Stuart Craig: Designing Potter

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stuart Craig has been a part of creating beautiful movies for many years now. He has won Oscars for Gandhi, Dangerous Liaisons, and The English Patient, with nominations for The Mission, The Elephant Man, Chaplin, Harry Potter movies Sorcerer’s Stone and Goblet of Fire. He has been once again nominated for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, and his immense talent promises to deliver a riveting and gorgeous finish to the series with Part 2. We spoke to him in a phone interview and discussed his career, his understanding of illustration and film art, his vision for Deathly Hallows, and his advise to younger artists. He struck us as a charming and humble yet completely committed and passionate artist, and enjoyed sharing insights with such a talent…someone who is truly doing what he loves and who seems to constantly expand his abilities and accomplishments through each new project.

LC: Thanks for taking time with me today, I’m a huge fan!

SC: Not at all!

LC: Ok, so, how did you get started, what led you to becoming a production designer? Did you love movies as a child? What was the process?

SC: It wasn’t movies specifically, when I was at school in my home town there was tradition there of doing musical operettas, Gilbert and Sullivan particularly, and I wasn’t a great academic student I was always hanging around the art room, my mother had discovered quite late on in life that she had a talent for painting, she was 65 and I was working on the yeomen of the Guard in was called and I was painting scenery in fact painting the stone walls of the Tower of London and somebody behind me admired it and I was totally surprised that I had created any interest at all from anybody else and that was a little trigger, and later on in my school life I did some amateur theatre work, I used to paint scenery for 2 complimentary tickets a week–there were two theaters in my home town–I worked in both of them and at the same time pursued my art, went to a local art school then went to a London art school, did work in London theatre and just kind of–my day work was at as a student in the London art school–as art students do here I looked for post graduate courses and the London college here in London had a course in film design and I thought, well, I can maximize my chances of getting in here by using my theatre experience, and that was it, and I was being pragmatic really going to film school saying to myself this is a way to develop the experience I had and maybe a way of having a slightly better paying career, and so that’s what I did, it was film forever more after that really–when I left school, I got a job on the first Casino Royale film, the one with everyone in it, Peter Sellers, David Niven, Woody Allen, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it…

LC: Oh I’ve seen it. I think I’ve seen almost everything you’ve ever done, with the exception of “Saturn City”! That I have not seen…

SC: It’s not a good film, Casino Royale, but anyway it was a good education. As a quick introductory course in film technique it was pretty good, it couldn’t be better in fact.

LC: And you were doing art direction for that?

SC: No no no, I was very junior, I made the blueprints and made the tea, there’s very much a tradition of that in the movie industry where you serve an apprenticeship and you work you way up.

LC: Well, making tea for Peter Sellers, that’s kind of entertaining, though, right?

SC: (laughs) I didn’t dare go NEAR Peter Sellers I was making the tea for the art directors and the guys in the art department

LC: So from there you found your way to working with Richard Attenborough?

SC: Yes, well, i served in apprenticeship for about 12 years, from that tea boy to draftsman to art director was about a 12 year process. I worked for Richard Attenborough actually on Ghandi in that period but it was one of those false starts they had, I mean, he had tried to make that movie for 20 years. there was an art department for another designer, i was working for Michael Stringer at that stage, and then it fell through and didn’t happen and i went on and then 12 years later i got to do, design my own and i think the 3rd film i did was Gandhi which was….


SC: yes, and for one so green and comparatively new as a designer that was a big challenge i have to say…

LC: yes, one thing i wanted to ask you about is when you got the job of doing Ghandi did you feel like you had built up enough knowledge and experience that you felt like you were ready for it, or did it just feel enormous at the time?

SC: over my 12 year apprenticeship towards the end i did begin to feel like “i can do this. I can do this” and so i was ready for it in that sense and i was also smart enough to choose 2 art directors to go with me and both of whom were older and more experienced than i, and looking back on it i have to say that was a really smart move.

LC: and you have worked with a lot of people consistently in your career since then, yes? Williamson, and then the graphic designers are the same, so…

SC: yes, definitely.

