OSCARS: Production Designer Stuart Craig — 'Harry Potter'

Anthony D’Alessandro is a contributor to AwardsLine

When it comes to staging an epic, leave it to production designer Stuart Craig. As the set architect behind the entire Harry Potter series, his work on Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 called for blueprints displaying the remnants of a near-apocalyptic battle, specifically one that took its toll on Hogwarts Castle. Given those ambitious demands, the VFX artists took over, rendering the first complete virtual rendition of Hogwarts over the sets constructed in earlier films. “My work required the same drawings, but instead of giving my designs to the carpenters, I gave them to the VFX team instead,” Craig says.

1. This shot, from the end of the epic battle, shows Harry, Hermione and Ron on their way to destroy Voldemort’s wand. Craig’s most recent credit: Having a hand in the design of Universal Studios Florida’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

2. “This causeway leads you to the front door of the big hall. The set is made of plywood, and the castle in the back is digital. The bridge is a classic Norman architecture. In the Potter films there was never a distinguished architecture. We always had a fun eclectic mix of styles since Hogwarts has been around for 1,000 years. Near the Loch Shiel location where Potter is filmed in Scotland, there’s a viaduct which this bridge is modeled after. The viaduct is made of concrete whereas this bridge is made to look like it’s made of granite,” Craig explains.

3. “Statues are medieval suits of armor. They were first seen in the entrance of the great hall in Deathly Hallows Part 1. They’re made of Styrofoam with a hard texture on top.”

4. “The lampposts are made of woks which we bought from a hardware store. They look vaguely Roman and art deco which shows the architectural history we pulled from in designing Hogwarts.”

5. Dumbledore’s Office.

6. “Hogwarts is largely a gothic castle. During the early films we shot on location at the Durham Cathedral, Gloucester Cathedral and a bit of Oxford University. Cathedrals are far richer in detail architecture-wise than castles. Durham from the Norman 11th-12th century period. Gloucester is Gothic, 16th century. The castle is made of the rock on which it stands. The rock of the mountain is the rock of the castle. The castle is an extension of the earth.”

7. The astronomy tower where Dumbledore met his fate.

8. “The color palette used throughout the films has been restrained. When the kids were younger and the world was more optimistic, the stones in Hogwarts had a warm honey color tone. However as the movies got darker, we literally darkened the walls of Hogwarts.”

  1. What is Hollywood’s issue with giving any kind of acknowledgement to the towering achievement of HP?

    Would it really kill people to give one Oscar to one person from the franchise? It’s just shameful at this point.

    1. I agree. Back in the day, the Harry movies would have been showered with Oscars for both acting and artistry categories. But today we are stuck with the same over-rated people being nominated year-in, year-out, alongside a handful of people most have never even heard of, and much of it because of politics rather than film excellence. Sad. It would be nice to see the Oscars celebrating movies people see, and yes, there are plenty of worthy candidates out there.

    2. It’s cause it’s an English production. Then again LOTR had a hell of a lot of New Zealander & Australian people.

      1. I keep seeing this as a reason, but I don’t get it. If that were the case, why did The King’s Speech beat Social Network, et al? Also Slumdog Millionaire? Shakespeare in Love? The English Patient? Gandhi? etc. etc.

        If anything, voters seem to be Anglophiles, and with acting categories as well. I think this is a more specific snub than that.

        I think that people hold HP up to different bar than other non-franchise movies, and take an HP movie for granted, so no matter how good the production design, effects or acting are, it will always be eclipsed by that year’s hot ticket. I just wish the Academy would acknowlege this and recognize HP’s overall achievement with a non-competitive award, like the BAFTAs did. And perhaps a cast curtain call at the ceremony. I think that would attract viewers more than a dull montage of “The Year of Chickens in the Movies” or whatever arbitrary annual theme they come up with.

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