Painting Harry, Hogwarts and all

Different directors helps prod'n designer change with sequels

With each passing year, Harry Potter’s adventures get darker not only in tone, but also in aesthetic approach. From the opening scene, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” announces that it will be more sinister than the other three films in the series.

“It starts with the snake Nagini creeping out of the mouth of a skull carved into the door of a sarcophagus,” says production designer Stuart Craig, “so that’s all pretty dark imagery even before the main title opens the film.”

Craig has been with the series from the very beginning. “I truly think if it had been the same director the whole time, I would have gotten stale by now,” he says.

The vision originated with Chris Columbus at the helm for the first two installments before Alfonso Cuaron took the third film in a noticeably darker direction. Now Mike Newell continues that tradition.

“Each director chooses a look that is appropriate for each story,” says producer David Heyman. “In this one, Harry is in danger from the beginning and the presence of Voldemort begins to loom. It took almost four films for us to see him come to life as I’d imagined.”

Actor Ralph Fiennes had definite ideas about how Voldemort should look, says costume designer Jany Temime. “He wanted his robe to be like a second skin around him, like he was just born.”

Meanwhile, Hogwarts continues to grow as the production team expands the castle to accommodate the new locations. Since no one knows what J.K. Rowling will write in the next book, older sets like the Chamber of Secrets are broken down and stored, just in case they’re needed again.

In “Goblet of Fire,” the Yule Ball gave the production team a chance to redecorate one of Hogwarts’ most familliar locations, the Great Hall, and costumers the opportunity to fit the young wizards for formal wear.

Temime recalls the teenage actors were almost as excited about their gowns and tuxedos as their characters — all except for Rupert Grint, whose character, Ron, is saddled with hand-me-down dress robes from the ’80s. “The outfit really shows the bad taste of the Weasleys,” she explains. “He just said, ‘I’m used to it now. I suppose I have to look ugly again.’ ”

In addition to updating the look of existing sets, Craig designed the three elements in the Triwizard Tournament — the dragon chase, the underwater sequence and the maze that leads to the final showdown with Voldemort — as well as the flying coach and magic ship in which the competing teams arrive. Craig’s most elaborate creation, the stadium for the Quidditch World Cup, makes only a brief appearance early in the film.

“It reminds you of a modern stadium,” Craig says, “but in its detail, it has this kind of Victorian technology. It’s a steel structure riveted together and it looks like a 19th-century railway station on a massive scale. That’s all part of our thesis that in the wizard world, you don’t need technology because you have magic.”

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