Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Harry, oh HARRY




Luna Lovegood actress to be announced this January
In November, CBBC Newsround reported that five girls had made it through to the final stage of Warner Bros' casting of Luna Lovegood. The children's news show now expects a decision to be made on who will play the peculiar Ravenclaw early next month, with other casting information coming later in the year.

Newsround also made this statement:
Over the past few weeks, several sites and message boards on the internet have featured teenagers saying that they are one of the final five with many of them posting photographs of themselves.Girls who are really in the last few have been asked to keep the news secret and Warner Brothers say that as far as they are aware, none of the names or photographs of the girls genuinely in the last five have appeared on any website

Harry PotterPampered jock, patsy, fraud.
By Chris Suellentrop
Posted Friday, Nov. 8, 2002

Warning: This article contains a few spoilers about the Harry Potter books and movies. EDITOR'S NOTE: NOT SO MUCH, REALLY.

Like most heroes, Harry Potter possesses the requisite Boy Scout virtues: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. But so do lots of boys and girls, and they don't get books and movies named after them. Why isn't the movie that comes out next week titled Ron Weasley and the Chamber of Secrets? Why isn't its sequel dubbed Hermione Granger and the Prisoner of Azkaban? Why Harry? What makes him so special?

Simple: He's a glory hog who unfairly receives credit for the accomplishments of others and who skates through school by taking advantage of his inherited wealth and his establishment connections. Harry Potter is no braver than his best friend, Ron Weasley, just richer and better-connected. Harry's other good friend, Hermione Granger, is smarter and a better student. The one thing Harry excels at is the sport of Quidditch, and his pampered-jock status allows him to slide in his studies, as long as he brings the school glory on the playing field. But as Charles Barkley long ago noted, being a good athlete doesn't make you a role model.

Harry Potter is a fraud, and the cult that has risen around him is based on a lie. Potter's claim to fame, his central accomplishment in life, is surviving a curse placed on him as an infant by the evil wizard Voldemort. As a result, the wizarding world celebrates the young Harry as "The Boy Who Lived." It's a curiously passive accomplishment, akin to "The Boy Who Showed Up," or "The Boy Who Never Took a Sick Day." And sure enough, just as none of us do anything special by slogging through yet another day, the infant Harry didn't do anything special by living. It was his mother who saved him, sacrificing her life for his.

Did your mom love you? Good, maybe you deserve to be a hero, too. The love of Harry's mother saves his life not once but twice in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Not only that, but her love for Harry sends Voldemort into hiding for 13 years, saving countless other lives in the process. The book and the movie should be named after Lily Potter. But thanks to the revisionist histories of J.K. Rowling, Lily's son is remembered as the world's savior.

What Harry has achieved on his own, without his mother, stems mostly from luck and, more often, inheritance. He's a trust-fund kid whose success at his school, Hogwarts, is largely attributable to the gifts his friends and relatives lavish upon him. (Coming soon: Frank Bruni's book, Ambling Into Hogwarts: The Unlikely Odyssey of Harry Potter.) A few examples: an enchanted map (made in part by his father), an invisibility cloak (his father's), and a state-of-the art magical broom (a gift from his godfather) that is the equivalent of a Lexus in a high-school parking lot.

Harry's other achievements can generally be chalked up to the fact that he regularly plays the role of someone's patsy. Almost all Harry's deeds in the first book take place under the watchful eye of Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore, who saves Harry from certain death at the end of the book. In Chamber of Secrets, the evil Voldemort successfully manipulates the unsuspecting Harry, who must once again be rescued. In Goblet of Fire, everything Harry accomplishes—including winning the Triwizard Tournament—takes place because he is the unwitting pawn of one of Voldemort's minions.

Even Harry's greatest moment—his climactic face-off with Voldemort in Goblet of Fire—isn't much to crow about. Pure happenstance is the only reason Voldemort is unable to kill Harry: Both their magic wands were made with feathers from the same bird. And even with his lucky wand, Harry still needs his mom's ghost to bail him out by telling him what to do. Once again, Lily Potter proves to be twice the man her son is.

Harry's one undisputed talent is his skill with a broom, which makes him one of the most successful Quidditch players in Hogwarts history. As Rowling puts it the first time Harry takes off on a broom, "in a rush of fierce joy he realized he'd found something he could do without being taught." Harry's talent is so natural as to be virtually involuntary. Admiring Harry for his flying skill is like admiring a cheetah for running fast. It's beautiful, but it's not an accomplishment.

