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Behind the scenes: Peter Pettigrew

Embodying a man who has lived as a rat for thirteen years is no mean feat. No stranger to taking on parts that are a little on the, erm, unglamorous side however, Timothy Spall took to the task with great gusto, and with eerily convincing results.

Peter Pettigrew transforms back into a rat and escapes.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

'Peter Pettigrew is a very shrewd, cowardly, weak, conniving, audacious, lying little character that is always ready to save his own skin. Apart from that, he’s very nice and rather handsome,' says Timothy Spall, who plays the human form of the rat known as 'Wormtail' to the Marauders and 'Scabbers' to the Weasley family. 'This is a man who’s been a rat for the last thirteen years,' explains Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban director Alfonso Cuarón. 'And so he still has to behave and look like a rat.'

Spall 'went for it,' continues Cuarón. 'His ears were pointy, and had hair in them. Then I said, let’s have a lot of hair coming out of your nose and let’s add two big teeth in the front and have hair on your knuckles.' The director found this all delightfully creepy. Of course, Spall was given long fake incisors and, 'Since he uses his hands to express his character, we put on very nasty nails that were like little claws,' says Amanda Knight. Along with Eithne Fennell, the hair and makeup artists also tried to invoke the various rats who played Scabbers, whether real or animatronic, in their vision for Pettigrew. 'We tried to get the texture and the colour of Wormtail’s wig to match the Scabbers rat,' explains Fennell. 'We gave him bald patches and scaly skin.'

From rat to Wormtail the progression of Pettigrew
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

'You are not born a rat,' Jany Temime explains. 'You have to become the rat. So what he wore needed to make him feel like a rat.' Temime was able to work with the early seventies look of the Marauders for Pettigrew’s clothing, allowing that the shape of that style was easily adaptable. Pettigrew’s suit had a high collar that truncated his neck so it was barely visible, and the actor wore high-heeled Cuban boots that raised him up as if he was tip-toeing on paws, to give him the illusion of shortened lower legs. His striped jacket and pants combo are made of a fuzzy woolen fabric that was given a silvery sheen to mimic fur.

Calculated rips and holes in the material give it a fringed effect and Temime made sure that a good clump of fringe was placed at the back so it almost appears as if he has a tail. Timothy Spall wore a green screen material on his "missing” finger for his first appearance in Prisoner of Azkaban; for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, after he cuts off his right hand, the silver replacement was a combination of digital and practical effects.

Peter Pettigrew with his wand and silver hand
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Harry Potter: The Character Vault book cover

Extracted from
'Harry Potter: The Character Vault'