Published on Feb 17th 2021
As part of Empire magazine’s special upcoming issue celebrating 20 years since the first Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies came out, we have another exclusive extract for you: this time, a Q&A with Oliver Wood actor Sean Biggerstaff.

The new issue of Empire, out on Thursday 18 February, is a massive celebration of Harry Potter and The Lord Of The Rings, 20 years after both epic fantasy franchises hit the big screen – with an epic world-first conversation between Daniel Radcliffe and Elijah Wood.

Also, inside the magazine, Empire caught up with the actors behind scene-stealing turns in the Harry Potter films – from Luke Youngblood (Lee Jordan) to Hugh Mitchell (Colin Creevey). Here, in an exclusive bit of bonus material you won’t read anywhere else, actor Sean Biggerstaff, aka Oliver Wood, recalls his original audition (which wasn’t for the Gryffindor Quidditch captain) and his memories of Alan Rickman and director Chris Columbus on set of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Were you always going to audition for [Oliver] Wood?

No – I originally auditioned for Percy Weasley, which was much more of a departure from myself. I was there with my best RP accent and all sorts of mannerisms that I imagined this specky ginger guy to have! Almost as soon as I walked into the room, [casting director] Janet Hirshenson just looked at me and said, “No, actually I think you’re much more of a Wood.” I knew that the only physical description you get of Wood was ‘burly’, and as a 17-year-old I was built like a glass of water — so I don’t know what she was thinking! It was a totally bizarre casting decision, but I was very blessed she made it.

You wear an iconic turtleneck sweater in the scene where you teach Harry the rules of Quidditch. Did you get to keep it at the end of the shoot?

I didn’t get to keep anything and I’ve always really regretted it. That costume was great — it was a nice jumper with three matching pairs of lovely moleskin trousers, which I really wish I’d asked if I could keep. I was quite well-behaved. The only person who I knew all along to just be brazenly stealing things was Alan Rickman. I think he took anything that he could, because he was Alan Rickman! I remember what he once said publicly, so I know I’m not dobbing him in – “I just go in, I do my work, and I leave, and as I leave I steal things.” A lot of it was to auction off for the many charities that he was involved in — that was his excuse.

What were your experiences of working with Chris Columbus on the first two films?

He’s fantastic. The archetype of the kind of director who’s got the technical chops for projects on that scale is almost a military general — a huge, egotistical, scary figure. Chris is just the opposite of that. He was the calm little centre of the set, and an incredibly funny guy. He once decided to play a practical joke on the cast and crew — he’d been given this new kind of fake goblet to use in stunt scenes that would break without doing any harm, and he said to me, “I want to test this out, so after the next take I’ll give you a note, and then we do another take. Don’t take the note on-board, do exactly the same thing, and then I’ll get really angry and I’ll throw this at you! Cool?”

So, the second take came around, and he was like, “Sean, did you listen to me?” I said, “Oh yeah, sorry, man, I just had a brain fart there – I’ll do it again!” And he went into this angry little silence and started ranting about how it’s really frustrating, and he lobbed this thing which smashed an inch away from my head, in front of 150 crew, and several of the world’s most famous actors. He absolutely had everyone for about five seconds, before I started laughing. He’s just the last person in the world that would actually do something like that, so people were like, “What the hell?!” He was great. I absolutely loved the guy.

Empire magazine’s special Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings issue, which celebrates 20 years of magic, hits shops this Thursday. And you can pre-order right here!

Take a look at the cover and another exclusive extract of their feature with Harry Potter producer David Heyman, right here.


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