Sean Biggerstaff had an absolute ball playing Oliver Wood (pun absolutely intended) – and as it’s the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone film’s 20th anniversary, we asked Sean 20 questions about his time working on Harry Potter, what it feels like to ‘play’ Quidditch – and how he once did a line reading for Tom Riddle, AKA Lord Voldemort.
Take a look.
The first film does actually feel like an awfully long time ago. The last film feels like it was last week, which is really scary, given that I was last on set well over a decade ago.
I’ve probably had more interaction with Potter fans over the last five years than all the preceding years, the demand for cast to appear at events all over the world having not dimmed in the slightest – something I’m incredibly grateful for but still quite baffled by. It’s hard for me to understand that experience from the other side but it’s always lovely when you can see that just saying hello has totally made a kid’s day.
It happened in a few stages, like seeing the main sets, or when the first packages of fan mail started arriving at my house before we’d even finished filming, but it was only when I got out of the car in Leicester Square at the first premiere that I really understood the scale of what was happening. And even then, I could never have guessed that the level of interest would be sustained for the next two decades (and counting).
Well, right now it’s non-existent as an old back injury has flared up something terrible! Historically I’ve been pretty athletic, but in a very different way from Oliver Wood. I’m a cyclist – 1st Under 14 in the Scottish Road Race Championships in 1996! - and a martial artist to some degree. I’ve never had any interest in team ball games, but if there really was one where you could fly, that might be different…
Impossible to narrow it down to one. In general, my favourite memories aren’t from the few scenes that I was heavily involved in – that was too much like hard work – they’re from just being in that world for all that time, seeing all the amazing sets that were built, watching some of the greatest actors in the world do their thing, watching incredible stunts being filmed etc.
Yes and no. Percy would’ve been a lot of fun, more of a stretch, and I’d have been in more movies! But I was hardly going to argue when they said I was more suited to Wood, and I had an absolute ball playing him. I’ve never known a big blockbuster to get so much specific praise from critics for the casting. I reckon they knew what they were doing.
I would have loved to have played Tom Riddle, especially since I sort of did: Christian Coulson hadn’t signed on yet when we had the read through for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and David Heyman asked me to read in. That was a lot of fun.
Yes, Christian Coulson for one! There’s no one I see in the flesh on a regular basis, simply because we all live in different countries, but I still talk to a lot of folk and see them at events all over the place. The last TV job I did before the pandemic was a thing about Orson Welles with Robbie Coltrane.
By far the most intimidating star quality on the Harry Potter set was that of Alan Rickman, and I’d already known him for years since he directed me in The Winter Guest, so that was ok...more or less! A lot of people seem terrified of Maggie Smith but I always found her really approachable. Most of my scenes were with Harry himself and Dan was an absolute joy to work with.
Flying, for sure.
The fact that people love it makes sense to me – it’s a wonderfully vivid fantasy universe – but the sheer scale of its success isn’t something I fully understand. I only really came to know what Harry Potter was from the inside of the behemoth, and I find it impossible to imagine what I’d think about it all if I was only ever looking in from the outside. I know what it means to me, but that’s obviously different.
Honestly? The last time I watched it was at the Scottish premiere on November 5th 2001! I almost never watch things that I’m in. When I’ve seen snippets of it, I’ve thought that it’s aged remarkably well for something that had cutting edge visual effects for its time, and I still think Chris Columbus gets far too little credit for how perfectly he recreated that world on the screen.
Long, boring and physically uncomfortable! It’s kind of a general rule that the more spectacular what you’re putting on the screen is, the more laborious the process is. Quidditch involved 12-hour days sitting on a stick in the air in front of a blue screen to get a few seconds of finished footage.
They only got round to making the broomsticks comfortable after I’d left! The moment where I finally had a really visceral experience of flying over the Quidditch pitch came the same way it did for thousands of others: going on the Hogwarts ride at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida. That was really something.
Probably something really undignified in wizard terms, like being the Muggle world’s greatest magician.
I only started reading them when I was asked to audition for the films, but I did really enjoy them, yeah. My favourite book was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and my favourite film was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.
The first DVD launch was actually staged on Platform 9(3/4) at King’s Cross, and the cast arrived on the train. I’ll never forget passing through north London stations in the evening rush hour, and the faces of all the commuters as the characters from Harry Potter waved at them from the actual Hogwarts Express.
Severus Snape and my pal Kev.
Probably a Boggart. Wrap your head around that.
I am regularly asked how we did the bit where I’m wrestling the Bludger back into the box, and I enjoy answering that it was nothing but mime! All those years of drama games at youth theatre weren’t wasted, it turns out.
I did the test, and I got Gryffindor. Obviously.
For more "Your Wizarding World" interviews, try our chat with the Phelps brothers next!
This week, we’re celebrating Harry’s first Quidditch match in our 20 Years of Movie Magic hub. Fly on over to discover more content around the unpredictable wizarding sport, such as quizzes, puzzles and other features.