A new chapter from J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World unfolds on November 16th. This time around we see a young Dumbledore (played by Jude Law) enlist our hero Newt Scamander to help thwart Grindelwald’s plans. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family.
In the lead up to the release of ‘Crimes Of Grindelwald’ we chatted to acclaimed modeller and prop maker Pierre Bohanna about his work on the eight ‘Harry Potter’ films and now the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ series. He talks to us from his workshop, with shelves full of textbooks, bottles, wands, bags, papers and odd parts for various scenes in the film.
He’s one of the most important people on the set, almost every prop or model you see on screen goes through his hands. He’s responsible for some of the most iconic props & models ever seen in cinema, from ‘Star Wars’ to ‘Titanic’ and right now he’s currently making the new Wonder Woman outfit for the upcoming sequel. Of course, at this stage, he can tell us nothing about Wonder Woman’s new suit, apart from it being a brighter, more confident costume, with a mid-80’s feel. Pierre admits he stays off the internet to avoid reading fan theories or even engaging with fans in general, “I try keep myself as analogue as possible, and avoid the internet because there’s a lot of passionate people out there.The pieces we’re making have great value to the film production companies so security around them is incredibly high, the film companies invest an enormous amount of money, if things get let out in the open that ruin the film for people that would have a big effect”.
For ‘Crimes Of The Grindelwald’ Pierre’s work began 10 to 12 month’s before any actors arrived on set, discussions between himself and J.K. Rowling and the art department set out their goals and visions for the year.“We had to prepare everything like wands and set props in advance, so there’s a lot of discussion about those items and what they need to be,” reveals Pierre. “Then we have set pieces, and large pieces that are not necessarily interacted with. In this film we go to Paris and see the interior of the French Ministry Of Magic, so there’s lots of pieces to build for the interior of that. We also go into streets in Paris, and into Wizarding worlds, where we have to dress all the shop windows, quidditch shops, wand shops, everything has to be considered, even if its just part of a general veneer”.
For the movie every character has a different wand, Newt’s prop is carried over from the first movie, Eddie Redmayne was very keen for his wand to have a lot of wear and tear and nicks, so each wand is personal & made with the actor in mind.“The lovely thing about wands for a prop maker is that they’re one of the pieces you make that is absolutely bespoke to that character, it has to reflect their choices and the taste of the person its made for”, says Pierre, “For some people it’s like a piece of jewellery, or a watch, its a very functional item, people will invest a human quality, its like having a sword, they don’t want something thats just functional, it has to have personal value to it. Its great being able to find out about the characters and put that into the pieces”.
Of course, not every wand has a careful owner, and they’ve been known to get damaged on set, how does the team prepare for that? “Inevitably, things get used hard, and it’s only a matter of time before they break, especially with wands. I don’t like the idea of them breaking, they’re spikes, so there has to be a bit of give in them or they’d be dangerous. But over the years, we’ve developed materials and processes to make them as strong as they possibly can be”.
The wand wasn’t the only old prop carried over, for this movie Pierre & his team were able to revisit & reuse some of their earlier work. “Most of the important stuff we made for ‘Harry Potter’ is stored for us in an archive or is on display at the Harry Potter exhibition, so there’s a great access to all of that. With this recent film we see Dumbledore once again, so we were able to get some of the astronomy pieces used in his office and reintroduce them. It was such fun getting stuff we made 15, 16 years ago and reuse or remake them”.
Pierre first stepped onto a film set 40 years ago, aged 7, his dad was a car designer who worked on ‘’The Spy Who Loved Me’ & brought Pierre along to Pinewood studios where he was allowed to keep unwanted props & models, which eventually “through a serious of chances and opportunities” led to his current career. Over his 40 years on sets his favourite prop to work with was Brendan Gleeson’s broomstick in the Harry Potter franchise. Laughing about it, Pierre says “It was an impossible job, a great concept with really difficult technical challenges, Brendan is a big lad and they had to strap him up and throw him around the room on high rigs, all the metal used was aircraft grade ”
FANTASTIC BEASTS – THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD is at cinemas from Nov 16th