Warner Bros. Pictures is pleased to announce the release of the feature film adaptation of the second installment of J.K. Rowlings best-selling novel series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Published in 1998, Chamber of Secrets debuted at number one on the U.K.s Whitaker BookTrack best-seller list, as well as making number one debuts on The New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal best-seller lists. Over 42 million copies of the novel have been sold in more than 42 countries worldwide (including over 17 million copies in the U.S. and Canada alone).
Production on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets commenced on November 19, 2001, at Leavesden Studios, Hertfordshire, and on location in England, just three days after the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, which shattered numerous box office records at the time of its release and went on to become the second highest grossing film of all time. Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone also garnered three Academy Award nominations and seven prestigious BAFTA nominations, including Outstanding British Film of the Year.
For most directors, completing the post-production phase of a feature film is an exhaustive and all-consuming process. Chris Columbus faced an even more daunting task throughout the summer and autumn of 2001, as he simultaneously supervised the editing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone and commenced a rigorous period of pre-production and planning for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
It was an intense time, but wed learned so much on Sorcerers Stone and I was very excited about taking all this knowledge into the second film, Columbus recalls.
It was challenging, producer David Heyman concurs. Fortunately, we benefited from the experience of the first film and having many of our original production crew continue on through the second film, so we had a wealth of knowledge to draw upon.
Another benefit of this demanding Chamber of Secrets schedule was that it kept the production team focused on the tasks at hand during a time of sensational success and media attention.
None of us had the chance to sit back and think about the success of the first film, which I think was good for everyone, particularly the kids, says Columbus. By that point, the cast and crew had become like one big family. It was great that we could all share that sense of excitement, without losing our momentum, and carry it into Chamber of Secrets.
Despite the hectic pace, from the outset Columbus and Heyman remained faithful to their ambitious vision for Chamber of Secrets and how it would differ from the first film especially in terms of structure, character and tone. We devoted a good part of Sorcerers Stone to setting up the world of Harry Potter, Heyman notes. There was so much to introduce in terms of the magic, the settings and the characters. With Chamber of Secrets, we jump directly into the narrative and into the adventure.
Chamber of Secrets is darker and funnier and it takes Harrys character to a new place, Columbus explains. The first film was about Harry realizing that hes actually a wizard. In contrast to the colorful and larger-than-life characters that surrounded him, Harry was somewhat passive and didnt come into his own until the third act of the film. In Chamber of Secrets, Harry exudes a lot more confidence and strength right from the start.
Star Daniel Radcliffe relished taking on Harry Potters more proactive Chamber of Secrets role. The last line of the first film is like the beginning of the second film, observes Radcliffe, who counts Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as one of his favorite books. Harry says Im not going home, not really, because hes discovered his home is at Hogwarts and that is where he belongs. But when he returns to Hogwarts at the beginning of Chamber of Secrets, he discovers theres a real threat to his school and home and hes determined to protect it.
Radcliffe also found that he was personally influenced by Harrys growth. He had developed so much as a character, I had to develop myself too and now I have two instincts Harrys and my own. So when we were filming each scene, I asked myself How would Harry react to this? and I tried to get that feeling across on screen.
Daniel took on an enormous responsibility when he was cast to play Harry Potter, and he has risen to the challenge and totally matured as an actor, Columbus enthuses. Hes become a real leading man in the truest sense of the word, as well as becoming a real hero and probably a bit of a heartthrob!
Over two years have passed since the now 13 year-old Radcliffe and costars Rupert Grint, 14, and Emma Watson, 12, were cast in their pivotal roles of Harry Potter and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. One of the wonders of this process for me has been to witness the maturation of Dan, Rupert and Emma, says Heyman. The children seem more confident and able to draw upon a wealth of new experience for their characters. Yet, at the same time, they have maintained their enthusiasm, sense of wonder and their youthfulness.
Its remarkable to see how far theyve grown not just physically, but in their acting, Columbus adds. The kids performances are more mature and, quite frankly, they are even better than they were in the first film.
