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As Oz ComicCon 2016 descended on Brisbane, cosplay enthusiasts, sci-fi buffs, and avid comic readers came together to celebrate the annual event. MyCityLife had the opportunity to chat with Harry Potter star, Devon Murray and got the down low on all things magic to what went on behind the scenes.
It’s now been half a decade since the last Potter film was released, but the wizarding world is still going stronger than ever with things like new theme parks opening, the west end stage play Cursed Child continuing the story and even the spinoff film Fantastic Beasts arriving a few months from now. What is it, do you think that makes Harry Potter such an everlasting franchise in the way that the magic continues to grow and still be talked about daily?
I think it all comes down to J.K. Rowling and her writing… Like she’s just fantastic how she can express everything through paper, and then having such good teams making these movies and the stage show. Harry Potter, for whatever you like, was just amazing… For us to be able to tell her story on screen, everybody who made all the sets, everything, every part of Harry Potter was just so well done in my opinion and it’s cool that it’s kind of carried on… It’s also the fact that young parents and young families are passing on Harry Potter to their kids, which is great and then they can bring those off to theme parks and it’s just so cool.
If we were to follow up on certain characters in the Harry Potter word in a sort of ‘where are they now?’ type piece, where do you think we would find Seamus and what would he be doing? Is he still best friends with Dean Thomas, did he ever see Harry Potter again?
In a pub… I’m not sure, I always kind of thought of Seamus actually coming over to Australia and working in the mines and blowing shit up… Either that or… Only recently I found out there’s a wizarding school in Ireland… So now I’m thinking maybe he might be over there teaching some class. Which is cool, I’d like to think of that… and then maybe there might be another movie, based in Ireland and then Seamus could be the teacher in it and I’d get a job again!
Over the course of the Harry Potter series, you had the opportunity to work with a large number of highly revered actors and actresses… From Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman to Ralph Fiennes and of course the late great Alan Rickman just to name a few, was there any particular older star you worked alongside who you can remember lending their wisdom to you, maybe learning a life lesson or two in the process?
Each and every one of them kinda helped all of us out as kids cause they knew how hard it was for us. If ever we were having a bad day or anything like that, whoever was filming with us on the day, they’d always come over and say ‘Look maybe go in and try this, maybe try that’… So each and every one of them kind of had an input in everything that we did. They didn’t have to but they just kind of took it upon themselves to kind of help us out… we were only learning our trade and they just wanted to give us a dig out on the way through it. When I first got the part in Harry Potter, people told us ‘Oh Maggie Smith doesn’t like kids and animals’ and all this kind of stuff, so I was terrified, absolutely terrified. Then we were in Newcastle filming, and I wasn’t filming with her, but it ended up I was flying back home on the Friday and my flights had been cancelled. So we’re waiting in the hotel lobby and Maggie Smith comes down and she’s like ‘Do you mind if I join you?’ My mum and I were like ‘yeah, of course, you can’. So she ends up sitting down with us for two or three hours and she was just the nicest lady I’ve ever met in all my life. I still can’t get my head around why people would say that about her, she was just incredible. Then every day on set she’d always be so nice and helpful. She’d yell out to me many a time for not paying attention in class and things like that but she was such a lovely lady, but they all were, they were all such nice people and we were just all so blessed to work with them all.
As the pyrotechnic of the series and your character is famously known for always being the one to blow things up or be blown up, was there ever an incident on set where you accidentally caught alight and how were those scenes like to film?
Not on set. When we were filming and I was doing the Wingardium Leviosa spell in Professor Flitwick’s class that was the very first time that I got to blow something up, and what they had done is they’d set up this rig and they had one flash bulbs put into it and they’d press the button and all the bulbs would flash at the same time. I’m not sure if they’d tested it or not beforehand but I went down and I was doing Wingardium Leviosa and it blew up. A lot of the bulbs actually shattered and started flying towards my face, so after doing that the very first time, Chris Columbus – the director, was like ‘Okay we’re gonna keep on rolling this and I’ll just press the button randomly’ just so I wasn’t squinting and terrified. Back in Ireland at home I’ve blown up many of microwaves and even as a kid I nearly set my house on fire – I got my christening candle when I was like three or four years old and I found a lighter, I lit it and it started melting and then all the flame went all over it and started burning my kitchen down.