LC: what’s your take on the way you use color? because it seems to me you always have–for one thing the difference between black and white and color–for example you worked on THe Elephant Man, but i see a lot of shadow and light and almost using your gray tones as color, but then you also do definitely use color as a character in your movies it feels like…

SC: i think and i hope that’s true i think there’s a tradition here more than in America certainly more than in California of kind of limiting the palette maybe it’s because we live in a gray rainy place maybe our sensibility is just different…with Stephanie McMillan, the decorator, (*Oscar winning set decorator) I consult all the time on matters of color and we do have this technique of limiting the palette very very severely so the subtlest of color changes register quite strongly so that i also do love to obviously build sets with potential for dark shadows and consider initially consider each set as something abstract, as a piece of sculpture, literally a piece of abstract sculpture… with a lot of thought of how it might be lit and so on…now obviously it’s a communal activity, and i need to talk to the director of photography–the cameraman, about that, so i’ve tried as well as you know consulting with the director right from the onset, the cameraman as soon as he is available, becomes an essential part of the plan. as i say color

LC: you pull in more color–so you start out with a limited palette and then you add color based on what it calls for it, where it makes sense in the image?

SC: I think i would say in almost every–certainly in Hogwarts, every color is muted has a lot of gray, so we work in sort of grey greens gray ochres, and so it’s limited in that way…occasionally you might go for a sharp color or you go for reflective color…in Harry Potter films we’ve used a lot of gold leaf. well, actually bronze leaf, gold leaf being fairly expensive–but we use bronze leaf because it gives it a kick- it has a quality that gold spray paint could never have.

LC: so even if you have you pull out all the color you’re still going to get some slap of color by using the brass?

SC: yes. but it’s more for its reflective qualities than for its yellow gold color. well, i supposed it’s combination of both really.

LC: so it’s playing with light as well as color?

SC: yes. exactly.

LC: in reference to when you’re doing all of these projects you’ve got the producer and the director, and in the case of Harry Potter, you’ve got the author, how does the involvement work? Who gets called in first? and how do you figure out the process and the collaborate of all those people together?

SC: the promise was made by the producer David Heyman to JK Rowling that we would be faithful to the spirit of the books, but she understood that we could never include everything that there would have to be huge omissions, and think she was very brave in allowing the films to be there own separate entities, she quite accepted from the beginning that books and movies could be separate and so we consulted her initially and she literally gave me a map of Hogwarts, a map of the world, where she did the drawing the first meeting in a hotel lobby and that became a massive aid direction help starting with her–so we consulted her throughout the series. When there were questions, the director producer relationship…the production designer would always address the director first. The initial conversation with the director to understand his priorities, and then i would prepare a sketch a model in the art department and go back to him and show it and then at that stage maybe introduce the producer to the idea so that they would obviously be in on what was happening, so it’s really that dialogue between the director and the designer which is essential and which is …you follow that path wherever it leads…

LC: and so this after the script has been written and you’re reading over the script. do you go back and whether it’s Harry Potter or other movies you’ve worked on based on books or novels, do you read the novels over and over and over so you get a sense of some of the elements of novel or do you try to stick strictly to the script that’s written–the screenplay.

SC: no. i think the background information is important as well. so quite early on the Harry Potter books were issued as spoken books as CDs so that helped. I would read the novel and then listen to it in the car on the way to the studio several times on the way to the studio.

LC: Steven Fry’s version?

SC: Steven Fry’s version. and i know you had Jim Dale. I liked both of them. I’ve listened to them both. so yes, that’s essential, and it’s not just reading the novels but there’s a researcher Celia Barnett who worked with us on all the films and i find that process important too that she was researching things like medieval prop mechanisms and in the Prisoner of Azkaban this prop was important and she would research medieval architecture and the tapestries in the common room, Celia found in the Gryffindor common room those bright red tapestries she found in a museum in Cluny in Paris.

LC: Oh i think i know those tapestries you’re talking about.

