dangerous Liaisons and Gandhi.

The long and winding road to the “most haunted building in Britain” commences through the trunk of the Whomping Willow, continues down an underground tunnel, snakes up through a trap door, farther up a set of rickety stairs, and finally ends in the Shack’s ruinous living room. “The journey to the Shrieking Shack is meant to represent the terrible journey Lupin endures during his transformation into a werewolf,” Craig reveals. “The living room is totally decimated and reflects his inner torment.”

Though not typically involved in set design, special effects supervisors John Richardson and Steve Hamilton collaborated with Craig and company to bring the Shrieking Shack to life by constructing the set on a large hydraulic platform.

Cuarón added his own flair to the film’s overall design, incorporating subtle references to his Mexican heritage in many of the sets. For example, when the teens pass the clocktower terrace en route to Hogsmeade village, the sculptures surrounding the terrace fountain feature serpents and eagles, based on a motif taken from the Mexican flag.

To help establish a contemporary, atmospheric look to the film, Cuarón employed the talents of editor Steven Weisberg (A Little Princess, Men In Black II), sound designer Richard Beggs (Lost in Translation, Adaptation) and director of photography Michael Seresin (Midnight Express, Fame, The Life of David Gale).

“This story is much darker than the previous two, so the lighting is more moody, with more shadows,” Seresin says. “Alfonso is a great believer in using close-ups sparingly. By shooting with wide angle lenses, the backgrounds become as important to the storytelling as the actors.”

According to Cuarón, he utilized an array of wide angle lenses to amplify Hogwarts’ prominence in the story, and underscore the characters’ development: “We have the camera moving constantly and don’t use close-ups as a storytelling device. We prefer to observe the kids from further away, as I find body language to be very interesting.”

“Although Alfonso ‘inherited’ several established Harry Potter sets, the way he and Michael Seresin shot them using wide angle lenses makes for a whole new visual experience,” Craig believes. “It’s like seeing the world of Harry Potter with fresh eyes.”

Adding to the film’s eerie atmosphere is the footage filmed on location in Glen Coe, Scotland, where the production spent several weeks filming scenes depicting Hogwarts’ exterior environs, including the climactic sequence in which Harry, Ron and Hermione attempt to rescue Buckbeak, the magical Hippogriff. “The scenes we shot in Scotland represent my proudest achievement of the film,” enthuses Seresin, who endured 28 days of rain while shooting in the Highlands. “We couldn’t have dialed up more perfect weather for our story. The whole crew was sliding around in the mud, but I couldn’t have been happier!”

The film’s moody tone is also reflected in the exhilarating Quidditch sequence, which takes place in the rain. Set against a dark and threatening sky, the scene depicts the dangerous effects the Dementors have on Harry, and portends another paralyzing encounter – one that could cost Harry his very soul.

Amazing Creatures & Magical Transformations
Like all of J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter stories, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is inhabited by imaginative creatures and magical transformations. Introduced in this film are Buckbeak, the half-horse, half-eagle breed known as the Hippogriff; Professor Lupin’s secret alter ego, a deadly werewolf; and the chillingly haunting Dementors, who guard Azkaban prison by preying on its captors’ worst fears.

In addition, the film features the magical vehicle known as the Knight Bus, an otherworldly “expansion” of Harry Potter’s obnoxious Aunt Marge, and the appearance of the squabbling pets Crookshanks, Hermione’s cat, and Scabbers, Ron’s rat.

Bringing Buckbeak to life required months of imagination, research and extensive preparation, beginning with the winged creature’s skeletal design. “I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be to create Buckbeak,” Cuarón admits. “Once we worked out the physiology, the way his bones would actually move, we had to capture his personality, which is a mixture of regal elegance, particularly when he is flying, and the clumsy and greedy creature he becomes back on land.”

Creature effects supervisor Nick Dudman spent nearly a year developing several “practical” Hippogriffs for the production, while visual effects supervisors Roger Guyett and Tim Burke were responsible for overseeing the creation of a computer-generated Buckbeak who could walk and fly.

“Some of the effects Framestore CFC achieved with the Hippogriff have never been done before,” Guyett reports, “especially with the complexities of the feathers, which have to respond with each movement as if they were part of a real bird.”

Equally taxing to the filmmakers was the challenge of transforming mild-mannered Professor Lupin into a werewolf in a unique and inventive way. “There are so many werewolves in movie history, we were concerned with repeating something that had been seen before,” Cuarón says. “So, rather than go with a traditional hairy werewolf, we went with a hairless one.”