In fact, Harry rarely puts hard work or effort into anything. He is a "natural." Time and again, Harry is celebrated for his instinctual gifts. When he learns that he is a Parselmouth, or someone who can speak the language of snakes, Rowling writes, "He wasn't even aware of deciding to do it." (In fact, when Harry tries to speak this language, he can't do it. He can only do it instinctively.) When Harry stabs a basilisk in Chamber of Secrets, Rowling writes that he did it "without thinking, without considering, as though he had meant to do it all along." In Goblet of Fire, during Harry's battle with Voldemort, Rowling writes that "Harry didn't understand why he was doing it, didn't know what it might achieve. …"

Being a wizard is something innate, something you are born to, not something you can achieve. As a result, Harry lives an effortless life. Although Dumbledore insists, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities," the school that Dumbledore runs values native gifts above all else. That's why Harry is such a hero in wizard culture—he has the most talent, even if he hasn't done much with it. Hogwarts is nothing more than a magical Mensa meeting. EDITOR'S NOTE: AS THAT OLD (OTHER UNIVERSE) NUDGE IS WONT TO POINT OUT, OUR PERSPECTIVE IS VERY MUCH DETERMINED BY OUR POINT OF VIEW. SINCE DANIEL RADCLIFFE IS CUTE, I HAVE DECIDED THAT HARRY MUST BE A HERO. (I'M SHALLOW).

Chris Suellentrop, a writer in Washington, D.C., is a former Slate staffer.

A Hollywood Peek Behind the Harry Potter Phenomenon
By T.K. Davs, special to
It's 6:59PM on a cool, smoggy Hollywood evening.

It's been a while since I last tromped these hallowed grounds or laid my eyes on the famed water tower. The Warner Bros. lot is abuzz with security, journalists, and publicity staffers.

Tonight I am the guest of an old friend, a noted (or notorious) editor and critic with an online film-industry rag. My pocket jingles with a keychain full of press credentials, but for once, I don't need them. At this given moment, I'm just an ordinary fan waiting to see the new film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Tonight I'm Joe F. Public.

I've been standing in a cramped hallway for some time now. The line of hundreds has been searched, probed, and sterilized; they begin to disappear into the theater. Now, only a dozen souls remain. And remain. A poor PR representative emerges and we all know what she's saying before her mouth ever opens. It's unheard of: accredited press members don't get "bumped".

One reviewer threatens to call his editor; he does indeed work for a publication of some significance. No dice. My friend offers to stand in the projection booth. It's not going to happen, we're told. The theater is packed to capacity and they don't dare risk the wrath of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. In this instance, that would be the fire marshal.

Though I try, I can't hear a word. The movie has already begun and the score is drowning the voices out. Moments later, a chorus of screaming children drowns everything else out. They, in turn, are finally silenced by an "AVADA KEDAVRA!"... from the movie, of course, not from some evil Warner security-wizard, as much as the thought makes me laugh.

Warner Bros. was breaking some old rules for the marketing of the new Potter film. It turns out that certain press members were permitted to bring large numbers of guests to the screening. Those guests were mostly children. Theirs, their neighbors', the Siamese-triplets from down the block... you get the idea. Imagine that: kiddies commandeering a private theater reserved for established film critics and journalists. I'm told many of them ended up sitting on the aisle floors, too. It's a brilliant strategy. At the cost of a few ticked-off writers, the Harry Potter franchise gained countless "enhanced" reviews. Hey, if I was a film critic driving home in a packed car with overjoyed youngsters babbling endlessly about the movie's greatness... again, you get the idea.

I walk back to the parking lot, slightly steamed, slightly more intrigued. I flip out the cell phone and start making calls. I smell something, maybe a story. I came as Joe F. Public. I sure didn't leave that way. EDITOR'S NOTE: SO MANY STORIES IN THE NAKED CITY. AND SO FAR, THIS ONE IS KINDA BORING.


It's 6:59PM. The day after, the night after.

