What is the strangest animal you’ve ever worked with?

Julie – The strangest animal? Well, I guess, on the third film, Alfonso, the wonderful director, kept coming up with the oddest ideas and we never quite knew what he was going to pick so we had armadillos, we had we had bats, we had baby ostrich, we had whipped scorpions, all kinds of different animals, and we did in one of the films have a baby hippo!

What was the hardest thing that you had to do in the films of ten years?

Guillaume – We had a lot of very challenging filming to do. The one I found most difficult was the owlery. We had up to 78 birds altogether with flying birds, birds on stands, you have to make sure that everyone stays safe and it was very difficult because everything had to be perfectly synchronised. It was actually very difficult work to do but it was amazing and very interesting work to do.

Julie – The hardest? Well, probably, the snow owls were pretty tough in the early days. But no, I’d probably be with Guillaume, a scene like that it takes so, so long for how many days we shot it, 3 days, we prepped for about four months and that is always quite stressful, So, probably that, that sequence.

How many owls played Hedwig or was it just the one?

Julie – Three. We always have a team of three animals minimum and that will go with the Fangs, Crookshanks, Mrs. Norris. There’ll be one animal that’s really good at action things; running, jumping. There’ll be one animal that’s good at being held, so we always make up a team, so if they don’t want to work we don’t say ‘Get out there and work!’ , we change them up so they have breaks aswel

Did any one of the cast have any problems with the animals?

Julie – No, we didn’t have anyone with any allergies or anything like that. The only issue that all the actors had was Fang’s slobber. Every time he shook his head, the costume department were just screaming, slobber was flying, so that was the biggest problem.

Which animal is your favourite to work with?

Julie – I loved, loved working with the Fangs because a lot of them were rescues. I had 9 Fang dogs over the period of filming, 6 of them were rescues and so some of them came in quite a poor state it was lovely seeing them get well and trust me. With every team, well, you try not to have favourites but, you’ve always got one that’s just a little crazy and quirky. I like the naughty ones actually, the ones that drive me completely mad are the ones I loved. But ya, I think my favourite would probably be a dog that you’ll see on the board (hanging in the studio set) called Monkey was just very, very precious to me.

Guillaume – I would say that my favourite animal actually was one of my ravens. Ravens are very special birds, very clever animals and they are actually like a dog, you can play with them. You can play fetch, you can play games with them, they can come and take stuff from you, amazing. They are all actually very nice and very funny animals to work with.

Did the actors who played the owners of the animals get any time to bond with the animal they had and did anyone get close with a certain one that they then had to leave?

Julie – Before we start any filming we have about four months of prep so we can get ready so nothing’s a big surprise for the animals and within that prep I’d say we try have the actors work with us as much as possible – sometimes we can get them one or two times a week, but particualy Daniel had to work so much, cause he was small on the first – he’s still small isn’t he! – he was small on the first film, and it was a big bird for him to learn to carry so we had to spend a lot of time with him with the animals.

Emma loved Crackerjack, the main Crookshanks. She’s a massive, massive cat lover so she was waiting until the third film to have her own animal so as much time as she could spend with him, she was there. She saw him just before Christmas when we were here she came and saw him.

What happened to the animals in between and after filming?

Julie – In between filming, they obviously have time to be complete crazy animals but generally we were then prepping for the next film so, they’ll have a couple months off where they’re, like, the birds will moult so they look absolutely beautiful for the next movie and then they can just play. They stay with us all the time and , sadly, some have passed away now because we were filming for so many years but we’ve still got a lot of the original owls, a couple of the original Mrs Norris, still got Crackerjack, and I’ve got one Fang. So, they stay with us forever. We can’t part with them cause they’ve spent so long as part of our family.

Would you encourage directors to work with animals as opposed to CG?

Julie – Absolutely yes! Most of the time….the world of CG, it really helps us because there are certain things over the years that you’ve been asked to do with animals that you just can’t and it’s unacceptable and CG is a great help for us, however, we certainly don’t want it to take over and it never looks as good and you just don’t get that same feeling so we can’t stand it when they add bits to our animals and you can tell – they look more CG than real. But, there needs to be a balance, because, as I say, they helped us out a lot with like, Errol flying into the window, things like that, you absolutely need them. But, ya, we try and discourage that as much as possible

What would you do if all three of the owls wouldn’t work?
(joking about going home)
Guillaume – We always make sure everything is fine, we work so close to our animals every day we look after them so well, we always know which one will go and sometimes one doesn’t really want to do the job, we’ll still do it, because it’s not work. When you take animals to a set, it’s not work for them, it’s a fun time. We always do positive reinforcement with everything and they love working.

Were there any bits that the animals really couldn’t do that was in the film?

Julie – Sometimes when we fist get the script, there’s things that are written that we really didn’t think ….like, nah, that’s crazy! So we then go and have meetings with the directors and producers and say look, we really can’t do that, but we can do it this way. And then, if they’re not happy with that, that’s when the CG, the computer graphics, help us. And so they’ll build a fake animal and do funny things that we can’t achieve with the real animals.

Were any of the animals a particular diva on the day of filming?

Guillaume – Ya, some of them!

Julie – I have to say, Alanis, one of the Mrs Norris’s, she was a bit of a diva and she ended up being my sitting cat because action was not her thing. She was like, no, I’m just going to sit here and look beautful. They do get diva-ish and they learn the difference between when we’re rehearsing and when we’re actually filming and some of them get better, and some think ‘I can cheat now because I know that we’re filming and she can’t tell me off!’.

It is often said that you should never work with animals on television and film. Have you ever had any crazy incidence that would support this?

Julie – No…I mean, I’m sure I have somewhere else, not on the Potter films where we have the amount of prep time. I’m trying to think of the worst thing….I’ve been dragged around Black Park by a cow! I wish I wasn’t there that day! So, ya, that day I was saying never again! But a film like this we have so much preperation time , like things do go wrong, but generally we’re pretty prepared for what we’re going to do, but I can’t think of any terrible horror stories.

Are any of the animals going to be working on the new movies? The Fantastic Beasts ones?

Julie – Not these particular – well, actually, I can’t say for sure but most of the original Harry Potter ones are retired apart from the birds, so possibly some birds, but havn’t had that call yet, waiting for that!

Which was the easiest animal to work with?

Guillaume– The ravens were very nice to work with because they pick up things very very quickly. The best example I can give to you is when we do a retrieve, because we did a lot of retrieving with the owls and all other birds and the owls would take between three and six months to learn a retrieve while a raven would pick it up in a couple of days. They are so clever and very playful and are actually very nice to work with, very easy to work with.

Did the animals fly properly?

Guillaume – Yes! Well, all the animals are trained. Sometimes they fly with a wind machine, which is a big fan, and the bird just opens its wings any flies in front of the big fan which is very fun!