SC: Oh, yes, with the unicorn

LC: Oh, yes, they have such a life those tapestries so beautiful and very joyful which is a really nice element to those pieces…so in terms of the Harry Potter movies, has there been something where you’ve done everything and it’s been filmed and you look at it and you realize it wasn’t what you were after and you have to go back and change something?

SC: One big thing in the beginning the Sorcerer’s Stone or The Philosopher’s Stone, we were obliged to use existing locations quite a lot because we didn’t have the time or the money to build the entire world. When we then would cut to a big exterior of Hogwarts those real places Gloucester Cathedral, Durham Cathedral, Christ Church College at Oxford all had to sort of be incorporated into the complex which was Hogwarts School. and this gave i must say not a very satisfying silhouette and i was at pains in subsequent movies fortunately the script had different demands and required different geography. If we had had all seven books from the beginning, then certain of those early decisions would not have been made those early choices didn’t fit with the action in the later books. we didn’t have that, so we used bits of cathedrals, bits of Christ church college, and then when obliged to make those changes in subsequent movies, i did take that opportunity to improve the silhouette of Hogwarts just to make it more magical. It was confused. and although it was always huge and complicated, it progressively get more elegant. nobody seemed to mind. they seemed to accept that it was part of a magical world and

LC: always changing

SC: yes things did change from film to film

LC: i would imagine not having all the books at once was a source of excitement though, for you since you have worked on all of them to get a new book and discover something that you get to sink your teeth into as an artist and work on and so what would you say in the last book when you first read it –that you were excited to work on–getting an opportunity to express visually?

SC: that’s absolutely true, you know. the ministry suddenly appeared and that was a huge challenge, every book has something new. in the last book, book #7, we split into 2 parts, as you know, into 2 movies. the challenge of the first part is the whole movie, you never see Hogwarts, the movie takes place with the kids on the run. from Valdemort and the Ministry turned bad they are hunted and they are on the run so it’s a series of physical locations and sometimes built sets there’s a frozen forest with a frozen lake with the sword of Griffindor at the bottom of the frozen lake–that’s a set on a soundstage here in london which has to be integrated with bit of real forest that precedes it. so that was a challenge there something we were quite unfamiliar with really, was traveling to distant locations for landscapes specifically. In part two, the great challenge is the destruction of Hogwarts. and you can’t just knock holes in what you’ve got, you have to consider that as a new set–again this all important idea of strong profiles making strong images

LC: and all that fire and this light coming through and big sections knocked down…

SC: the sun rising behind the smoke and all those considerations but as i say the big big challenge was the massive remains of destroyed walls, the entrance hall, the entrance of the great hall, part of the roof of the great hall completely gone, so yea. a big challenge there. and an enjoyable one really–maybe it helped me and the guys in the art department sort of prepare for the end really–we demolished it before we had to strike it completely.

LC: Well, that might have been good catharsis. what about, when i think about the two last movies and i was trying to imagine what would be fun, because i listen to the books a lot, the Lovegood house and the wedding and then at the beginning with the manor with the body hanging, if i were someone putting together the visuals of the movies, those would be the most exciting part of the movie.

SC: i think you’re right. the Malfoy Manor, the Malfoy house is a very strong architectural set, the exterior is based on an elizabethan house here in this country called Hardwick Hall and it has massive windows and these windows are kind of blinded out the shutters are drawn so they are like blind windows and they have a real kind of presence an ominous presence, so that gave us the basis for a good exterior, there’s an extraordinary magical roof that’s added and surrounded by forest which isn’t there in reality but again is one of the devices to make it more threatening and mysterious.

LC: yes!

SC: and then the interior two floors on stages and very very muscular architecture, very strong architecture form. so that was great to get into that. The Lovegood house is a tower, JK Rowling says it’s a black tower, in an empty landscape and that’s exactly what it is, but i again take great care over the sculptural shape of that tower.

LC: but the interior is fantastic and crazy

SC: yes! and luna and her father both have eccentric tastes, we asked Luna–Evana, the actress to actually help us with this, she had painted, decorated the interior with painted decorations on the walls little murals and stuff so that was great!