The Harry Potter PR machine keeps on rolling like a tank munching down a wet hillside. I've been "rebooked" into another press screening and offered tickets to the IMAX press-only showing at Universal Studios. IMAX is a... unique... way to view Harry Potter, depending on whether you enjoy noticing things like the 5 o'clock shadow on Dan Radcliffe's face. EDITOR'S NOTE: OR AS SOME LIKE TO THINK OF IT, ONE FOLLICLE CLOSER TO LEGAL?

By way of an apology, the PR department also slips me two tickets to the "industry-only" screening; those are generally for producers and players and people with incriminating photos.

How many screenings of this damn film are there? Well, in SoCal alone, there were at least a dozen. Yeah, that's high. Some studio films barely have one advance screening. In one city. For everyone.

I decide to do a little homework, so I check a couple of websites and about a million bulletin boards. There's more than a week to go before Goblet hits cinemas, yet more than 1,500 people have rated, commented, or reviewed this movie already. Keep in mind that for every one person who bothers to post something on the Internet about a movie, nine others have seen it and done nothing of the sort. It could be lies. A thousand people could have lied and decided to brag to strangers. Even worse, a thousand people could have seen the movie and decided to brag to strangers.

Warner Bros. was up to something here... or onto something. Anyone connected within 1,600 degrees of separation had an opportunity to see the movie before it opened, and on Warner's tab, no less. That strategy doesn't seem particularly orthodox considering that Harry Potter is an established "power" franchise: with a sequel of this magnitude, they could nix all publicity and the film would still open over $70 million in the US. So why the ultra-aggressive campaign? What markets are they trying to suck in that haven't already been nailed down?

Perhaps the answer is simple: everyone. They're trying to rope in everyone, particularly the "everyones" who haven't yet read the books or seen the films.


The mantra tossed around the creative industries is that "boys don't read and girls don't see action movies". Any fears of not capturing a young male audience disappeared after the first Potter film broke loose. The films, in turn, made readers out of boys. Or, in a compromise, listeners: the audiobooks are surprisingly popular on high school and college campuses with the male crowd. The iPod is a hip alternative to a 700-page hardcover. Shocked, I am.

Or perhaps the answer isn't as simple as that. The franchise had been sagging, each film earning out slightly less than the previous one. The decision to release Prisoner of Azkaban during the summer, amidst heavier competition, was not a financially sound one. Maybe it was simply about demographics: both the audiences and the actors are growing up before our very eyes.

Was the campaign designed to hook a new wave of youngsters, or to usher in and "graduate" the original audience to a PG-13 Harry Potter? EDITOR'S NOTE: SURELY NOT THE FORMER. NOT WITH A PG-13 RATING AND FAIRLY VIOLENT, SCARY CONTENT.

I talked to one PR staffer who suggested... strongly... that the intent of the aggressive campaign was to be, well, aggressive. No chess-and-war battle strategy, no intense Slytherinesque manipulations of the marketplace. Just saturate, baby. Perhaps the only thing different about this film's marketing campaign was its scope. Yeah, it could be lies. But let's just marvel at the juggernaut for a minute. Let's believe.

Must be magic!


It's 6:59PM, two weeks later. Goblet of Fire is raking in the galleons.

The fans love it. Of course they do. I attended a midnight premiere in Los Angeles, playing witness to droves of young adults (and, frighteningly, some older ones tooEDITOR'S NOTE: POURQUOI 'FRIGHTENINGLY'? I MEAN.....I'M OLDER, NOT WISER! ) dressed in Gryffindor scarves and "Hug-a-Slytherin" tees. By this point, I've seen the movie at least four times and can lip-synch some of the dialogue. The showing I attended received a standing ovation. Fans always tend to gush over the newest addition to their bandwagon, at least for a little while.

Then they come to their senses and realize that Jar-Jar Binks might not be such a good thing after all. EDITOR'S NOTE: HEY HEY HEY, WATCH IT! DON'T BE MESSIN WITH MY HOMEY JJB!

So what did the fans love?

It had more humor. It was more mature. It was darker. It flowed better. Best of the series, they said, and said again. I'm getting the slow, sinking sensation that no one really knows why they love it. There were a few complaints: some were annoyed at how much had been omitted or the choice of omissions. I heard more than one comment about Michael Gambon's "angry Dumbledore" and a few quibbles about Voldemort. One person described Ralph Fiennes's performance as "a dark lord in serious need of a Valium". Beyond that, Harry's growing and riches are flowing. All is right with the Muggle world.

