Darryl and Jo, owners of the hotel
The movie secrets of a Cheltenham hotel
A hotel in Cheltenham has broken its three year silence to reveal that the adult stars of the second Harry Potter film stayed there whilst scenes for the movie were being shot at Gloucester Cathedral ...
As Pottermania strikes again with the release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, the sixth book in the series, bookshops across the county are preparing for the inevitable Potter onslaught. However, Gloucestershire has its own connections to the boy wizard ...
Author J.K. Rowling was born in Gloucestershire and she went to school in the county. There's also a town called Dursley and some believe this provided the inspiration for the family of the same name in the books. More recently, scenes from the second movie, the Chamber of Secrets, were shot in the historic Cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral.
The Hotel on the Park in Cheltenham
It's this link with the second movie that led to the adult stars of the film staying at a hotel in Cheltenham. The likes of Kenneth Branagh (Lockhart), Dame Maggie Smith (McGonagall), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick), Miriam Margolyes (Professor Sprout), Alan Rickman (Snape) and the late Richard Harris (Dumbledore) all had rooms at the Hotel on the Park during filming for the Chamber of Secrets.
The owners, Darryl and Jo Gregory, say they're talking now because it's unlikely the Cathedral will be used again in future Potter films, so they feel they're breaking no confidences.
At the time, they had to keep it a top secret, or they would have been overwhelmed with Potter fans, and it's only recently that they've broken their silence about their famous guests. Jo remembers some of the preparations they had to make for when the stars arrived:
"We were told that Richard Harris would like to be welcomed with an open fire so we had that burning in the grate all day because we didn't know when he would arrive."
Nine of the twelve rooms at the hotel were used by the stars during filming and it's amazing that they managed to keep their presence a complete secret. Jo says:
"We read about where they were [supposedly] staying in the paper, which made us smile because we knew exactly where they were staying! We had been sworn to secrecy and we had hoped that, when they came to film the next film, they would return so we obviously wanted to keep their secret. It was very tempting though."
Some actors and actresses come with a reputation for being slightly temperamental. So what were the Harry Potter cast members like when they stayed at the hotel? Did they notice any prima donna moments? Darryl recalls:
"That would be telling, wouldn't it! One or two were certainly that way inclined, they were very theatrical, luvvy types if you like. One or two of them, one in particular, but I'll leave it at that."
So, for the most part, they were pretty down to earth and friendly? He says:
Jo with Alan Rickman as Professor Snape
"Absolutely. So much so that Alan Rickman, within ten minutes, had invited us onto the set. We got my god son, Jo's daughter, my nephew and his best mate out of school and they were completely blown away. Alan Rickman met them on the set [in character], lifted his arms into his cloak and said 'children, why aren't you in school' and that just about blew their socks off!"
Tales of hard drinking stars are abound in show business so did any of the stars gravitate towards towards the bar? Jo reveals:
"They didn't in the main because they were obviously keen not to spoil their next day. They were all leaving quite early in the morning so they were quite respectful of that.
"But on the last night Richard Harris, Kenneth Branagh and Alan Rickman did have a bit of a session. I think Rickman and Branagh regarded it as sitting beneath the feet of a master. He [Richard Harris] was very much into story telling and they were soaking up every bit of information."
Darryl was fascinated with the relationship between Kenneth Branagh, Alan Rickman and veteran screen legend Richard Harris, adding:
"That was interesting because they were almost in awe of him. He was obviously a great, great star and that was fascinating to see that they were like little boys [in his presence]."
Sometimes big stars can bring with them some pretty flamboyant requests - think Mariah Carey and her 'Diva' antics here - but did any of the stars staying at the hotel have any outlandish demands? Sadly Darryl and Jo say they didn't but Jo actually remembers a funny story involving a request from Kenneth Branagh:
Famous signatures in the guest book
"Kenneth Branagh had only been here [in the hotel] for a few minutes when he asked me to arrange him a massage.
"There's a lady who comes here to do massage so I called her. She said she'd had a busy day and that she didn't really want to. So I said it was for a star. Her ears pricked - I could hear it over the phone! - and she asked 'who is it?'. I said Kenneth Branagh and she said 'I'll be there in five minutes'!
"She came and gave him a really deep massage. A normal massage takes half to three-quarters of an hour and she came down after an hour and a quarter and said 'I've heard Kenneth Branagh snore'!"
There's a room in the hotel with a four poster bed and stairs leading up to the bathroom - it's all very country house style. But which star stayed in this room? Darryl remembers:
"Dame Maggie Smith. I can remember her - not sure I should be saying this - lying in bed, having her breakfast brought in. A bit like Gosford Park, I imagine.
Jo with Alan Rickman
"Miriam Margolyes, I remember, one morning in the brasserie said 'where's Dame Maggie this morning?' and I said 'she's having breakfast in her room', and she said [knowingly] 'ah, she would, wouldn't she!'."
No return to Gloucestershire ...
Sadly the set for Hogwarts has been created elsewhere for the more recent films so it looks like they won't be coming back to Gloucestershire. But would Darryl hope to see any of the stars back at their hotel again? He says:
"We would be delighted and if any of them are reading, which I'm sure they might be, please do come back. We'd love to see them again!"
You can listen to the two features on the hotel in Cheltenham by clicking on the audio links at the top right of this web page.
last updated: 20/05/2008 at 12:46