Emma Watson is pleased to note that she has grown both personally and professionally as a result of her experience working on Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone. Id never done any professional acting before the first film and I was extremely nervous and didnt know anyone, she admits. Now I know the people and my surroundings and I know what Im doing, so I feel a lot more relaxed and can have a really good time. Ive definitely improved as an actress and feel happier with what Im doing on screen.
For precocious Hermione Granger, the second year at Hogwarts brings about a marked change in her relationship with her fellow wizards-in-training. Hermione becomes more friendly with Harry and Ron and shes definitely more easygoing, Watson discloses. She is less obsessed with books and schoolwork and settles down a bit. And even though she softens, Hermione is still as fiercely loyal to her friends as ever.
Like Harry Potter, the irrepressible Ron Weasley finds himself at the center of much of the Chamber of Secrets action. I got to do a lot more fun things in this film, particularly with the flying car, Rupert Grint declares. The scenes in Spiders Hollow were particularly scary as I have a big fear of spiders. When I saw Aragog [an enormous ancient spider who lives in the Dark Forest] for the first time, I wasnt acting I was genuinely scared!
CONJURING A STELLAR ENSEMBLE
In keeping with the family tradition established on Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, the filmmakers reunited not only the original child cast for Chamber of Secrets, but also their stellar ensemble of the U.K.s greatest adult actors.
Reprising their roles from Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone are acclaimed actors John Cleese (The World is Not Enough, A Fish Called Wanda, Monty Python) as Nearly Headless Nick; Robbie Coltrane (Nuns on the Run, GoldenEye, The World is Not Enough) as the gentle giant Hagrid; Warwick Davis (Willow) as the Charms teacher Professor Flitwick; Richard Griffiths (Sleepy Hollow, Naked Gun 2, King Ralph) as Harrys Uncle Vernon Dursley; Richard Harris (Gladiator, Unforgiven, Camelot) as Hogwarts all-knowing Headmaster Albus Dumbledore; Alan Rickman (Truly Madly Deeply, Sense and Sensibility, Die Hard) as the enigmatic Potions Professor Severus Snape; Fiona Shaw (My Left Foot, The Butcher Boy, Franco Zeffirellis Jane Eyre) as Harrys Aunt Petunia Dursley; Dame Maggie Smith (Oscar-nominated for her role in Gosford Park; Tea With Mussolini, Richard III) plays Dumbledores loyal deputy Professor Minerva McGonagall; and Julie Walters (Billy Elliot, Educating Rita, Personal Services) as Mrs. Molly Weasley.
Perhaps the most prominent of the new and exciting characters introduced in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is Gilderoy Lockhart, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, played by the multi-talented actor, writer and director Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Dead Again, Shackleton).
According to Columbus, Kenneth Branagh was the only man for the job. Ken is one of the great stage and screen actors of our time, and a great filmmaker, Columbus attests. Hes a perfect fit for our all-British ensemble, and hes one of the few younger actors who can hold his own against the likes of Richard Harris, Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman. I couldnt conceive of anyone else playing Gilderoy Lockhart.
Lockhart is amongst the most challenging roles in either of the two films, Heyman elaborates. We needed someone who could be both annoying and charming, who would embrace Lockharts narcissism, be hysterically funny, and still keep him grounded in reality. Ken did all we asked of him and more. Hes absolutely fantastic.
While he relished playing the part of the ostentatious phony, Branagh did not take the role lightly. It was nerve-wracking, because I was aware that Chamber of Secrets is a major film with huge audience expectations and that fans already had a very established idea of who Lockhart is, Branagh says. Hes very flamboyant, rather vain and terribly narcissistic. So hes a delicious character to play, ferociously irritating and charming, but we had to convince audiences that he could have done all the things he claims. We had to make him plausible. I trusted Chris Columbus and his comic timing implicitly.