We know what the fans think. So what does Hollywood think?

In the eyes of many Hollywood producers, Potter is just "another super-franchise", no different from Batman or Spiderman, or even Lord of the Rings. These are all products adapted from other mediums: bid high, bid fast, and it's yours to gamble on. For the few and prideful still left in this town, discovering/growing a new cash cow like The Matrix remains the ultimate jackpot.

In Manhattan, where the printed word reigns supreme, Harry Potter is utterly irreplaceable: a once-in-several-lifetimes phenomenon that exceeded both dream and reality. In Hollywood, though, Harry is just one star amongst many. Though Harry has finally gotten his own 'Quidditch-World-Cup-sized' post-Oscar party, consider this: even with some of the Hogwarts' alumni in attendance, what do you think would happen if Kobe Bryant were to show up?

But enough about Kobe Bryant and Hollywood business: I still want to know what Hollywood thinks of Harry, at least creatively. For that answer, I called up a filmmaker that I know... and that you probably know, too... which is why he will, wisely, remain unnamed. The man is uniquely qualified for this job because: (a) he possesses a frightening and obsessive knowledge of all things HP, and (b) he has directed at least one installment of a "super-franchise".

For starters, I ask him a half-question about Goblet of Fire; I won't be able to speak again for another 36 minutes. His first words are: "I want to disembowel [Goblet of Fire director Mike] Newell." Okay. I'd buckle up if I were you.

He continues. "I don't have a lot of positive things to say about the film. My belief is that, with a film like this, you either make it strictly for the fans, or you assume that not a soul in your audience has ever read the source material. [Goblet] does neither. Even if you've seen the previous films, you won't be able to follow along unless you've read the book. On the flip, if you're a hardcore fan of the series, you're gonna be plum pissed at how much was left out... crucial, crucial things were omitted from the storyline..."

Let me interrupt that quote. I spoke with a few Muggles myself and asked what was so crucially omitted. Ignoring any minor complaints, ("Dobby was left out! Noooooooooo!"EDITOR'S NOTE: INDEED!) here are the three most repeated answers:

- The film does not specify why, during the duel between Harry and Voldemort, the wands locked up ("Priori Incantatem", only briefly mentioned at the film's end before Dumbledore changes the subject and begins delivering odd snippets of wisdom).

- There is a missing twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes when he learns about Harry's blood being used to help resurrect Voldemort; this is supposedly relevant in Book 7. EDITOR'S NOTE: OH. I'D COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN ABOUT THIS!

- A line Voldemort is supposed to speak, and does not, which will come into play later in the series ("I have traveled further along the path to immortality than anyone." or something similar). Apparently this line is paramount to Dumbledore's deductions in Book/Movie 6.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming: "Azkaban was the first film to leave the books behind and branch off into actual cinema... [Azkaban director Alfonso] Cuaron threw in a giant scoop of angst, of atmosphere... almost every daylight scene is overcast, not sunny. There is a scene that breaks my heart, the scene where Harry can't go into town and has to talk with Professor Lupin about his parents, on the bridge. John Williams's score riffs into a single, lonely flute... I think it's a flute, anyway. That one scene showed me something that I hadn't really considered until that point: being Harry sucks. He longs for all the things he'll never have... his parents, peace of mind, maybe a quiet life. His soul is wounded." EDITOR'S NOTE: I LOVE THAT SCENE. IT IS SO BEAUTIFULLY SHOT AND ACTED.

"Think about the 'Patronus' spell that Harry casts. In the book, a wizard must be thinking happy thoughts to cast it. The movie's viewpoint clearly suggests that the emotions must be powerful, gut-wrenching... not necessarily happy. Think about the feelings you experience when remembering an old lover or a friend who died. That's angst, that's pure angst. That's beauty, that's cinema, and that's a director's decision. There are other scenes like that... underscoring the tragedy rather than focusing on the magic. To me, that's the heart of the whole series. I think everyone in the audience relates to that."

I asked why (he thought) Goblet of Fire was missing that aspect.

