We visited the 500,000-square foot Leavesden Film Studios in rural London (imagine an interconnecting complex of 15 Home Depots, plus dazzling exterior sets) to see where Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have spent the better part of the last decade of their lives -- and to get the scoop on their latest 'Potter' adventure. Keep reading for a sneak peek from the set of 'Half-Blood Prince.' School vacation has never seemed longer. 'Potter' heads who've been breathlessly waiting two years since the last movie from the mega-popular franchise can finally exhale -- Harry, Ron, Hermione and their classmates are back for year 6 of Hogwarts training in 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' (opens July 15), which is shaping up to be the most romantic -- and of course, mature -- installment yet.
We visited the 500,000-square foot Leavesden Film Studios in rural London (imagine an interconnecting complex of 15 Home Depots, plus dazzling exterior sets) to see where Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have spent the better part of the last decade of their lives -- and to get the scoop on their latest 'Potter' adventure. Keep reading for a sneak peek from the set of 'Half-Blood Prince.' -- By Kevin Polowy
1. Army of One
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has long since come to terms with a fate that sets him up as the only wizard who can bring down Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). And in 'Half-Blood Prince' the training wheels truly come off, as Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) privately tutors Harry and even commands him to retrieve a key memory out of the newly arrived professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent). "His want -- or his need -- in this film is basically to kill Voldemort, and he realizes that the way in which he'll do this is to become Dumbledore's favorite foot soldier," Radcliffe says. "That's the role you'll see him gradually moving toward in this film."
2. Big Man on Campus
"We see a cocky and arrogant side to Ron on this one," says Rupert Grint about the awkward but lovable carrottop he plays. "He's on the Quidditch team [as starting goalkeeper], he's got a girlfriend, and he thinks he's quite cool." On the flipside, "at times he can be a bit cocky and he annoys Hermione quite a bit," Grint adds. Says director David Yates: "There's a sort of middle-aged quality that develops in the character, which is incredibly frustrating and irritating but very charming at the same time." That's Ron, frustratingly and irritatingly charming.
3. Plenty More Malfoy
One character who gets a much more developed role in 'Half-Blood Prince' is Harry's Hogwarts rival, Draco Malfoy, who in this film receives direct orders from Lord Voldemort. Bad for Harry, good for Tom Felton, the actor behind Malfoy. "It's really nice to take him to a higher level, rather than just being an annoying git at the back of the classroom," Felton says. "It's really nice that he's grown, he was quite a two-dimensional character in the previous films." He's also got a girlfriend in this installment, Pansy Parkinson (Scarlett Byrne). Felton's favorite scene this go-around? "To be able to stand on [Harry's] nose has been a lifelong dream."
Watch an exclusive clip
Read 5 fun facts from the set
Listen to the 'Half-Blood Prince' soundtrack
4. Bonus Footage
As faithful as 'Potter' directors have been to J.K. Rowling's source(ry) throughout the series, fans have always delighted in the occasional extra scene. In 'Half Blood-Prince,' scenes involving the evil Death Eaters terrorizing the community -- only referenced by Rowling in the book -- are played out on screen. Says director Yates, "We've introduced two moments in the film where we see the Death Eaters do what Jo actually described them doing, but off the page as it were." Also added: an early scene where Harry's emerging mojo is put on display as he flirts with an attractive waitress on a train. "You immediately set up the notion that suddenly these characters are a bit more sexualized," Yates says. "They're aware of the opposite sex."
5. Game On!
A conspicuous absence since the third installment, 'Prisoner of Azkaban,' has been that magical (and extreme) sport known as Quidditch. "I wanted to get Quidditch in the last film but we were so overstuffed with things that it was really hard," explains Yates, adding that the fun gaming sequence in 'Prince' is "kind of comedy Quidditch." Not everyone on set was thrilled about the sport's heralded return though -- or at least shooting it. "I have to say it was bit of an anticlimax," says Grint. "I really sort of built it up and thought it would be great fun even though [Daniel Radcliffe] said it was painful. He was definitely right. It's not the nicest experience." Their director feels their pain: "[Brooms] aren't the most seat-friendly contraptions."