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Your Guide to Harry Potter: The Exhibition in Edmonton and Interview with Oliver and James Phelps

It’s finally here! Harry Potter: The Exhibition is showing in Edmonton at the Telus World of Science November 23, 2013 – April 6, 2014. Visit www.telusworldofscience.com for more information including tickets, hours, and location.

Where Edmonton got a sneak preview of the exhibit and a chance to talk with James and Oliver Phelps, who portray Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter films. Read on to find out what to expect from this magical attraction!

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The Exhibit

Mike Steger, VP Marketing and Communications at Telus World of Science Edmonton, and Jesse Phillips from GES Entertainment provided a tour of the exhibition and shared some insider tips. Here are 7 things to know about Harry Potter: The Exhibition that will give you some pensieve-like insight:

1. Welcome to Hogwarts! The exhibit experience was designed for visitors to feel like they’re students at Hogwarts. The props and costumes are laid out by setting, rather than in chronological order, to create a very immersive experience. You’ll start with a Sorting Hat ceremony and then off to your dormitory… if you know the correct password to tell the talking portrait, that is!

2. Read Everything! The designers put so much work into designing the props that all the paper pieces like The Daily Prophet, Quidditch programs, and Educational Decrees actually have detailed content written on them! This is because the directors of the films wanted the actors to be able to react to what they were reading rather than looking at blank pages or filler text. Jokes and interesting facts abound — have a look!

3. Everything is Really from the Movies! Each and every prop and costume in the exhibit was actually used in the filming of the movies! Since there is a permanent WB Studio Tour in Leavesden, some guests may wonder how some of the props can be in two places at once. Multiple versions of most props and costumes were made to account for gradual wear and tear while shooting multiple takes, and there are some props with slight variations that only show up in one exhibit. For instance, the WB Studio Tour has the Cloak of Invisibility that actors wore while in front of a green screen to appear invisible, while Harry Potter: The Exhibition displays the cloak that was used in the shot when Dumbledore gifts it to Harry. Some of the films’ most iconic pieces — the wands, Daniel Radcliff’s first costume, the Horcruxes — can all be found throughout the exhibit.

4. Movie Magic Isn’t All CGI! Most of the fantastical items in the films were actually tangible props and weren’t just created on a green screen with CGI. You’ll see items like the Howler letter and creatures like a to-scale animatronic Buckbeak that were actual props and not just digital creations.

5. Look Closely! The real magic in these films is the detail and precision that went into creating every piece. Even though some of the items barely had any screen time, the designers and creators took no shortcuts in making sure each piece was elaborate and functional — as if it really were an object in a wizarding world.

6. Use an Audio Guide! Costumed interpreters will be on hand throughout the exhibit to answer questions, but using an audio guide will give you a complete behind-the-scenes experience. You’ll learn interesting facts about some of the items including how they were made and used in the filming process, plus it gives you insight into what it was like to be on set for the making of the films.

7. Last Chance! This is the very final tour stop for Harry Potter: The Exhibition in North American, and will be showcased in Europe after closing in Edmonton. Potter fans this side of the ocean won’t want to miss the opportunity to see this remarkable collection of artifacts from all eight films.

The Interview

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Photo Courtesy CTV Edmonton

They’re known by many around the world as “Fred and George Wesley” in Harry Potter’s wizarding world, having portrayed the wise-cracking twins in the eight Harry Potter films. But — if you haven’t realized by now — James and Oliver Phelps are not actually named Fred and George, and they’re not actually red haired. And, contrary to what is apparently on their Wikipedia page, they are still residing in England and not this side of the ocean in California.

Oliver and James have been touring Alberta this week to promote the exhibit, and shared some insights with WHERE about the exhibit and their lives during and post Potter.

Do they ever re-watch the Harry Potter movies? “Only when they’re on at… like, Christmas or something… on TV,” James laughs. “When they’re on… it’s weird watching them. I find it kind of hard to watch them as a viewer because I know what happened behind the scenes. But it’s a good memory.”

What was it like to work with each other on the films?  “Horrible,” Oliver says. “Vile, yeah” James concurs, laughing. “It was pretty even. We’ve always had that… we’ve had this twin thing, we’re very competitive with each other. But that wasn’t affected by us working together or anything.”

What are some of the ways they’ve seen the Harry Potter series affect others in the places they’ve travelled? “The cool thing about Potter is that everywhere we go there’s an excitement about the tour being here,” Oliver says. “Even in non-English speaking countries and suddenly it’s like a big thing for people to see and there’s not many things that can do that and generate such an interest. I think it’s cool that we’re able to be here and have a very easy sell when you tell people about the Potter exhibit, two and a half years after the last film came out. It still blows my mind that people still say ‘Aww, wicked, I have to check that out’.”

How did they manage a work/life balance during back to back filming? “When you’re doing a job… you just got to go for it, you know?” James says. “I did a stage show earlier this year and I pretty much lived that… I mean, that’s a lot more intense but… you pretty much just get on with it and… you have to make sacrifices but you know they’re not full time sacrifices. Yeah, it’s an enjoyable job for sure.”

When going through the exhibit, Oliver recommends looking for the model of Dobby peeking out from behind Dumbledore’s costume in the great hall. “I think a lot of people thought he was just 100% computer animated, so that was quite cool… seeing there’s an actual, proper Dobby and I think that’s something people might not be expecting to see.”

James has a favourite prop and a viewing tip: “Don’t just run through it and only see the big things. Actually have a look at it and you’ll see the detail on things like the Daily Prophet… But my favourite thing is the big dragon from the fourth film… because a lot of it was CGI but they still built the full sized thing as reference for it… that’s pretty cool and  I’d love for it to be on my driveway.”

What might be next for James and Oliver in terms of acting? Well, if JK Rowling writes any Weasley ancestors into her Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film script, they’d definitely “be interested” in playing the roles and reviving their Weasley roots (pun definitely intended).

— Breanna Mroczek

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