"Short answer, Newell either wasn't aware of it or decided not to go there. Long answer, Hollywood types only want happy endings, no matter how dark the film is. They don't believe a mainstream audience wants to be subjected to emotions like that. As a result, there is nothing gothic about Goblet except for the graveyard scenes. Hogwarts is reduced to a mere prep school. Both the fantasy and the tragedy have been stripped from this movie. This movie is concerned only with Harry worrying about girls and pimples and his image, all of which are valid teenage issues. And what does that leave? A dragon-filled episode of 'The OC'." EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS SEEMS HARSH. DISCUSSION?

(For the record, I do not watch 'The OC'. However, I would be delighted to watch an episode where a dragon was set loose in Newport Beach... ahem...) EDITOR'S NOTE: OH YEAH! NOW WE'RE TALKIN TV!

I don't like singular opinions, so I called upon several other screenwriters and directors,EDITOR'S NOTE: MORE PEOPLE BITTER THAT THEY WEREN'T HIRED TO DIRECT GOF? relaying the above comments. Most agreed. Some did not.

One remark that I absolutely must quote, at least in part: "You shouldn't be talking to writers and industry people. No one in this business knows [crap]." EDITOR'S NOTE: A LITTLE EXTREME IN THE OTHER DIRECTION?

Yet another: "Is your director on the right path? Yes. But 'dark and angsty' is awesomely risky, almost impossible to pull off correctly. Goblet of Fire is a dark film, yet it skillfully avoids the mood you're talking about. The box office always has the final say. The producers made the right decision."

Outside of the screenings and the midnight showing I attended, I questioned dozens of moviegoers. There were definitely those who enjoyed the movie for the exact reasons that the director got so worked up: Harry actually gets a few moments of happiness in this one, more worried about girls than dark lords (for a bit, anyway). But... the great majority of astute viewers were, indeed, pleased with the film's darkness and showed much appreciation for the "angst/tragedy" vein. The "3rd Episode" of Star Wars went over well enough. Dark material seems to play just fine in true-blue children's entertainment. EDITOR'S NOTE: AS ROGER EBERT MENTIONED IN HIS REVIEW OF "POLAR EXPRESS", A VEIN OF DARKNESS IS REALLY NECESSARY IN ORDER FOR THEIR TO BE TRUE CLASSIC LITERATURE (CHILDREN'S OR OTHERWISE). ALL SWEETNESS-AND-LIGHT IS FALSE AND HERE-TODAY-GONE-TOMORROW.

So now we know. We know what the fans think, what producers think, what some filmmakers think, and by now, we know what the mainstream thinks. Everyone thinks something different, yet we all think exactly alike: Harry's The Man(TM). Harry Potter is alive and well, at least for the moment. I can safely predict that the next movie will be a hit, and the one after that.

Wait. There has to be more to it. It's something the director said... I can't place my finger on it...

It's 7:01PM.


Next week, in Part II of "Beyond the Veil", the glitz and glitter of Hollywood is left behind as TK turns his inner eye to the future (and to the New York publishers). What comes after Harry Potter? The answer might just blow your mind. Or at least surprise you. Are Muggles ready for the dark side, a walk in a Slytherin's boots, so to speak? Okay, sorry, I'll stop now before I turn into that Skeeter woman...

Goblet of Fire souvenir stamp sheet
The Australian Post Stamp Shop is selling a stamp sheet of the 10 most memorable HP characters.

If you purchase the sheet, you'll get stamps of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Viktor Krum, Cedric Diggory, Fleur Delacour, Mad-Eye Moody, Barty Crouch Jr, Professor Dumbledore and Rita Skeeter.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Souvenir Stamp Sheet

Second source confirms GOF DVD release date
Movie rental company Blockbuster is reporting a release date of April 4th, 2006. EDITOR'S NOTE: JUST IN TIME FOR MY MOTHER'S BIRTHDAY. NOT THAT SHE IS A DWEEB. OR CARES. BUT.....UMM....

J.K. Rowling and Stephen Fry Interview Transcript
BBC Radio 4
December 10, 2005

Show Intro
Radio 4 Introduction: The creator of Harry Potter, JK Rowling, rarely speaks about her writing in public, leaving her creation and the record-breaking sales of books, tapes and films to speak for themselves. But now in Living with Harry Potter, we have a chance to listen in to a conservation between J.K. Rowling and the voice of her work on six audio books, Stephen Fry.