Whereas Ken Branagh is the nicest man on earth, Lockhart is a show-off and a fraud, says Radcliffe of the newest addition to Hogwarts eclectic teaching staff. Girls love him and boys hate him because they know that something about him is not quite right.
Indeed, Lockhart casts his charismatic spell on Hogwarts female students, especially the typically single-minded Hermione. She is absolutely dreamy about Lockhart, confesses Emma Watson, who calls the arrogant professor the Brad Pitt of his day. Hermione is obsessed with him, as are the other girls. And Kenneth Branagh is so down to earth and hes such a fantastic actor that he made the scenes really easy to do.
Lockhart knows how to work his charm and to be poetic, particularly with females, Branagh explains. Hermione is one of the few people who can actually keep up with him.
Another major new presence in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is that of Lucius Malfoy, the father of Harrys Slytherin nemesis, Draco Malfoy. For this crucial role, the filmmakers cast Jason Isaacs (Black Hawk Down, The Patriot, The End of the Affair), the internationally acclaimed actor Columbus describes as one of the greatest villains in modern filmmaking. Jasons performance in The Patriot was truly blood-chilling, and I thought he would be terrific as Lucius Malfoy, who personifies the underlying darkness and evil of the Slytherin house.
For all his considerable experience playing despicable characters, Isaacs found the role to be quite challenging. Its my first film about wizards, and I dont get to wear waist length blond hair and walk around with a snake-headed cane very often! he jokes. For me, the fun and challenge of playing this character was making Lucius as grotesque as I could but somehow keeping him real.
Jasons performance in this film is truly evil and insidious, Heyman says. There are few people who can play a villain as well as Jason, which is rather ironic given that hes such a warm and generous person.
Unlike the other villains Isaacs has portrayed, Lucius Malfoy is utterly devoid of redeeming qualities. Lucius is a very dark character and a thoroughly unpleasant man, Isaacs notes. Hes the most confident person Ive ever stepped inside and completely supreme in his arrogance and ruthlessness. He is pure evil.
Lucius relationship with his son Draco, a role reprised by 14 year-old Tom Felton (Anna and the King, The Borrowers), is vital to the story, as well as the key to understanding why Draco is such an antagonistic bully. Draco has a monstrous home life, says Isaacs. Lucius bullies him, which makes Draco bully others. Hes a chip off the old block.
The true nature of Lucius and Dracos relationship was surprising to young Felton. I always thought that theirs would be quite a loving relationship, since Lucius and Draco are both really mean people, but I think theres actually something quite scary going on between them, Felton observes. Draco always gets the rough end of the stick and is quite afraid of his father. I was a bit daunted when I heard Jason Isaacs was going to play my Dad, but hes the nicest guy youd ever meet and we just clicked!
Isaacs, in turn, found Feltons performance in Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone to be so convincing, he arrived on set expecting him to be this thoroughly unpleasant, slimy kid. In fact, Tom is a tremendously charming young man and very professional.
Two other key roles in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets are Ron Weasleys younger sister Ginny, played by 11 year-old Bonnie Wright, and his mother Mrs. Molly Weasley, played by Julie Walters. Both characters appear in one scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone [seeing Ron off to catch the Hogwarts Express at Kings Cross Station], but Ginny and Mrs. Weasley are much more integral to the story in Chamber of Secrets.
When we were casting the first film, I was so overwhelmed by the process of finding our Harry Potter and Ginny was such a small part that I really hadnt considered how much acting Bonnie was going to have to do in the second film, Columbus reveals. But she is absolutely amazing. Ginny is a challenging and demanding role and she does it beautifully.
Some of my scenes, particularly in the Chamber itself, were very tough to do, but I enjoyed every minute of it, Bonnie Wright says. I feel very lucky to have had this experience at such a young age.
