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J.K. Rowling’s popular book series became a blockbuster franchise with the Harry Potter movies. For a decade, fans of the best-sellers watched as their favorite characters came to life on the big screen.

The story culminated in one final showdown between Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. Unlike the book, the movie’s fight scene took place not in the Great Hall but outdoors, a conscious decision by director David Yates. 

Daniel Radcliffe and Ralph Fiennes at the premiere of 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'
Daniel Radcliffe and Ralph Fiennes at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire | Peter Kramer/Getty Images

‘Harry Potter’ director wanted the duel to feel like a Western

Dissecting the memorable scene with Rotten Tomatoes in 2019, Yates explained that it had been his intention to make it feel like a Western.

“In the book, that confrontation takes place in the Great Hall, and I always felt that it was important, in a way, having waited seven movies for this confrontation to finally take place, I always felt it would be wonderful to give this confrontation almost the feel of a Western,” he said. 

Yates, who directed three other Harry Potter films as well as the Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them movies, continued, saying he thoughtfully planned the scene to feel like a duel in a Western. 

“It’s very iconically defined by these two figures in this vast courtyard, facing off with each other,” he said. “Not with necessarily a big audience, as took place in the book, but something that felt much more singular, and the architecture and the landscape of the school was very much like a Western.”

He also shared how the two characters end up in the courtyard had been his idea. 

“Dan would grab Ralph, and actually pull him off this tower, and they would apparate around the school together, and as they apparated around the school together, we’d explore this weird visual synthesis that exists between the two of them, and they’d eventually tumble down into the courtyard,” Yates said. 

He ‘always wanted’ Harry Potter and Voldemort ‘out of the Great Hall’

Yates had time to consider how he’d bring the final battle to life having worked on the Harry Potter franchise for years. He knew he wanted Harry and Voldemort’s fight not in the Great Hall but in a much more intimate setting.  

“I always wanted to get it out of the Great Hall, away from an audience, so the sequence became much more about a boy facing down this nemesis, this demon that had haunted him right throughout his childhood,” Yates said. “This is the figure that had killed his parents. And so it became a much more iconic, singular battle between these two figures.”

Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Tom Felton at the premiere of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'
Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Tom Felton at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I | JIMI CELESTE/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

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He continued, saying he wanted it to get messy.

“I like that singularity and I like that simplicity, because you could really focus right into Harry’s eyes and Voldemort’s realization, in the moment when he loses the Elder Wand, that he’s beaten,” Yates said.

“So for me, I like taking it into this down and dirty place, where it was literally a scramble in the mud to finally decide who was gonna win that battle that had been going on for such a long time,” he added. “That leanness and earthiness was always something that I felt was right for that final confrontation.”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II hit theaters in July 2011. According to Box Office Mojo, the culmination of all the Harry Potter movies earned $1.3 billion worldwide.

Today, more than nine years since audiences watched Harry and Voldemort fight one last time, the scene remains one of the most memorable scenes from the franchise.