Here at VisitBritain Towers we were lucky enough to be graced with a visit from Hedwig the Owl, or rather WTON (which stands for White Terror of the North), one of the actor owls who played Hedwig in the Harry Potter movies. We quizzed WTON’s handler Guillaume Grange on the high-flying life as an actor owl.
How long has WTON been in the business?
He’s a wise owl of 16 now so he’s quite an old hat in the trade. He starred in all the Harry Potter movies but the first – he was too young and inexperienced back then.
Do you think he enjoyed his time working on the Harry Potter movies?
Well it’s certainly an easier way to make a living than spending all day hunting lemmings in the Arctic. He particularly liked when he got to do long flying shots for the films. He was the more enthusiastic of the 9 owl actors that played Hedwig – some of them just couldn’t be bothered, no matter how many dead mice the trainers offered them!
What challenges do you have working with owls?
Well, owls like to give the impression of being wise, but actually they’re not that bright! Sometimes you can go over and over a task with them, and the next day they’ve forgotten everything and you have to start again! Owls can take about 3-6 months to really prepare for a role; compare that to ravens who can be ready in 1 day.
How did you motivate WTON?
Dead mice, rats, and his favourite: 1-day-old chicks.
How come WTON played Hedwig who’s a female when he’s a male?
Female snowy owls aren’t as fluffy white as the males, plus they’re a bit heavier, too, so the young actors wouldn’t be able to hold them on their arms. (WTON weighs 1.3kg.)
Tell us what makes a snowy owl stand out from the crowd?
Well check out his fluffy feet – that’s because where snowy owls are from in the Arctic those extra feathery feet help them to walk on the snow. Plus, see his moustache? That’s to help him feel the prey he’s eating. Also, see how an owl’s eyes don’t move in their sockets like ours do – so that’s why his head can swivel round so far.
So what does the future hold for WTON?
He takes life a bit slower nowadays, living out on a farm in the countryside. A bird like WTON can work for 35 years or so. WTON’s quite happy sitting on his perch looking out over the fields and occasionally showing himself off at special events. Hedwig appeared at Warner Bros. Studio Tours London.