Stephen Fry: It was at Christmas five years ago that I had the strange experience of hearing myself on the radio all day long on Boxing Day as Radio 4 broadcast a recording of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It has been a privilege to be the voice of J.K. Rowling’s work over six books, 2,764 pages and 100 hours and 55 minutes of recordings. The characters are familiar friends and enemies for me, but like millions of others, I eagerly await each new installment.
I first met Jo nearly seven years ago when she came to the studio where I was recording the first book. She remains famously reticent and like millions of Potter fans, I am fascinated to know what it’s like to live with Harry, where the inspiration for the books comes from, what she thinks of her critics and what she will do when she finishes the final chapter. So when Jo agreed to record a conversation with me, I jumped at the chance.

Stephen Fry: And Jo, I suppose a good question to open with would be simply "Which character you find yourself identifying with most when you’re writing or when you’re reading what you’ve just written?"
J.K. Rowling: Probably Harry, really. Because I have to think myself into his head far more than any of the others because everything is seen from his point of view. But there’s a little bit of me in most of the characters I think. They say if writers that uhm...I think it’s impossible not to put a little bit of yourself into any character because you have to imagine their motivation.

SF: Did it occur to you when you were planning the books, hoping the first one would be published that so many people who have never been inside a boarding school would relate to the very particular world of an English boarding school which Hogwarts represents?
JKR: Well the truth is I’ve never been inside one either, of course I was comprehensive educated. But, it was essential for the plot that the children could be enclosed somewhere together overnight. This could not be a day school because the adventure would fall down every, every second day if they went home and spoke to their parents and then had to break back into school every...[laughs]...every week to wander around at night. So it had to be a boarding school. Which was also logical because where would wizards educate their children? This is a place where there are going to be lots of noises, smells, flashing lights and you would want to contain it somewhere fairly distant so that Muggles didn’t come across it all the time. But, I think that people recognize the reality of a lot of children being cloistered together perhaps, more than they recognize the ambience of a boarding school. I’m not sure that I’m familiar with that. I think I’m familiar with what children are like when they’re together.

SF: The thing is, you have created a world, it’s the sort of definition of successful fiction is to, - to have a world that somehow is circumscribed by its own rules, its own ethics, its own cultural flavor and smell and senses and you’ve done this and that’s why it’s very common to hear about children and adults dreaming that they’re in Hogwarts, dreaming that they are side-by-side with Harry and Ron and Hermione and so on. And naturally what comes as a result of this too, is you get strange warning voices from people I always imagine with steel-colored hair with a knitting needle stuck through it in a bun at the back, arguing that somehow this is dangerous…
JKR: Yes.

SF: ...for people, aside from the whole business of whether or not magic is dangerous for people which I think we can ignore because…
[JKR laughs]
SF: It seems to come from such wild chores of unreason.
JKR: It’s all part of that young ladies, 200 years ago weren’t allowed to read novels because it would inflame them and excite them and make them long for things that weren’t real and I remember being very distressed to read, when I was quite young, about Virginia Woolf being told she mustn’t write because it would exacerbate her mental condition. We need a place to escape to whether as a writer or a reader and obviously the world that I’ve created is a particularly shining example of a world to which it’s very pleasant to escape. That beautiful image in C.S. Lewis where there are the pools, the ‘World Between Worlds,’ and you can jump into the different pools to access the different worlds and that for me was always a metaphor for a library. EDITOR'S NOTE: LOVELY. SHE HAS SUCH A TRULY (NOT TO ABUSE THE WORD) MAGICAL SENSE OF IMAGERY. I know Lewis wasn’t actually thinking that when he wrote it…

SF: It was a Christian metaphor for him, yeah.
JKR: Of course. But to me, that was…to jump into these different pools to enter different worlds, what a beautiful place and that for me is what literature should be. So whether you love Hogwarts or loathe it, I don’t think you can criticize it for being a ‘world’ that people enjoy.

SF: No. Precisely, I mean that is, that is why it…it exercises such a clean hold on all our imaginations, there’s…
JKR: I read an interview with you in which I was very flattered to see that you, you drew a parallel between that world and the world of Sherlock Holmes and I found that a very flattering comparison that also resonated with me because when I read the Holmes stories, it is of’s a world that never really existed. And yet you can whole-heartedly believe it existed and more importantly you want it to have existed don’t you? So that’s…

SF: Exactly right.
JKR: That’s why it’s such fabulously entertaining reading.

