The Actor Behind George Weasley Talks Pranks, Props and Polyjuice
By Marissa Blanchard
Oliver Phelps, who played George Weasley, shares his fondest memories from set, filming his final scene and which prop he had framed.
HBO: What moments remain standouts for you in the Harry Potter series, 17 years after the first movie premiered?
Oliver Phelps: There’s so many memories, but one of the main things that sticks out is the last premiere in London. Walking down the red carpet in between thousands of people — it was like being on a victory parade. The amount of people screaming, excited that you’re there; it is a memory that I will never forget.
HBO: Is it true that like your characters Fred and George, you and your brother (James Phelps) would switch roles on set?
Oliver Phelps: No, it’s not true. It’s one of those internet rumors, and I don’t know where that came from. It’s something that we get asked probably as much as who plays Fred and who plays George, but it’s definitely a myth that is not true.
HBO: What was it like filming the most “explosive” Fred and George prank on Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?
Oliver Phelps: They had already filmed everyone at their desks taking the OWLS exams, and then we filmed the superimposed, special effects scenes about two weeks later. I remember filming in front of the blue screen and we had to get it to the millisecond correct for it to match up with what was already shot. The producers showed James and I a computer mock-up of what they wanted our characters to do and what the effects would look like.
HBO: What was it like filming the last scene with your brother in the final movie?
Oliver Phelps: I remember asking [director] David Yates how we were going to do that emotional scene. The general consensus was to get yourself in character before you leave the dressing room. I remember Julie Walters [Molly Weasley] giving me advice to just walk to set and not to talk to anyone, and you can always apologize to someone afterwards for being rude and ignoring them — which is something that I really took on.
HBO: Was the death scene the last one you two filmed together?
Oliver Phelps: It was one of the last ones, but the last scene we filmed together was on the final day of shooting ever. They had James and me back to film a new scene that wasn't in the original script. It’s where Fred and George are on the battlement seeing Voldemort and the Death Eaters walking up to Hogwarts. George says: “You OK, Freddie?” I’ll admit that the line was ad libbed. David [Yates] just said: “What would you say in that moment?”
After finishing filming that day I took the prosthetic ear off, or lack thereof, and I actually have it framed on a wall in my house. That was the one thing I made sure I took with me after we finished.
HBO: Did you take anything else from the set?
Oliver Phelps: Looking back, I wish I had taken a lot more over the years. I have a few Gringotts coins and a bag from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. My most treasured possessions, though, was with each film I’d get a copy of the book, the poster and the front of my script signed by as many cast members as possible. I recently found the first book and it is signed by about 90 percent of the cast — seeing all those names was really special.
HBO: Have you stayed in touch with the other cast members? What’s a Harry Potter reunion look like these days?
Oliver Phelps: I wouldn’t call it a reunion, but a few of us meet up now and then when we are in the same place. When I was in LA recently, Bonnie [Wright, who plays Ginny Weasley] and I met up for brunch. Tom Felton [Draco Malfoy] and I meet up for a round of golf when we are in the same area, and Rupert [Grint, who plays Ron Weasley] and I still chat fairly regularly. Similar to people you went to university or high school with, you pick up where you left off.
HBO: Both as a story and as a moment in your career, what has Harry Potter meant to you?
Oliver Phelps: In a word: everything.
Oliver Phelps answers rapid-fire questions
HBO: If you could use Polyjuice Potion to transform yourself, who would you be?
Oliver Phelps: I suppose it would be someone on an international team in the Quidditch World Cup … Probably not Viktor Krum because too many people know who he is, and they would notice me not playing Quidditch very well.
HBO: If you could bring one of the products from Weasley Wizard Wheezes into the real world, which would you choose?
Oliver Phelps: In the joke shop they sell a pimple removal cream. If I could bring that into the real world — from a business standpoint — that would be a real winner. If you could market that you would be set for life, wouldn’t you?
HBO: Fred and George are the original “inheritors” of the Marauders Map — which professor would you most avoid around Hogwarts late at night?
Oliver Phelps: You’d definitely watch out for Filch, but Umbridge is the one to really avoid. I always thought Professor Lockhart would be a fun person to run into. He was always such a narcissist, if you just stroked his ego you could get away with anything.