Harry Potter fills us with memorable characters and creatures throughout the entire saga. However, one of the unanimously loved characters that joined the adventures of The Boy Who Lived since book 1 is Rubeus Hagrid.
Working as a Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, we can argue his peculiar hobbies and personality are only part of his charm. Hagrid is unique even inside the wizarding world since he’s a half-giant wizard.
This grants him unique perks and disadvantages compared to a regular wizard. Hagrid has more resistance to magic than the average wizard but his magical strength is weaker, especially with the broken wand hidden in his pink umbrella. Rowling herself has confirmed he cannot cast a Patronus since the spell is “too complex” for his abilities.
At first glance, everyone can notice Hagrid’s half-giant blood due to his body. Even though the books imply that Hagrid is at least 11 feet tall, in the movies he got shrunk to 8 feet 6 inches tall to avoid further logistic issues.
If they already had to use some tricks under the sleeve to make Coltrane look giant, imagine how much effort they would’ve needed to fit his face in the same angle as the rest of the cast!
Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid
Through all eight movies released between 2001 and 2011, Robbie Coltrane portrayed the warm and friendly half-giant.
Coltrane is a Scottish actor born in 1950 and got his international breakthrough thanks to the Harry Potter saga. He was actually the first choice for the character by J.K. Rowling herself, since Coltrane is 6 feet 1 inches or 1.85 meters tall and conveyed the friendly yet strong vibe she was looking for the character.
For his role as Hagrid, he had to wear special props for the hair, beard, and body for extensive shooting sessions, including fatsuits, the iconic padded overcoat, and platforms to add height.
How Tall is Hagrid Described in Books?
He’s “three times as tall as a normal man and at least five times as wide”, as it’s described on its first appearance in the Sorcerer’s Stone book. This translates into at least 15 feet tall if we take into accountancy an average British man’s height in 2012 (175.3 cm or 5 feet 9 inches).
And the following quote from the moment Harry saw Hagrid for the first time in book 1 continues to paint a vivid description of his character.
“He looked simply too big to be allowed, and so wild – long tangles of bushy black hair and beard hid most of his face, he had hands the size of trash can lids, and his feet in their leather boots were like baby dolphins.”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer Stone, Chapter 1
Quite impressive! So how did they make Hagrid so tall in Harry Potter movies?
5 Ways Hagrid Was Made to Look Bigger in Harry Potter
Hagrid looked like a half-giant in Harry Potter films thanks to a combination of techniques like forced perspective, special large props, separate green screen recordings and using a stunt actor wearing an animatronic head for long shots.
With a combination of digital and practical tricks, Robin Coltrane looked 8 feet 6 inches tall instead of his regular 6 feet 1-inch height.
1. Filming Characters at Different Angles
Camera placements are everything when dealing with characters with extraordinary features like unusual height or weight. For instance, the movies tend to prioritize low or high angles when filming Hagrid. That way, the audience can also see how people would see him from below and how small they are from his point of view, respectively.
They tried to avoid horizontal shots unless Robbie Coltrane was wearing special boots that added about seven inches of height.
2. Large Props in Hagrid’s Hut
Inside his hut, almost all props are large so that normal-sized actors look smaller in proportion when interacting with them. With forced perspectives, the illusion works even better to make Coltrane look like a half-giant.
But the movie directors also created a second hut with smaller props where they recorded Robbie alone. That way, Robbie’s body would look significantly bigger when interacting with mugs, books, or any other object onset.
3. Close-up Shots of Hagrid
Close-ups were also useful to maintain the illusion, especially when interacting with Madam Maxime. The actress had to walk on built-in platforms every time they walked side by side to maintain the illusion.
In fact, you won’t see a single long-shot sequence with both half-giants. Instead, the director focused on different camera angles to create the perspective of a size difference between the two for the audience.
When acting alongside normal-sized characters, close-ups were also super useful to hide his actual height.
4. Using a Stunt Double, Martin Bayfield
To make Hagrid into a half-giant some scenes featured Robbie Coltrane’s body double, Martin Bayfield, wearing an enormous body suit and an animatronic mask of his face! pic.twitter.com/Hyv6HJ5gxj— Warner Bros. Studio Tour London (@wbtourlondon) February 6, 2018
For solo long-shot sequences, directors used former English rugby union player Martin Bayfield wearing special props. He got cast as a body stunt since his contexture helped convey Hagrid’s height as well. He used an animatronic head fitted it with tubes of water to keep him cool during those long shots.
Another fun fact, Bayfield also interpreted young Hagrid in The Chamber of Secrets! The idea was to use the suit with the animatronic head on scenes where Hagrid was seen in the background. The effect worked so well, the audience still has a hard time distinguishing the stunt double from Coltrane.
5. Green and Blue Screens to Record Coltrane Separately
Final but not least, green and blue screens were an absolute necessity to record Coltrane separately from normal-sized characters.
Coltrane had to shoot scenes by himself while interacting with different props. Afterwards, editors modified his size and height with CGI.
With some editing and visual effects magic, the movies were able to create an amazing illusion. The audience cannot tell when the movie is using digital alterations or practical effects when Robbie appears on the scene. Overall, it’s a perfect combination of digital and analogue techniques to achieve the result.
Saturday 15th of October 2022
Dear GOD/GODS and/or anyone else who can HELP ME (e.g. TIME TRAVELERS or MEMBERS OF SUPER-INTELLIGENT ALIEN CIVILIZATIONS):
The next time I wake up, please change my physical form to that of FINN MCMILLAN formerly of SOUTH NEW BRIGHTON at 8 YEARS OLD and keep it that way FOREVER. I am so sick of this chubby Asian man body! Thank you!
- CHAUL JHIN KIM (a.k.a. A DESPERATE SOUL)