FAQ OFF - Part I
Like it? See what I did there?
OK. SO, nearly 18 years ago I wrote a letter that changed my life. I know - IT’S LIKE THE BEGINNING OF A FILM….
But It happened SEVENTEEN years ago, as of last August, I had a phone call from Buffy at Heyday films, asking me to come for an audition for Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone.
In the last 17 years of press interviews and social media, I’ve been regularly asked the same questions over and over and over again.
Now it’s time to FAQ OFF.
- How did you get the part in Harry Potter?
When I was 16 years old, April 2000, I had CBBC on the tv. I should have been revising, but Neighbours (an Australian TV show that I used to watch religiously) was on a 5.35pm… Just before Neighbours, was Newsround, a kid’s news programme, that was brilliant. Presented at that time by a chap called Lizo Mzimba. (He’s now the BBC’s Entertainment Correspondant).
I wasn’t paying much attention, but I was aware that the TV was something along the lines of:
“Warner Brothers are making a film of the Harry Potter books, and are looking for kids who would like to be in the films. If you think you could play one of the roles, please write to this address enclosing a photo and a letter explaining why you think you should play a role”.
I didn’t pay it as much attention as I should, I was waiting to find out if Dr Karl had had yet another affair with his secretary on Neighbours. (this seemed to happen a lot) and then a friend of mine rang me…
“did you see newsround?”
“i’m going to write in and say I should play Ron, you should write in too”
So I did. I thought about it and I made a decision. I weighed up the options a 16 year old ginger kid would have…. Too old for Ron; definitely not a twin; too old to play Harry (and also pretty sure EVERYONE will go for that); probably can’t get away with applying for Hermione…. Percy it is then!
I wrote my letter. Sent them a copy of my school photo (and I think one of me in a school show) and waited.
I forgot all about it.
One day in August, we returned from our annual family camping trip to a voicemail on the landline asking me to “ring Buffy on 020something about an audition”. To be honest, an awful lot had happened in the months since I'd written my little letter. I'd taken my GCSE exams, I'd been in two plays and a musical with school and my local youth theatre, and just come back from three weeks in a tent. I'd also applied for an audition to join the National Youth Theatre, so assumed it must have been something to do with that.
How wrong I was! That afternoon she faxed (yes, faxed guys, it was seventeen years ago) over a scene for me to learn, and the next day I headed to London to audition for the casting director.
The scene was Percy leading the 1st years up to the common room - you know the one…. “Keep and eye on the staircases, they like to change…” We went through it on a little video camera a couple of times and then the casting director, Janet Hirshenson (famous for casting Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire) asked me to go and sit in the waiting room.
I remember that office so well. The cane furniture, the photocopier by the door… and the other people in the waiting area…. There were a couple of fat little blonde kids (Dudleys) and a couple of older men (Tom the landlord at the Leaky Cauldron)…
I also remember Janet Hirshenson coming back out and giving my mum a sheet with directions to Leavesden Studios on it, and saying that they’d like me to come back next week and meet Chris Columbus, David Heyman and the producers.
so that’s what we did.
I remember that day. I remember arriving at this beaten up old airfield near Watford, I remember seeing someone flying a Snowy Owl (Hedwig in Training!).
I remember going into the room, meeting Chris Columbus (baseball capped, gum chewing - as he always was), David Heyman and Mark Radcliffe. Janet Hirshenson was there again too.
Chris started off by saying that they’d seen my tape and really liked it, so if we could start by going through the scene again as I’d done it for Janet.
After that, we did it again, and this time Chris (who was reading in the other parts) threw some improv at me. We were in the middle of the corridor scene, where Percy and the first years meet PEEVES. (Oh, Peeves…) We had a bit of fun, but then when we arrived at the Portrait (“Password?!”) I replied “Caput Draconis”.
As I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, this is normally where the portrait swings open. Not this time. Wrong Password. We improvise, and although I can’t remember exactly what happened next, I remember threatening to report the Fat Lady to Dumbledore. “If the password had changed, Dumbledore would have informed me”….
I left, unsure of what had just happened, but knowing that they were a very smiley bunch of people.
A few days later, I was in the garden at home. I hear phone ring, but I’m not really paying attention.
My dad came outside “Chris, it’s for you”…. it’s not far off the start of term, so I assume it’s one of my mates ringing to catch up before college…
“Hey” An American voice “Am I speaking to Percy Weasley?”
“Uh, I don’t know…. Are you?!”
“Yes I am honey, congratulations, you got the role!”
I forget the rest of the conversation but I had to put my mum on at the end so that they could discuss money, and the fact that I should seriously consider getting a lawyer and an Agent as quickly as possible.
A week later I was back at Leavesden being fitted with a pointy hat and a Gryffindor robe, and the week after that I was in a read-though room with some of the most famous and brilliant actors in the world.
The eleven years that passed from that moment were some of the most bizarre, tiring, fun, exciting and precious memories I'm sure I'll ever have. And I'l tell you all about them... In a future blog :)
Peace out muggle-faq-ers.