Bringing a wealth of experience to the role of the indomitable Mrs. Weasley is the versatile and highly respected actress Julie Walters. The Weasley family is totally dominated by Mrs. Weasley, but shes a very warm and loving person, says Walters, who wears a heavily-padded wardrobe to complete her transformation. Shes drawn to Harry and he to her, because she feels deeply maternal toward him, knowing that he is an orphan and that his parents were killed in an awful way. Shes a mother hen who instinctively takes Harry under her wing and makes him one of the family.
Taking on the role of Mrs. Weasleys husband, Arthur Weasley, is new cast member Mark Williams (Shakespeare in Love, The Borrowers, 101 Dalmatians). Arthur works for the Ministry of Magic, which keeps him busy because there are a lot of wizards playing tricks on non-wizard folk, and the Dark Arts are rising, Williams says portentously.
Also joining the Chamber of Secrets ensemble is Miriam Margolyes (Cats & Dogs, Romeo and Juliet, The Age of Innocence) who plays green-fingered Professor Sprout, whose most important task is to nurture the schools crop of magical mandrake plants. Mandrakes are extremely dangerous creatures and, as legend has it, if you hear them scream as you pull them out of the pot you will die! Margolyes cautions. So, Professor Sprout wisely provides earmuffs to all her pupils. Its been great fun both working with the Mandrakes and the children. They show that you can remain unspoiled in this industry.
Other new additions to the adult cast include: Shirley Henderson (Bridget Jones Diary, Trainspotting, Rob Roy) who plays the ghostly figure of Moaning Myrtle; Gemma Jones (Bridget Jones Diary, Wilde, Sense and Sensibility) as Madam Pomfrey; Sally Mortemore, who makes her feature film debut as librarian Madam Pince, Christian Coulson (The Hours, Four Feathers), who takes on the key role of Tom Riddle, and Robert Hardy (Thunderpants, An Ideal Husband) as Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge.
These talented performers are joined by child newcomers Hugh Mitchell, who plays Colin Creevey, a first year student with a love of photography; and Edward Randell, who plays the distrusting Justin Finch Fletchley.
THE WIZARDRY OF CREATURE CREATION
The challenge of creating many of the fantastical creatures who inhabit the world of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets fell to visual effects supervisors Jim Mitchell (Jurassic Park III, Sleepy Hollow, Mighty Joe Young) and Nick Davis (Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, Pluto Nash, Entrapment) and the talented artisans at ILM.
With Jim and Nick, we found a team that really understands what I call the reality of visual effects, Chris Columbus remarks. They understand our desire to transport people to a place theyve never been before, but at the same time, make certain that they absolutely believe what they are seeing.
Mitchell, Davis and their team are responsible for rendering approximately 950 shots in the film, bringing to life such characters as Dobby the House Elf, the Basilisk, the Cornish Pixies and the Spiders (with the exception of Aragog). From the very beginning, Chris was quite keen not to use a puppet and to create Dobby through CGI, Davis explains.
Dobby is a major character in this story, and Chris wanted to be able to direct him just like any other actor in a scene, which is more thoroughly achieved through CGI, adds Mitchell.
I wanted Dobby to be a character that felt very real and one that the audience would fall in love with, Columbus says. Jim and Nick created an adorable character who feels like he genuinely inhabits this special world.
Also working alongside the visual effects team in the creation of this magical world is creature effects supervisor Nick Dudman, who devised all-too-tangible incarnations of the Petrified people, Fawkes the Phoenix, the Basilisk, the Mandrakes andarachnophobes bewareAragog, an ancient spider the size of a small elephant!
Aragog represented a significant challenge to the Creature department, Dudman explains, as we were asked to create a walking, talking nine-foot spider with an 18 foot leg span. Each leg had to be manipulated by a different team member, and the whole contraption operated on a complex combination of aquatronics [pneumatic air rams] and a series of computers with video monitors. The entire creature weighed three quarters of a ton!
Nick Dudmans creature shop did a stunning job with Aragog, says Columbus, who attests that creating the giant arachnid was one of the most challenging aspects of bringing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to the screen. Im delighted that the scenes involving the spiders are incredibly frightening and some of the scariest of the film.
