Extracted from Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey.
Harry’s first visit to Gringotts occurs in Philosopher's Stone, where he meets some of his first fantastic beings, the proprietors of the wizarding bank.
‘The goblins were tough to create,’ remembers creature effects supervisor Nick Dudman. ‘First it was essential to get away from any obvious approaches; second, the technology at the time seemed to be against us; and finally there were so many of them!’
The problem-solving began by first deciding that all goblins are not alike. ‘We looked at the concept art and realised that their most important feature was character,’ Dudman says. ‘So we would create an interesting character and then goblinise it, maintaining that there isn’t a set look for goblins any more than there is a set look for human beings.’
Goblin prosthetic ears, chins, and noses were made in silicone for Philosopher’s Stone, which, at the time, was an ‘iffy’ material for Dudman.
‘I wasn’t totally convinced of the effectiveness of silicone at that point but it seemed like a risk worth taking,’ he recalls. ‘It’s advanced a lot since then. Modern silicone is the nearest thing to human skin I’ve come across. It moves and feels exactly like flesh. After it’s glued on, it actually comes up to body temperature.’
When it came time to revisit Gringotts in Deathly Hallows, the creature shop was prepared, organising an assembly line of hair sewers and hand and face painters. Hairlines were created by inserting one hair at a time, which Dudman still feels is the best way of achieving a high degree of realism.
The goblins’ eyebrows required special attention. ‘They were precurled,’ Dudman says, ‘and also put in one hair at a time, and always at the same angle, in order to match any day’s shooting of that particular character.’