LC: the actress actually painted that?

SC: yes, well she designed she proved herself very good at this, was it in Harry Potter 6 where she wore the lion’s mask and she designed that, and we thought ah! we’ll harness this ability again this talent again and ask her to do these wall paintings so she designs for them which we then reproduced.

LC: Zenophilius is new to this movie, right? So, it’s exciting to create the world of a new character, yea?

SC: Exactly! and he has a printer, a printing press and one floor of this black tower is entirely consumed with his printing operation, the Quibbler. The magical world’s magazine the Quibbler. So, the press was good, all that printing apparatus was great fun for Stephanie, the set decorator.

LC: and you made all of the furniture in curves?

SC: not exactly. (laughs) there is a sort of spiral staircase in the center of all this, some sort of fitted bits are made to fit the curved walls, but it’s eccentrically furnished.

LC: one of the things i thought was most interesting about specifically the Lovegood wedding juxtaposed against the beginning of the movie is the sharp contrast of the dark and the shadows, and when i think of the book the one little joyful moment is the wedding. Even though of course it winds up a mess, but at the beginning of it, it’s beautiful and there’s a lot of light. How did you work that contrast?

SC: We decided the wedding should be, as wedding receptions often are, in a tent, in a marquis, and that marquis should sit in this flat marshy weedy landscape outside the Weasley house, so the question was do i make it the same, an extension of the Weasley house, with the same eccentricity the same color rather amateurish homemade feeling or something different, and this was the fun of something different and since Bill was marrying Fleur, Fleur Delacourt and we could say that her parents had a big influence on the wedding, in fact the mr. Delacourt would probably pay for it as father of the bride, and so that permitted a french influence and so we really went with that there’s a very refined soft interior, painted silk, there are floating candles in little french 18th century candelabra the whole thing has a very elegant and quite un-Weasley look about it.

LC: How much would you say of your own artistic aesthetic gets injected into the work you do? specifically Harry Potter because that’s what we’re talking about, but on the whole, what would you say? Do you think you’re just corralling other artists and you do these simple drawings because it seems that if the artistic buck stops with you, it feels like you do have to infuse and also harness as many different styles and artistic designs as you can in your work

SC: i think in different categories there are different answers. everything architectural i have a great deal not just control of but it’s what i’m passionate about and reflects my interest and input and so on. Along with Stephanie McMillan the set decorator which we’ve already mentioned, we’ve worked together as a team a long time since Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin, so there’s a ready understanding there, of the architectural part and the decoration of that thereafter, and we’ve talked about color and so on. There are a team of concept artists working in the art department with me –two and three of them sometimes were concerned exclusively with creatures. There are a lot of magical creatures in Harry Potter: Thestrals and Hippogryphs and well, you know–they’re everywhere. These guys, they have a fantastic facility for designing anatomically correct or credible but extraordinary magical creatures. so in the case of the creatures, i am the
facilitator as the head of the department in which they work, but it’s their creative input that gets us there. and they draw absolutely spectacularly well, they draw like Raphael like Leonardo they do. Really beautiful. There’s another illustrator Andrew Williamson, who i’ve used as an architectural illustrator, and so i will do a rough doodle of a set, the Lovegood house the Malfoy Manor, and will also do a plan an elevation, quite a rough preliminary one, none the less to scale, because i love to think, i imagine it, dealing with real dimensions right from the beginning knowing exactly how big it is and exactly the size of one thing against another and i give those early pencil sketches and plans and elevations to Andrew Williamson and he will then build a digital model in the computer, and together we will spin it, walk through it, choose an angle, and say “ok. that’s it”, then render it, illustrate it, and over a ten year period he started with pencil drawings and watercolor washes but now technology has changed now so fast he now he now does these amazing rendering which become so well finished that you can barely tell them apart from stills from the movie you can mistake some of these concept sketches from stills from the movie.

LC: does he still create what you’d call analog art (ie hand drawn art not done inside a computer) after you’ve seen all these images? or is it pretty much all inside the computer?