Apparently, Aragog was just as fearsome in the flesh. I remember the first shot we did in the Spiders Hollow, Daniel Radcliffe remembers. Rupert and I went over this ledge and suddenly theres a gigantic spider waiting for us! It was so realistic, we were both genuinely terrified!
As Columbus emphasizes, he didnt rely on the visual and special effects departments to merely create new characters for Chamber of Secrets he also wanted to perfect elements established in the first film, particularly the frenetically-paced game of Quidditch. I felt that the backgrounds could be more integrated with the foregrounds, Columbus muses, so this time we made certain that the lighting of the game was an identical match with the atmosphere outside the Quidditch stadium. We made the whole stadium feel a little more weathered, a little earthier. And weve also managed to perfect the speed and the movement of the players, making it a much tougher and more exciting game.
THE SECRETS BEHIND THE CHAMBER
Three-time Academy Award winning production designer Stuart Craig (The English Patient, Dangerous Liaisons, Ghandi), who garnered Academy Award and BAFTA nominations for his artistry in Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, reprised his crucial role in the elaborate Chamber of Secrets production. There was a big overlap as we began preparing for the second film during production of the first, Craig says, but it gave us the opportunity to improve on the quality of the established architecture, particularly with Dumbledores office and Lockharts classroom.
The production visited many of the locations established in Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, but the majority of filming again took place at Leavesden Film Studios, and involved building a vast range of new sets and situations, the most sizeable of which was the Chamber of Secrets itself. At 250 x 120 feet, the vast Chamber set is by far the largest Harry Potter set created to date, dwarfing the Great Hall, which stands at an impressive 140 x 40 feet.
J.K. Rowling states very clearly in her book that the Chamber is an enormously high and very cavernous place, Craig explains. But, because Leavesden was originally an old aircraft factory, the tallest soundstage is only 28 feet high. We could have achieved a greater height with visual effects, but instead we built downward to create the illusion of depth. The result is a Chamber that appears to be hundreds of feet tall and flooded. In reality the water is only a foot deep and dyed black to give it that sense of tremendous depth.
In addition to designing, constructing and dressing the Chamber of Secrets, Gilderoy Lockharts classroom and Professor Dumbledores office, Craig and his team including 300 construction workers, 25 art directors and draftsmen, 4 set dressers, 4 sculptors, 2 scenic artists, 5 portrait artists, 20 propmasters and numerous specialists created environments like the Weasleys home, the Burrow, the greenhouse, the hospital wing, numerous corridors, Knockturn Alley and the girls bathroom.
For Craig, the two most challenging sets to design were the Spiders Hollow and the Whomping Willow. In some ways the Spiders Hollow was the most difficult set because it isnt architectural, its completely organic, like a big sculpture, Craig notes. To design something with no obvious structure was a huge challenge. I fashioned the set like a big amphitheatre where the children walk in and are ambushed by spiders coming out of every crevice. We filled the set with tree roots and implied a subterranean world beneath which the spiders inhabit.
Similarly, Craig and company rose to the challenge of constructing the Whomping Willow, the enchanted tree with attitude that attacks Harry, Ron and the flying car when they have the misfortune of landing in its branches. The idea that this flying car lands in a tree, falls through its branches and then is beaten up by it is such a magical sequence, I always imagined it would be computer generated, Craig admits. But in the end we resolved this practically by building the tree in several parts, which when put together stand 85 feet tall. This sequence involved a great deal of collaboration between the art department, visual effects and special effects teams.
The flying car, a blue Ford Anglia, was engineered by special effects supervisor John Richardson and his crew. We needed a total of 14 cars that we could dress in various stages, from mint condition when the boys first steal the car and rescue Harry, until it lands in the tree and finally ends up going wild in the forest, says Richardson, who scoured England looking for old Ford Anglias for this purpose. Most of the cars we found were not road-worthy and many were headed for the scrap heap, so we didnt destroy any vintage vehicles!
