Johnny Harris: "We were a real unit. We formed a real bond"
Snow White and the Huntsman star Johnny Harris on playing a dwarf and the 'real bond' that formed between cast members...
How is Snow White and the Huntsman different to other versions of the fairytale?
It’s epic. I guess that could be used for most versions, including the Disney version, but this is definitely epic in scale. With some films you hope an audience will see the little subtle things you’ve done. With this I would say to people, get your popcorn, get comfy, find the biggest screen you can, sit back and let it wash over you. But there is darkness in there. Fairytales were originally tools for adults. They would sit around a fire and use them to study and ponder the human psyche.
What do the dwarves represent then?
It’s interesting. I don’t think it’s as linear as that. We’re not as linear as Sleepy and Grumpy and Happy but they’ve all got their individual traits. They have a back history.
Does it take more than one word to describe your character?
I play Qwert and he’s quite a sensitive soul actually. Some of the other guys are a bit more hardened, a bit more grizzled. A bit more scared I’d say. I think all people who are angry have fear underneath somewhere. They were a very proud race a very proud species of men who were miners historically. They used to go in down into the mine for a specific purpose – it’s because they could seek out beauty in darkness; gold in that darkness. They lost that. The queen stripped them of their pride and dignity and they’re the last left of their breed. They roamed the forest pillaging and robbing and surviving and then they meet Snow White and she represents that part of their past that they once had.
Are you tired of answering questions about dwarves already?
No, it’s funny. Different projects have different atmospheres. They can be very intense depending on the material but with Snow White we were able to have a hell of a lot of fun. I imagine it could be difficult trying to sell a film or talk about a film you don’t quite believe in. Actually that’s a really telling word: selling. If you have to talk about a film you didn’t particularly enjoy the experience of making it then it will feel like selling it, but when you’ve had a really enjoyable experience it feels like you’re having a chat about good times.
Good times and fairytales.
Fairytales are the great stories and as actors we are storytellers so to take part in a fairytale is as good as it gets.
Unless it’s pantomime.
People know the story so they want to see something different, otherwise why retell it?
It must have been a privilege to be part of a dwarf gang alongside Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane…
I said to Ray one day on set that if it wasn’t for the likes of him and Bob Hoskins it wouldn’t have been possible for me to enter the profession. But Ray said it was exactly the same for him, and he went back to people like Michael Caine, even further to Charlie Chaplin. With these guys I can quote lines from their films so to be standing next to them and performing was kind of dreamlike. Going home after work and explaining what had happened that day was like explaining a weird dream. Ray Winstone was there… Bob Hoskins was there… We were in a forest - but we were all dwarves, and Kristen Stewart was crying… It was surreal.
And how is Kristen Stewart to work with?
For such a young lady to be steering the size of ship she was, she’s amazing. She just got her sleeves rolled up and stuck in. She’s very diligent, very inclusive. We were a real unit. We formed a real bond.
Before filming, you were all sent to ‘dwarf camp’. What happens at dwarf camp?
We were dispatched there for about three weeks and went about learning to move like dwarves. The movement had to be right. They can’t shorten our arms and stuff with special effects so we had to learn how to shorten our arms physically without looking like robots. Each of us had an actual little person playing the part with us.
You must have nicknamed somebody Grumpy.
The very first exercise they got us to do without any training or anything was to walk from one end of the room to the other in how we thought we were going to do it. It was the best leveller. By the end of it there were no movie stars anymore, just a bunch of guys looking pretty silly.
Snow White and the Huntsman is out on DVD and Blu-ray now