SC: it’s all inside a computer.

LC: when did that change completely?

SC: It didn’t switch suddenly. there was in the beginning he would take drawings and put color washes on it there was then a period in the middle where he would the drawing in the computer print it out and still do the color washes, and then took the big leap and the whole thing was on the computer also what Andrew took from us and from the movie tradition of art director sketches, designer sketches, the idea of lighting–he came from architectural practice helping architects do these overviews of architectural schemes, but the lighting in those traditionally is fairly bland whereas lighting in movie sets is often quite spectacular and is dramatic. and so that you see from the first film to the last film the lighting in these concept sketches has changed enormously and has got much stronger and much better, more exciting.

LC: do you as a filmgoer or as someone who appreciates movies are there some you go back to just in terms of being a fan and using them as inspiration?

SC: i have design heroes-Ferdinando Scarfiotti, who worked for Bernardo Bertolucci–

LC: yep. you see that in The Mission. That’s for sure.

SC: yes. i think Scarfiotti was certainly the best designer of my generation. You know he died tragically young and didn’t get to do so much but that italian classicism that he was born with– it was in his blood and in his genes and has such style a facility he had for doing things beautifully and elegantly.

LC: Is there a particular movie that you’re thinking of?

SC: Well, The Sheltering Sky, The Last Emperor, there was a quirky movie he did called Toys which he did for Barry Levinson, it wasn’t a very successful movie but it beautifully designed.

LC: And very complicated because you’re talking about tiny little interior shots that require a lot of specialty lighting…that’s really hard to do, it’s a little bit like the beginning of the series of Harry Potter, lighting under the, where Harry lived..those tiny shots that are really tight

SC: Under the stairs. There’s a great American designer, Dean Tavoularis who worked with Frances Ford Coppola. He has a kind of great classical way of doing things has a great eye, all about making pictures and making sculptures. He’s another hero there, really…

LC: i was just going to ask you about that Kings Cross station scene at the end of the 2nd movie did you have to think about that for a while? sometimes when you’re working on a scene do you have to sit on it for a while–i mean do you just wait for all the research to come in and sort of spread it all out and just contemplate it for a few days?

SC: absolutely that. I think flashes of inspiration are for me very hard to come by. I often sit in front of a blank sheet of paper and struggle and struggle and use the eraser a lot. but eventually something will form and something like that which is a difficult concept. You’re talking about with Harry between life and death?

LC: yes. yes. there’s not a lot of direction about how the scene is so that’s why i chose that to one to ask you about…it seems like you had to fill in a lot.

SC: We experimented a lot, quite honestly. I mean it was quite a protracted process really but we did experiment the sense of it being very burnt out very very kind of white–so we experimented with underlit floors, we experimented with different kind of white covering everything: white paint, white fabric, and the cameraman was involved in how much to expose it, and a series of camera tests were done, so we got there but with a great deal of preparation and research

LC: and did you–was it way longer than any other scene?

SC: well it wasn’t a long scene.

LC: I mean the time it took to figure it out.

SC: well, given that the end result was very simple set, a very white platform surrounded with white walls and there’ll be some visually enhancing effects put in, but there was a sketch that andrew and i prepared that became a kind of template–and then we did all that experimenting. difficult to say how long–experimented over 2 or 3 weeks i’d say.

LC: and you just were touching upon the idea of artist’s block. you do struggle with that some, even though you do have–i’m wondering since it does start with you, do you sometimes just try to just sit in one place or how do you get yourself out of it

SC: well, i’m not sure i’m answering the question properly here, but it’s hard to take yourself to the drawing table and sit in front of a white sheet of paper.

LC: i completely agree

SC: it’s really hard to do that. but what i’ve learned over the years is that once i do it, something will come. It will. and it always has and i pray that it alway will. Just the act of making marks then the marks become those simple forms and then those forms become architecture, and then the architecture has a texture, has an antiquity, is lined with paintings or lined with books… the stages that develop the initial one or two stages are the important ones that get you going and then the thing starts to flow faster and faster.

