We previously mentioned that Matthew Lewis would be attending a press event at Boston’s Museum of Science where Harry Potter: The Exhibition will be displayed October 25 – February 21, 2010 . Harry Potter’s Page was also invited to attend the event, along with other Harry Potter fansites. Although we could not be there physically to view the exhibit, Dijares asked me to participate in the roundtable discussion via online conference. I was pretty excited because I was going to have the opportunity to speak to the actor who portrayed Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films as well as to the exhibit coordinators who were excited about re-creating a small portion of Harry’s world for us fans!
Gina McDuffie was the moderator for the roundtable discussion. Eddie Newquist, President, Branded Entertainment, Exhibitgroup/Giltspur; Paul Fontaine, Vice President of Education, Museum of Science; and Robin Stafford, one of the creative directors of the exhibit were present to answer questions.
According to Mr. Newquist, it took three years to develop the exhibit with the belief that this is an event which would appeal to museums due to the great amount of interest surrounding the Harry Potter films as well as the books. Mr. Stafford assisted in organizing and choosing which sets, props, and costumes would be used. They shared a memory with us of being in the Great Hall at Leavesden Studios with all of the items laid out on the tables for them to view and saying things like, “Oh, I remember this being used in such and such scene,” etc.
I asked them if the actors had any input or made any contributions to the exhibit. I was told that although Matthew Lewis had brought one of Neville’s wands to be displayed, the choices had been left to the creative and production teams.
When asked what were their favorite sets in the exhibit, Mr. Fontaine and Mr. Stafford said that was a hard choice because different perspectives of the items were revealed each time the sets were arranged for display. But they agreed the Dark Arts items stood out in their minds. Mr. Newquist said he likes everything, but Buckbeak the Hippogriff came to mind due to the details of his feathers.
The Great Hall was the hardest set to put together. Some items, like floors and columns, had to be re-created due to the size and proportions of the places where the exhibit will be displayed. As of now, there are no items from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. But they have no doubt that they will acquire a few things from the last Harry Potter story sometime in the future. And it is possible some items may have to be removed from the exhibit if they are needed for future filming.
Size and proportion were also considered for the 16,000 square foot exhibit when choosing which museums would be included in the exhibit’s tour. The only difference between the Chicago exhibit and the Boston exhibit is the arrangement of everything. The coordinators believe the Boston visitors will still have that “a day in the life of Harry Potter” experience that the Chicago visitors had.
After the coordinators answered questions about the theatrical effects, like lighting, sound and touch, created for the exhibit, Matthew Lewis joined the roundtable discussion. He had his tour of the exhibit yesterday. He admitted to being “stunned” and seeing something new at the turn of every corner. It was “winding” and “maze-like”.
I was one of the first with a question for him by asking what his favorite part of the exhibit was. Another person also asked that question at the same time, but clarified it by adding “Neville related” and “non Neville related”. Favorite Neville-related was the part of the exhibit where he could pull out a mandrake like he did in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but he didn’t have to faint–lol. The favorite non-Neville related part was The Forbidden Forest. That was “pretty scary and cool”. He said the whole tour reminded him of his first visit to the Harry Potter set at Leavesden Studios when he was 11 years old.
When asked what props in the exhibit were used but not seen in the final cut of the films, Lewis immediately talked about his dancing shoes that he wore for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He reminded us that Neville was suppose to have discovered that he was a very good dancer in the fourth Harry Potter book. However, Lewis, himself, was not and had to learn the tango; and Bonnie Wright as “Ginny Weasley” was his partner. With sympathies for what he put Wright through in those rehearsals and filming, Lewis said the tango never made it to the final cut.
He also mentioned the cactus and the planting tools he used. He explained that the director David Yates wanted to do a shot of him working on the cactus and then this goo-type liquid would shoot at him from the plant. Yates wanted Lewis as Neville to be so stunned that he would not move as the goo poured down his face. But take after take, Lewis kept moving from the impact of the goo, so these two students who were kissing behind him were continuously being hit by the goo as well. Lewis felt bad about that, too. Needless to say, that scene didn’t make a final cut either. Lolol.
Lewis asked if he would recommend Harry Potter: The Exhibition to the rest of the cast. He said he would. I asked him what his favorite Harry Potter set that was re-created for the exhibit was. His answer was the Great Hall and the bit with the Yule Ball.
Of course, Deathly Hallows was mentioned. Lewis already received a final draft for Part II. He will officially be back to work next week. He was asked if Neville was in Part I. He told the person to wait and see the movie to find out. He has no idea how they will do everything in Part II, but “it’s fantastic” and he is looking forward to the final battle. He agreed that Neville has really gone through a change and has become a “battle-hardened veteran”.
