Twins James and Oliver Phelps, who played the Weasley Twin Fred and George in the Harry Potter films, turn out for the "Christmas in the Wizarding World" in Bangkok
THEY’RE NO longer the red-headed pranksters who delighted fans in all nine of the Harry Potter movies. Today identical twins James and Oliver Phelps, who played the Weasley twins Fred and George, are tall, dark and handsome though telling them apart is still almost impossible.
The lads were in town over the weekend for the opening of the Harry Potter’s themed holiday retail experience, “Christmas in the Wizarding World” at Siam Paragon and brought plenty of magical wit and charm to the downtown shopping mall as they donned Hogwarts School scarves and chatted happily with the fans.
They were also very excited to be in Bangkok, with Oliver saying that if he really had magical powers, he would use them to come to the city for dinner every night. “I love Thai food,” he said, as James added that he has already planned his next trip to Thailand.
The “Christmas in the Wizarding World” experience plunges the visitor straight into a wintry Hogsmeade village and has been brought to Bangkok by Warner Bros Consumer Products and international exhibition organiser GES.
Despite the limited space, the attention to detail is impressive with the magical setting including such key features as the wand assortment shop, Ollivanders’ outfitted with soaring shelves of hundreds of precariously stacked wands boxes.
There are window displays and interactive elements of Honeydukes sweet shop, Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop, and Dervish and Banges, Also on sale are Hogwarts school robes, fan-favourite plush owls and other themed merchandise. Other activities include a memorable photo opportunity, featuring a selection of background options from the “Harry Potter” and “Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them” as well as an interactive “quaffle toss” game amid a colourful display of Quidditch-themed items.
James and Oliver found some time to sit down at chat with The Nation. Excerpts:
IS THIS YOUR FIRST VISIT TO THAILAND?
Oliver: Yes and we feel very lucky to be here. We’ve always wanted to come. Lots of our friends came here when they were young as backpackers. Some guys spent their honeymoons here too. They’ve told us all about the country.
James: Our cousin comes often as well. He works in China and he loves Thailand and gave us lots of recommendations about what to see.
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THE |SPECIAL FEATURES ABOUT THIS HARRY POTTER-THEMED RETAIL EXHIBITION?
Oliver: It’s not really an exhibition. This is Harry Potter’s Christmas Wizarding World, it’s the massive retail experience and it is totally different, you won’t see it anywhere else.
James: When they [the organisers] told us about the idea of setting up a shopping thing in Bangkok about a year ago, we expected a few stands or stalls selling wizard gear. But when they do something, they do it right. You really do feel that you are in Hogsmeade village. You can go into the Ollivanders’ wand, and have the experience. It is not you choosing the wand; the wand chooses you, just like in the film. It’s such a unique experience. Normally you would have to travel very far. Also even when you queue to enter, there’s plenty going on, such as a window display that moves and with which you can interact.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR |CHARACTERS?
Oliver: How confident they are. They both are outgoing guys and like to have a laugh and they’re very strong headed as well. The fact that they left school to go and start their enterprise, “Wizarding Wizard” and they always stand up for what is right as well. They shy away from dangers or anything like that. They are very strong people.
James: The same. We are very lucky to play them like jokers, fun guys. So we are able to have fun, have a joke. To this day, I think one of the reasons Oliver and I get such a good reception from people we meet is because we are quite relatable in that way.
DO YOU STILL REMEMBER THE FEELINGS WHILE YOU WERE ACTING? AND WHAT WERE YOUR REACTIONS WHEN YOU FINALLY GOT TO READ EACH OF THE BOOKS?
Oliver: It was exciting, actually. We all speculated what was going to happen, and we all ended up reading the books twice. Because the first time we read it, we were looking for our character to find out what they were going to do. The second time, we read the whole book right through.
James: Much of the excitement came from not knowing while we were filming. We had no idea what was going to happen. In a way, that made for a better movie because you didn’t know what was coming.
FRED DIES IN THE MOVIE – AND SOME FANS ARE STILL NOT OVER HIS DEATH. HAVE YOU GUYS EVER BEEN SEPARATED IN REAL LIFE?
James: Not by death.
Oliver: Not by that of course [laughs]. But we are 31 years old and we do a lot of stuff on our own.
James: I enjoy outdoor things and hiking and I travel a lot for hiking. I’m planning my next trip to Thailand already.
ARE YOU STILL FRIENDLY WITH THE REST OF THE CAST?
Oliver: Yes, but not just with the cast. We are also friends with the crew because we saw them as much as the cast. It’s rather like the relationships you build through high school and university, you remain pals. This is the best way I can describe the relationship.
YOU’VE SPENT A LOT OF TIME TRAVELLING AROUND THE WORLD PROMOTING HARRY POTTER AND THE EXHIBITION. WHAT’S IT LIKE MEETING THE FANS?
James: It blows my mind how welcoming everybody is. I don’t know the best word to describe it.
James: Yes, there’s a lot of love for the characters, the books, and the series. We were out yesterday [December 15] just exploring Bangkok and a lady saw me and smiled, saying “James! ‘James!” not Fred or Oliver. They knew me as myself, which blew my mind. Everyone is welcoming here and that’s great.
IF YOU HAD REAL MAGICAL POWERS, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Oliver: I would never go on a plane again. It took so long to get here. We were in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and we flew New York to London, and from London to Bangkok. So I’d magic a short but direct flight.
James: And take more shopping bags with you.
Oliver: I love Thai food. I would come here every night.
WILL THERE BE A HARRY POTTER REUNION?
James: But we don’t know if there’ll be an official one. A lot of us are still friends. We sometime meet up in the pub to go to restaurant for meals. Officially, I’m not sure.
- “Christmas in the Wizarding World” runs at Siam Paragon through March 2.
- Entry is free, but space is limited. Customers can avoid queuing and reserve a specific entry time by paying a pre-booking service fee of Bt100.