LC: Do you recall any particular flash of inspiration where you came up with it all at once in a moment of realization?

SC: (laughs) I’m not sure that i do. I think Picasso, i think, there was a famous Hollywood designer John DeCuir certain very very lucky people can see an image in their head fully formed fully rendered fully colored and all they have to do is just reproduce the picture in their head, i think that’s a very rare talent and i don’t have that at all, and so…John DeCuir by the way is legendary for taking plane trips and setting off with a sheath of letter sized paper and he would sit on the plane and start drawing on the top left hand corner and work his way down to the bottom right corner and then take another sheet and start again at the top left and draw down and step off the plane with maybe 12 small sheets of paper and take it to his art department and give it to his junior and say stick these together and they would and there was the most wonderful of this big panoramic scenes and all the twelve images would fit together beautifully. I’m sure that’s exaggerated but it’s essentially true.

LC: well, if you get to the same place it doesn’t matter if it’s a flash of inspiration or if sitting at a blank sheet of paper and building it slowly. if the end result is beautiful it doesn’t matter which way you come from.

SC: no no, i think that’s true and as i say it is gratifying that if you work at it is does come. it does.

LC: I’ve read that sometimes you see scenes from some of your earlier work and you don’t like to look at them because they’re not exactly the way you want them to be. do you think it’s difficult for artists to create as a means to an end so in other words you’re a production designer so you have a hand in the finished product but once it’s done you it’s there and people keep seeing it over and over again. do you think that’s difficult or gratifying at the same time or like a double edged sword sort of good and bad at the same time?

SC: i think years ago what was a captured in camera was it and it was there forever and you’d see that movie 20 years later and see that thing you hated and it’d be just as painful as when you compromised in the first place, for whatever reason. now it’s not as as painful. i think as you get older you get smarter and better at heading off the compromise but also the tools are different–also visual effects, especially in the Harry Potter movies, have such a big part to play, if anything does go wrong, something i do regret, they are able to change it for the better. that’s quite an expensive process but also digital grading–there’s often a grader working with the D.O.P. (director of photography) and i would be able to talk to them and say i just think that that wall there is receiving too much light or whatever it is…you know the color of that piece of furniture is particularly ugly and it can be adjusted relatively easily so technology has made that process easier, and so now it’s very gratifying to be to work with the great digital grader and the cameraman and be part of those decisions. Well, that was a complicated answer i hope it made sense!

LC: no! it made sense. do you see the sketches and the art that you do in the process of what you do as fine art or as only a means to an end? or as both?

SC: i think they are just a means to an end, i think they are craft, part of a craft. i think somebody like Rob Bliss who designed the Thestrals and Dobby is able to draw so beautifully that it does lift off into something more sublime.

LC: so you see yours more as directions?

SC: mine are pencil sketches i mean i love drawing i love fine art drawing as apposed to architectural drawing or as well as architectural drawing so i do take that passion with me into the work but as i say these guys that sit and draw all day long and draw human anatomy, creature anatomy all day long…they start out extremely talented and they that talent to such an extent the results are absolutely exquisite. i can only admire it.

LC: and you would number Andrew Williamson as well in that list

SC: because their skill are so honed, so clever

LC: and so it’s a matter of you’re giving–infusing your drawings with your own artistic aesthetic, do you try to do that?

SC: yes. on two levels. as i say i consider it initially as a piece of sculpture as a piece of architectural form that is sculpture in an abstract way and then i’m also very keen on architectural detail i’ve enjoyed studying it all these years, i enjoy getting it right, and it bothers me when i see it done wrong in other movies. on those two levels i definitely try to put my stamp on it and hold on to it too as it goes through the process technical draftsmen drawing it those blueprints then go to the craftsmen who make it, there are several stages at which something could go wrong something could get changed could get compromised so i absolutely do sit on that and make sure that those things don’t happen.

i think because it’s storytelling that’s a significant difference between fine art and the kind of art we’re talking about. It serves the purpose of the story, it tell the story. it’s narrative art where fine art can be, a lot of Victorian painting was, but it doesn’t have to be. a fine artist can start somewhere and go anywhere it takes him, whereas these guys have to end up having told a specific story and represent a specific place, so it is illustration as apposed to fine art but nonetheless they get so good at it, the responses to their own work is the same as with fine art because they’re so damn good at it. what they do is kind of exquisite.