Life imitating art in a way there…
Having portrayed Seamus Finnigan for over 11 years of your life and serving as a rather vital supporting character to the series, I wonder, at any point as the later novels in the series were being written, were you informed of the fate of your character or were you just as much in the dark as the rest of us?
No, we were all completely in the dark. The only person that ever knew anything was Alan Rickman. I’ve read that J.K. Rowling told Alan about different things which he needed to kinda know. But for me, I didn’t read the books up until all of the movies were finished.
So you didn’t picture yourself as Seamus when you were reading the books?
Yeah, exactly that! No, I always wanted Seamus to die in the last movie; I was convinced he should have like blown up and gone out with a bang in a blaze of glory. Like he kind of deserved that, but then now, after reading about the Irish wizarding world I’m thinking yeah, Seamus shouldn’t have died he should be over there doing his thing!
I read somewhere that you had the record for breaking the most wands on set. Did you end up keeping a wand for keepsake and are there any other props you may have acquired or if not, hoped to have acquired?Yeah, I broke so many wands. I broke the most amount of wands in one day, and then I think Daniel Radcliffe is number two from doing them all the way through to all the movies. I don’t know how many I broke but this scene ends up getting quoted, it’s in the deleted scenes of the first movie… Neville comes in with the leg locker curse, I try and help him out, he doesn’t want my help so I get really angry and I bang the wand on the table and say ‘I don’t appreciate the insinuation, Longbottom, besides if anyone cares to notice my eyebrows have completely grown back!’ I slam it on the table and I’ve got a bald patch then, but I broke it. Every time I banged it on the table it would break and they would say to me ‘Just stop banging it on the table!’ and I was like ‘NO! Why I would I not bang it on the table?’ What I did for my thirteenth birthday was in Professor Flitwick’s class when I blew up the feather, they gave me my feather, the rings I wore in the movies, they gave me those, a part of my wand that I broke, they gave me some of that… The O.W.L. Exams I have… a couple of different books from the movie but nothing crazy. I really wanted my wand, my actual wand, and my gown… my cape.
Oh, you didn’t get to keep those? Probably in a museum somewhere…
No, exactly! It’s not fair; we spent eleven years on them.
Seamus obviously well known as a student of Gryffindor, if the night seen in the very first film went a little differently and the sorting hat chose a different house for your character, what do you think it would have been and why?
I think if it was me going into Hogwarts, it definitely would have been Slytherin. I’ve always thought I was a Slytherin, I went on to Pottermore and I was a Slytherin. Half way through the movies I thought Seamus might have been fitted for Slytherin, so I always decided he should have been an undercover spy for Slytherin… but, that never happened.
Talking to Draco Malfoy and telling him what Harry’s up to and that?
Exactly! Yeah, that’s exactly it! Yeah, cause Malfoy’s one of my favourite characters and I thought it would have been pretty cool to have a little twist like that.
You’re able to have just one unique object from the entire world of Harry Potter for real life use. From the invisibility cloak to the Nimbus 2000 or even the Marauder’s Map, you can have anything, what would you pick? It’d definitely be a wand, if I could just have my wand, seriously you don’t need anything else. The Firebolt would be pretty cool, the invisibility cloak I could get, yeah that’d be amazing, but definitely for me my wand.
Harry Potter gets rebooted in 10 or 20 years, the original children actors are called upon to this time play the older professors… You’ve got first choice on which you play, who do you take and why?
Professor Flitwick… Haha, I’m close to his height!
Haha, that’s great! He changed his appearance between the movies somehow didn’t he? After Chamber of Secrets, he had a new look…
He did yeah, completely! Then he played a lot of different characters in the movies too… Griphook and other Goblins… He’s a lovely man.
Who is your favourite Harry Potter character aside from yours and do you have a favourite spell?
Yeah, Draco’s my favourite character, he’s a slick-haired git that gets away with everything and I was always annoyed that there wasn’t more Harry versus Draco in the movies. My favourite spell… probably, if I’m back home on a daily basis I could use Wingardium Leviosa a lot of times. I ride horses all day, so if I ever knock a fence, instead of me getting down or getting somebody else to but it back up I could use that.
It’s been awesome talking to you Devon, thanks for that… a childhood dream of mine come true, all the best for the rest of your time here in Brisbane.
No problem at all buddy, Cheers!