Like Buckbeak, the lupine creation is a combination of practical effects – done with actor David Thewlis to depict the initial stages of Lupin’s transformation – and CGI shots, which show the werewolf in full motion. To ensure the collaboration between practical and computer effects would be fluid as possible, both teams had to determine how, and how quickly, the werewolf should move. “We asked ourselves what would happen when the werewolf walked on all fours instead of two legs,” Guyett recalls. “We needed to understand every detail of his frame and muscle tone.”

Vividly conveyed by Rowling in the novel and perhaps the scariest entities in the film, the ghoulish Dementors wreak havoc on Harry Potter when they descend upon Hogwarts, ostensibly to protect the students from escaped prisoner Sirius Black. These frightening otherworldly beings posed yet another visual challenge for the filmmakers.

“Alfonso wanted the Dementors to have a completely different quality from the other mythical creatures in the story,” Heyman notes. “He began the design process by experimenting with slow motion movement. Then he played the slow motion in reverse, as if the Dementors were preceding a character into a room, rather than following.”

To achieve the abstract feel Cuarón wanted for the ethereal prison guards, the filmmakers worked with American puppeteer Basil Twist in a series of experiments with underwater puppets. “Basil came to London and we tested various Dementor forms in a huge water tank to get an idea of their movement,” Cuarón elaborates. “We shot these tests in slow motion, which was really beautiful, but this method was not practical to use for the film.”

“It was these early tests that provided the creative direction for the Dementors,” Burke adds. “Alfonso wanted to do something metaphysical, not tangible, and the water tests provided that quality.” After an intense collaboration with Burke, Guyett, the visual effects team at ILM, and costume designer Jany Temime, who experimented with various fabrics to help find the best look and movement for the Dementors, Cuarón is proud of their haunting personification of Rowling’s chilling characters. “I think we have created truly scary creatures,” the director says. “You get a sense that the Dementors are so decayed that if they opened a door, their fingers would fall off, but at the same time, they simply have to inhale in order to suck out your soul.”

In addition to working with ILM and Framestore CFC to create key visual effects shots for the film, Guyett and Burke supervised the crafting of additional VFX material from The Moving Picture Company, Cinesite and Double Negative.

“One of the most exciting aspects of working on the Harry Potter films is seeing the visual effects get progressively better, due to a combination of our own experience and advances within each production,” says producer Chris Columbus.

Another colorful new character in the film is the magically mechanized, triple-decker Knight Bus, created by special effects supervisors John Richardson and Steve Hamilton. The spectacularly purple bus appears to race through the streets of London, shape-shifting as necessary to maneuver through Muggle traffic. “It was a big operation to manufacture a road-worthy vehicle that has three levels,” says Richardson. “We basically took a retired London bus and built a new chassis that could withstand the customised body. Then the stunt team put it through its paces.”

The practical Knight Bus sequences were shot over several weeks at various locations in and around London, using intricate choreography to give the impression that the vehicle is rocketing past traffic at 100 miles per hour. “It’s not as scary as it looks,” stunt co-ordinator Greg Powell assures. “We drove the bus at about 30 miles per hour and the other cars were going only about 8. It took weeks of planning with stunt drivers, and even the people you see on the street are stunt men and women, who were trained to walk incredibly slow just to make the bus look faster.”

Like the Knight Bus, the magical “expansion” of Harry’s obnoxiously overbearing Aunt Marge was also achieved through largely practical means. 38 tweed suits of increasing size were used to costume actress Pam Ferris during the meticulous shooting process. “I wore various prosthetic bodies, which inflated at different rates, and at my largest I was about four and a half feet wide,” says Ferris, who could not walk or eat while wearing the 50 pound costume.

The film’s primary animal characters, Ron’s pet rat Scabbers and Hermione’s cat Crookshanks, play important roles in the story. “I hate spiders, but I think rats are quite cool, so I didn’t mind doing my scenes with Scabbers,” Rupert Grint says. “The animal department shaved bits of his fur off so he would look manky, but he’s really quite a nice and healthy rat, who just had a bit of a make over!”

The onscreen animosity between rat and cat is purely animal acting, assures animal trainer Gary Gero, a veteran of all three Harry Potter films. “Before we introduced the animals to each other, trainer Julie Tottman worked with the cat and David Sousa trained the rat, so we knew we had some control over them,” Gero explains. “But we weren’t sure how they would react when they had to work together, so we created a little parallel runway with netting so they couldn’t cross over into each other’s territory. When it came time to shoot, neither cared at all. They ignored each other, so there was never any real fighting.”

Review by Jenn Wright
Review by Michael Ray
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