It was only by a twist of fate that we're watching the Harry Potter films rather than the Neville Longbottom films, according to the detail of the books. Matthew Lewis' character has evolved from chubby bystander to a tall, strapping and rather heroic figure. We talked to him as part of our Harry Potter Ultimate Movie Celebration feature recently, and asked what the final film has in store for Neville. Warning: minor spoilers for those who haven't read the book will follow.
Neville started off rather timid and nervous, but he ends up very different, wouldn't you say?
Absolutely. It was sort of method acting really. If you look at some of those early films when I'm looking terrified in front of Alan Rickman or whatever, it's probably because I am! But when it got to the last film, Deathly Hallows, I could just have a chat with Alan, so it sort of evolved the same way as the character, I suppose.
The final one was like a sixteen-month shoot or something, wasn't it?
It took a long time. I did my first scene in February 2009 and I finished somewhere in the middle of 2010.
How was David Yates on his fourth Potter film in a row?
David came in and he just made it as fun as possible. It got us going, got us wanting to work. By Deathly Hallows everyone took it more seriously as being a job and we just had to work a lot harder.
At this point, you guys must know your characters so it makes sense to just go for it.
Yeah, absolutely. We'll have a chat before we start. David will say, "This is what I want to get from it, this is what I'm trying to convey." But usually, we knew the characters so well that it was relatively easy to get into that character straightaway and give a natural first couple of takes, rather than a tired tenth take.
We didn't really see Neville much in Part 1. But Part 2 is, judging by the books, his finest hour.
I felt quite lucky to have been in Part One, to be honest, because the character's not actually in the book until the end. But, you know, David said he wanted to stick him in just to remind people what was going on back at school. And it was just nice to have been in, because it means I was in all eight films even if it was only for one line!
Hey, that still counts!
Exactly! But Part Two is where all the good stuff is and it's been definitely massive to shoot. As an actor, you always want to feel like what you're doing is making a difference to the story. So to have this character to play in Part Two was just brilliant. All the stuff that was in the book was kept in there, pretty much. David [Yates] is such a fan of the stories anyway: he's always been so keen to keep it as close as possible, which hasn't been an easy task for him over the years. But with two films it meant that we could keep it closer than we have been able to before. And so most of the stuff for Neville in the book is in there and also a couple of added things.
What sort of thing has been added?
Just stuff where you see what the students are getting up to while they're in this war. The book's focused very heavily on Harry Potter. But the film keeps coming back to the students and the teachers and what's going on. And the whole war is very real. It is really life and death. I won't give too much away, but the whole thing for me was just so much fun because there was so much in. There was a bit of light humour at the beginning; a bit of, sort of, French Resistance stuff. But then the war kicks off and there's action to do and there's a lot of drama as well because there are people dying around us, and Neville's in charge of these people who are dying. I just got to do so much different stuff. It was great.
You've said before in interviews that Neville's seen carrying a dead body.
Yeah, that's right. I mean, because Neville is the leader he's determined to act like one so he's always on the frontlines. I think he feels responsible for every student that dies because he knows that he's the one putting them out there. But it was a challenge. I really hope they keep it in because it really shows Neville at his best. There's all this fun stuff where Neville's very adrenalised and on autopilot. But that bit brings him back down to Earth for a minute. And I really hope they keep it in.
Did you get to do the 19 Years Later epilogue? Neville's mentioned in the books but he doesn't appear.
Yeah, that's right. I think there was mention of him being a teacher back at Hogwarts but I didn't have to appear. My Nineteen Years Later is still a surprise to me.