London. Implacable July weather. People everywhere. People swarming Trafalgar Square. People perched on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. People crowding the backstreets of the West End. Is this a Dickens novel? No, it’s the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2.
Earlier in the day, all seemed lost. Rain pelted down on beleaguered fans, camped out (some for seven days) in the hopes of catching a glimpse of their Harry Potter heroes. Then, at about 4 p.m, the skies cleared and the sun emerged, its rays glowing like a Patronus across the sky, bringing hope to the dripping Muggles lining the longest red carpet in history.
In Trafalgar Square, where the carpet began, thousands gathered around the monumental bronze equestrian statue of George IV, cameras aloft, craning to catch the stars’ arrival on a giant screen. “Knock down the statue! I can’t see!” someone screeched.
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Natalia, a 29-year-old art history student who had come for an afternoon at the National Portrait Gallery, was not amused. “All I can conclude from this is that most people are morons,” she sighed. “It’s the herding behavior that bothers me.”
There were, indeed, many herders. Passersby stopped to join the crowd, intrigued by the spectacle. “There is a lot of screaming,” observed Simeon Kristofferson, a 19-year-old from Norway who was in London for three days to see Penn and Teller. “Someone is obviously recognizing someone else.”
That someone else was Emma Watson in a flouncy gown, who raised piercing screams from a pocket of 8-year-old schoolgirls chaperoned by a slightly nervous mother. “We want to see Hermione, Harry, Ron, Ginny,” one declared, her school tie askew. “In that order?” “Yes.” “Don’t forget Hagrid,” added another.
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Just north of Trafalgar Square, people swarmed the West End’s back alleys, pressing up against the poster-clad chain-link fence shielding the red carpet. The police periodically moved the fence to let people cross. In a sudden, surreal moment, a group of about 20 spectators spilled onto the red carpet. Noses, cameras and hands of desperate fans protruded under the fence. The attendees, in gowns and tuxedos, took pictures of these noses, cameras and hands. The policeman told the crowd to move along and closed the barrier.
Potterphiles had come from near and far for the premiere. Linda, 22, travelled from Sweden carrying a Slytherin tote bag. “Would you be in Slytherin?” I asked. “I am in Slytherin,” she said, firmly. Arabella, 16, had come from Oxfordshire dressed as Dobby the house elf. “He’s my favorite character,” she said, peering out from behind the eyeholes of a plasticine mask, her t-shirt artfully sullied. Why? “He’s funny. I like the way he talks,” she said. Then, she disapparated onto her dad’s shoulders. Just in the nick of time, too. Harry Potter had arrived.
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