As in previous interviews about Deathly Hallows, Lewis said it is weird that it is coming to an end after ten years. He has made many friends among the crew as well as the cast. The end of filming is “daunting”, but he is looking forward to the next acting challenge from whomever will give him a job. Lol.
In closing, Matthew Lewis finds the most memorable thing about the exhibit is how everything that was created, made and filmed in England to re-create the story of Harry Potter found its way here to the States for the American fans. The exhibit coordinators agreed. Also, they believed that Harry Potter: The Exhibition is part of a special legacy created by the boy wizard who affected many people who will look back on this time and say “I remember…”
Thanks to the Museum of Science in Boston for their invitation and online hospitality. Thanks to Gina McDuffie, Eddie Newquist, Paul Fontaine, Robin Stafford, and especially to Matthew Lewis for their time and answering our questions.
And I would like to add a special thank you to Dijares for asking me to represent the site.
The exhibit will open to the public starting October 25, 2009 – February 21, 2010. A Member Preview will be held on Saturday, October 24.
UPDATE: We’ve received a second report from the exhibition, this time from Resa, who attended the event. Here’s her report:
Last night the Museum of Science in Boston opened its doors to an anticipated 1000 invited guests (otherwise known as “Very Important Muggles”) for a special advance showing of Harry Potter: The Exhibition. After premiering in Chicago, the artifacts from the exhibition were packed in 16 trucks, which then drove to Boston. Normally, this process takes four to five weeks. But with the goal of getting the exhibition open in time for Halloween, the packing and shipping happened in a mere three weeks, with museum employees working nonstop to get everything in place in time for the official opening scheduled for October 25.
The atmosphere of the exhibition is magical and sometimes spooky. The goal is to provide a theatrical experience that evokes emotion, and it does so with great success. The lighting is dark in passageways leading to well-lit themed areas like the hallway inside Hogwarts, lined with portraits – and some of them do move. Inside the walls of Hogwarts, visitors can examine artifacts associated with courses and teachers, which gives the feel of touring the school itself, as well as a look at Quidditch equipment, uniforms, and cups. In the area of the Dark Arts, visitors jump at the effect of thunder and lightning as Voldemort’s robes drift eerily in a chilling wind with Death Eaters standing nearby. Inside Hagrid’s Hut, a cauldron steams in the fireplace and visitors are invited to sit in his oversized chair.
Matthew Lewis came to Boston and was one of the first to see the current installation. “I was stunned,” Lewis said at a press conference yesterday. “I had no idea the size and scale. It was incredible.”
One of the reasons the Museum of Science was selected as the only venue in New England to host the exhibition is because it requires a very large space, which the museum easily provides. Not so easy was fitting in some of the larger pieces, including the towering gilded doors opening up to the Great Hall area and a huge stained glass window behind dozens of glowing candles floating high in the air. The window is so tall that the only way to fit it inside the exhibition space was to remove part of the ceiling. But the Museum of Science has a good track record. In past years, it has hosted similar traveling exhibitions based on The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars movies.
With over 200 props and costumes from the Harry Potter movies, it takes some time to absorb everything. Thanks to some re-creations (like archways that look like real stone), walking through the exhibition feels like stepping into a slice of Harry Potter’s world. What’s really striking is the incredible attention to the detail of every item on display, whether it’s something as critical as the golden snitch or a barely noticed item like a comic book about Muggles. For example, every issue of the Daily Prophet is a complete newspaper filled with real articles and ads. Even though small details like this may never be noticed on screen, they let the actors feel like they were holding a real newspaper instead of a prop.
One of the best features of the exhibition is the optional audio tour, which is a collection of insider stories told by the filmmakers and the creators of the costumes and props. In the Gryffindor area, there’s a section of the boys’ dorm room, including two of the four-poster beds. The audio tour includes a story about the beds’ red drapes, which are printed with gold designs of stars, unicorns, and astrological symbols. The original plan was to create that design and then have it printed on red fabric. But through a twist of fate, the fabric used in the film was discovered already in existence in a London shop.
The exhibition also features plenty of 3-D models of creatures like two centaurs, a giant spider, and a baby thestral, all located in the Forbidden Forest. The models were used on set as stand-ins or for over-the-shoulder camera shots. “It’s pretty scary actually,” Lewis said about the Forbidden Forest. “People are going to love it. I loved it.”
Thanks to Resa for the report!
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