As Fred Weasley, he's one of the confirmed jokers of the Harry Potter universe. In real life, James Phelps is a little more thoughtful. We chatted to him recently during shooting for our Harry Potter Ultimate Movie Celebration about his co-stars, his future and what he's most proud of...[Mild spoilers, for those who have not read the books, follow]
So looking back, how has it all been?
It's amazing! You're in a room with Julie Walters, Mark Williams, Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman: it's not the worst place to be! Even when we were shooting scenes on this last film... I was there with Sir Michael Gambon, and I was getting ready to do something with the Manchester Orchestra, narrating Peter and the Wolf. I'd never done anything like that before in my life and I was a bit nervous. He asked what I was up to and I explained and, even though he had this big scene coming up, he said, "Oh, I read that a few years ago", and took the time to go through it all with me. That was pretty cool.
Was there anyone that you were really starstruck by?
You just kind of get used to it. I suppose you're always like that in some shape or form, when you're acting with someone who you've seen for years and years, then once you get to know them it all just runs.
Did you find, as the books were coming out and the films were being made, that you were reading it to see where your character was going?
Well, the fourth book had just come out when we went for our first audition, and that was the biggest book launch back then. I'm not going to say that we were avid fans of the books, but we enjoyed reading them, so we knew all about it. I remember being in Japan when the last book came out, and I was on the bullet train reading it and looking for what happens to me. I literally just read the paragraph where that happens, and I had this Japanese guy trying to get the ticket off me...
You've always had a lot of comic heavy-lifting, but in the last part there's a switch into much more serious stuff.
It was kind of easy: because we've played the characters for so long, we see them as more than the one-liners. So it was great fun playing the same characters with that comedy element but a serious side because they become entrepreneurs and this, that and the other. It's nice to try and get that across.
As brothers, that relationship must be very real when you're playing those scenes.
Yeah, I guess so. It's weird.
Are you going to work more separately now that you've finished Potter?
We actually went to America for the start of the year to do meetings and everything, and a lot of the guys there wanted us to do individual stuff, but we did have a really good script for twins. I guess we've always got that thing to play. As we grow up we might be slightly different, but we can always do our own thing as well, which is quite exciting.
It's clear that the whole cast has become friends.
Yeah, it is really. A lot of people think that we're told to say that we're friends but in fact, we are. There have been times where we've all gone out for meals when we were shooting in Soho or whatever, and to us it's just mates catching up but everyone else will look in and see us and ask, "Is this for real?"
You must be incredibly proud to be part of the films.
Oh yeah, completely. It's one of those things where, because we're so close to it, we don't really appreciate how big it is. For what it is, we're very proud. I wouldn't say that any of us, if we're in the pub and we hear someone talking about Harry Potter, we'll be like, "I was in that!" But then, lots of our friends are like that! We're very proud of what we've done. But then we couldn't do this shoot yesterday because we went to Great Ormond Street to go around the wards there, and that hit me more than anything else because they are braver than anything I've ever done. There was one lad who hadn't been out of hospital for 7 months, and he was like, "I've been watching the Harry Potter films back-to-back." You know, that's when you know that you've done something good if it gets people through that sort of stuff. It's things like that which we're more appreciative of doing than any of the accolades that come with doing the films. It's the best way of describing it, I think.
Interview by Debi Berry