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Hagrid's 'Dead Head' In Harry Potter Was Already Horrifying - Then It Came To Life

Rubeus Hagrid was masterfully brought to life in the "Harry Potter" films by Robbie Coltrane, who passed away in 2022. But at 6 feet, 1 inch, Coltrane didn't nearly have the massive stature of the half-giant Hagrid. Instead, Hagrid's on-screen height of 7 feet, 6 inches was achieved through a combination of stilts and the 6-foot-10-inch body double Martin Bayfield. Unfortunately, Bayfield's head was not quite proportional to the character's body, so the special makeup effects team, led by Nick Dudman, created a large prosthetic Hagrid head for the body double to wear. In the first film, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (or "Philosopher's Stone"), this was known as a "dead head," meaning it had no animatronic capabilities.

Seeing Coltrane's fully alive Hagrid walking alongside Bayfield's dead-head Hagrid in the featurette below makes the body double's version seem rather creepy and terrifying. "Oh, Jesus, that's weird," remarks one crew member while others laugh awkwardly. Of course, any shots of this version of Hagrid in the film were seen from far enough away that the static face went unnoticed.

However, in the second film, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the team made the head come to life with animatronic movement in the eyes and mouth. Arguably, this was even creepier, giving Hagrid stilted mechanical movements, such as his mouth opening and smiling, and his eyes moving from side to side.

The Hagrid head was frightening in more ways than one

For the third film, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," the prosthetic Hagrid head became even more advanced, with a voice-activation system that would move Hagrid's mouth as Martin Bayfield delivered his lines. Bayfield and Robbie Coltrane both had to learn how to mimic each other's movements to make Hagrid come together on screen. Discussing the Hagrid heads, Coltrane said, "My sister completely freaked out when she saw them. She saw a row of five of them. And she's sitting beside me; she's going, 'Oh my God!'"

What was even more frightening about the dead head and Hagrid body suit was that Bayfield had to use them on the very first day of filming "Sorcerer's Stone," all while paparazzi were trying to get the best shots they could of the highly anticipated film. Describing the day, Nick Dudman explained, "We put an umbrella over his head, desperately trying for his face not to be seen."

These types of practical effects, which were common in the early-2000s movie-making era, have mostly been replaced by CGI. So, among the many things fans are excited to see in Max's "Harry Potter" TV series, it will be interesting to see how some of these effects in the original films, such as Hagrid's enormous size, are recreated with new techniques.