LC: what would you say to artists new filmmakers who want to make movies or want to do what you do, do you have any suggestions or advice? wisdom to impart?

SC: given an hour or two, but to do it in a sentence or two…is very difficult. the world is changing so fast, visual effects is a bigger and bigger part of modern movie making i know there are a large number of inexpensive documentaries being made because video equipment is so much less now but nonetheless Hollywood films are by and large more and more driven by visual effects, the effects themselves are becoming cheaper and will go on doing so and the physical set will become more expensive than the virtual one–those guys come from a different tradition, they re IT computer technicians first and architects and artists second whereas traditionally the art department has always been the other way around. So i think there’s something to address there. i think designers have to get a double education and become equally proficient in both it seems to me.

LC: and specifically not to neglect or forget about the history of the art and where it’s coming from because to me without that kind of knowledge you don’t have anything to back it up. you don’t have any history.

SC: that’s it. that’s exactly it. in the 18th and 19th century any builder could build an elegant house, in that it was a tradition, it followed traditional methods & esthetics, traditional proportions, it was part of him and he grew up with it…now a days there’s been a great rupture in that continuity of tradition with modernism but also with computer programs that largely do it for you. so now the ordinary builder isn’t able to build an elegant building only good architects can. that is a way can and is happening in the movie industry those guys who studied classicism, the history of art, painting, if they’re not careful they’ll fall off a cliff as technology takes over or has taken over the technicians need to get a fine art background, and the artists need more technical education and maybe they can grow together and become part of the same department eventually.

LC: ok, i have two more questions for you…
What are you most excited to see the fans of the harry potter movies see in the last 2 movies?

SC: in part one the Malfoy manor i think that’s a good strong architectural statement, and

LC: and it starts the movie so if they like that, you’re pretty well set!

SC: the ministry, again we are revisiting the ministry in part one and it’s a big deal, a really big deal. quite pleased with the new statue that has replaced the old one described the….idealized witch and wizard oppressing the muggles squashed beneath them it’s a kind of stalinist sculpture done by a great sculptor Julian Murray

LC: i love propaganda so i’m going to be excited to see that.

SC: and then in part 2 the big thing is the destruction of Hogwarts, and i couldn’t just go round an knock holes in what we had i had to reinvent it to a large extent a ruined building has to be–the profile has to be good has to be strong–has to be designed as a ruin rather just the original design knocked around a bit

LC: also the architecture juxtaposed with the people and the death, you know the way in the books i remember really well the bodies against the architecture. the kind of light that you use in that is going to be very interesting.

SC: yes, the big stand off, the final stand off between Voldemort and Harry is in the courtyard in front of the school and the light–what is essentially the sunrise, is very effective in that. i have to say i haven’t seen it, just as you haven’t seen part 2.

LC: oh, you haven’t seen the whole thing yet?

SC: no no we’re going see it in July.

LC: it isn’t done yet?

SC: no, post production is happening right now. and there are massive amounts of visual effects shits in the works being worked on around the visual effects houses, and certainly the scene i just described will have a big visual effects element. so we’ll see, and i’ll be as eager to see it as you are.

LC: (laugh) I don’t know! i’m pretty excited but it’s your creation so–what is next for you? do you plan in advance the movies that you’ll be working on in the next few years, or how do you do that?

SC: no, i wait for the phone to ring!

LC: oh, for crying out loud! it doesn’t ring incessantly?

SC: not at the moment!

LC: you’ve been busy!

SC: i’ve got plenty to do, just tidying up my office gives me masses to do. so i’m not worried about that.

LC: Thank you so much!

SC: Thank you, Leslie, I enjoyed it very much…

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Art Insider