For Daniel Radcliffe, shooting the flying car sequence and the ensuing crash into the Whomping Willow counts among his favorite experiences on the Chamber of Secrets production. Filming in the flying car was like being on a fun fair ride, especially when one of the tree branches shot straight through the window between Rupert and I! Radcliffe says. It was amazing. I dont think we ever stopped laughing!
A DARKER TONE AND A COLORFUL FLAIR
Although many of the key Harry Potter artisans participated in the production of both films, new to the team are Academy Award and BAFTA nominated cinematographer Roger Pratt (Iris, Chocolat, The End of the Affair), who takes over from John Seale, director of photography on Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone; and prolific Academy Award-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Topsy Turvy, Funny Bones), who assumes the position previously held by Judianna Makovsky, who received an Oscar nomination and BAFTA nomination for her costumes in Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone.
Director Chris Columbus and producer David Heyman brought director of photography Roger Pratt aboard to give Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets a darker and edgier feel than that of the first film. Says Columbus: We went for a moodier lighting scheme this time around. As the story descends into darkness and Hogwarts is in danger of closing, we wanted the film to get a little darker and creepier, where youre not certain whats going to pop out of the shadows. Roger brought this quality to the film, along with a sense of camera movement, which is a departure for me as a filmmaker.
It was very important that the second film have the same basic qualities as the first, but that it stand out in its own right, Heyman points out. To that end, Roger gave Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets a much darker feel, which reflects the growth of the characters and the story.
Meanwhile, costume designer Lindy Hemming played a crucial role in creating the looks and color schemes for the cabal of new characters introduced in the film. Many of the characters already had an established appearance and wardrobe, so my real role was to create the costumes for Gilderoy Lockhart, Lucius Malfoy, Moaning Myrtle, Professor Sprout, Madam Pince, Madam Pomfrey and Mr. Weasley, Hemming says. But I must also give credit to my associate designer, Michael OConnor, who created the costumes for a myriad of characters you see in Diagon Alley.
Designing the look for the dandyish Gilderoy Lockhart provided Hemming with her most enjoyable and colorful challenge. Lockhart is totally self-obsessed and vain and his clothes and his appearance are everything to him, she observes. While most of the other characters in the film are dressed in dark, muted or somber colors, with Lockhart we were able to give him outfits in green, blue, deep red and even gold.
Chris Columbus and Lindy had a very clear idea of how Lockhart should look and wanted to introduce color into the film through this character, Branagh adds. We wanted to create a hybrid between a period dandy and someone who looked as if they could fit into Hogwarts. Lockhart struts like a peacock, wears a different costume in every sceneand of course theres his hair!
Hemming also perfected the evocative wardrobe for the malevolent Lucius Malfoy, played by Jason Isaacs. Because Lucius is in a very prominent position in the wizard government, one of the original concepts for his wardrobe was to have me wear a pinstripe suit, Isaacs relates. But Lucius is an aristocrat, living in a giant old house in the country and all of his belongings have been in the family for generations. And so I wanted his costumes to reflect this sense of the old. He wears furs and carries this amazing snake head cane and feels himself to be very regal and superior.
A MAGICAL JOURNEY
Furthering the magic, action and adventure established in Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, as well as the themes of friendship, knowledge and self-discovery, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets promises to be a cinematic journey audiences wont soon forget.
I wouldnt have swapped this experience for anything, says Daniel Radcliffe of the production. Its been amazing and I know Ive developed as a person. In fact, I think everyone who has worked on these films has grown, even the adults! And the bonds Ive formed, particularly with Emma and Rupert, will never be broken.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a little moodier and the action adventure set pieces are bigger, scarier and more exciting than in the first film, Chris Columbus summarizes. Its funnier, the kids performances are even more compelling, and quite simply, if you loved the first film, you are going to absolutely adore this one!