SF: Yeah. And why Sherlock Holmes to this day still gets letters to…
JKR: Absolutely, yeah.

SF: 221b Baker Street. And of course, it is a peculiarity that you will be accused both of creating a world in which children can luxuriate in an escapist fantasy and for creating a world that is frightening…
JKR: Mmm.

SF: Because it’s so full of wickedness and danger.
JKR: Mmm.

SF: And that you could upset them. Now they can’t both…
[Both laugh]
SF: They can’t both be true! But I do think it is one of the advances in children’s literature that, that you’ve made with this remarkable series is that you have not held back from the difficult and the frightening and the treacherous and the unjust and all the things that most exercise children’s minds.
JKR: Well I feel very strongly that there is a move to sanitize literature because we’re trying to protect children, not from…necessarily from the grisly facts of life but from their own imaginations. I remember being in America a few years ago and Halloween was approaching and three television programs in a row were talking about how to explain to children it wasn’t real. Now there’s a reason why they create these stories and we have always created these stories and the reason why we have had these pagan festivals and the reason why even the church allows a certain amount of fear. We need to feel fear, and we need to confront that in a controlled environment, that’s a very important part of growing up I think. And the child that has been protected from dementors in fiction, I would argue, is much more likely to fall prey to them later in life in reality. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND CHILDREN NOT PERMITTED TO EXERCISE THEIR IMAGINATIONS ARE FORCED TO BECOME BANKERS AND ACCOUNTANTS. NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT.....(SHUDDER) And also, what are we saying to children who do have scary and disturbing faults? We’re saying that’s wrong. And that’s not natural and it’s not something that’s intrinsic to the human condition that they’re in some way odd or ill. [laughs]

SF: Exactly…
JKR: It’s a very dangerous thing to tell a child.

SF: And guilt is the greatest trigger for aggression that man has and if people grow up thinking they’re peculiar for having dark thoughts or for being aware of the weirder side of the world and their lives, then that’s going to make them awful human beings isn’t it?
JKR: I totally agree.

SF: Because one of the jobs of writing in a sense, is to show you that you’re not alone.
JKR: Yes. Yes it is. And certainly I discovered I wasn’t alone through books I think, arguably more than I did through friendships in my early days because I was quite an introverted child.

SF: Yes.
JKR: And it was through reading that I realized I wasn’t alone in all sorts of levels.

SF: Absolutely and it’s a central anxiety if you like, that the reader always confronts you with Harry, is that there is this extraordinary closeness he has to Voldemort, to One-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, that must be named, and I think that as the series progresses and we feel “Gosh, it’s not long now, what is going to happen?” there’s a great deal of speculation and I’m not asking you to come up with any answers here but there’s a great deal of speculation as to how close this relationship is between the darkest wizard of them all, and our hero who saved the world.
JKR: Well a question I was asked a lot early on, was… “Was Voldemort really Harry’s father?” and of course that’s a Star Wars…. EDITOR'S NOTE: ALL MY FRIENDS, TOGETHER AT LAST.....

SF: Exactly.
JKR: [Laughs] Question really, isn’t it! And, he is NOT going to turn out to be Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. He’s not in a biological sense related to him at all.

SF: No, that’s a very good answer to have. I think that one of the current front-running endings, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, as far as the betting goes is that Harry will finally defeat Voldemort at the expense of all his own powers and that he will end by going into the world as an ordinary Muggle.

SF: Which is an extraordinary idea.
JKR: It’s a good ending.

SF: It is, it is a good end, you can borrow it if you like.
JKR: [Laughs] It would be super-plagiarism by about 13 million children.

SF: This is your problem, isn’t it? you’re not allowed to read anything…
JKR: No, I’m not.

SF: Written by anybody else, just on the off-chance. Well let’s think about the world that you’ve used in terms of its tradition if you like, from little Cornish Pixies to you know, Kelpies and you know, mentions of particular types of plant like Mandraga and so on.
JKR: Mmm.

SF: These are all real and a lot of children will, of course, imagine that you’ve made them out.
JKR: I’ve taken horrible liberties with folklore and mythology. But I’m quite unashamed about that because British folklore and British mythology is a totally bastard mythology you know. We’ve been invaded by people, we’ve appropriated their gods, we’ve taken their mythical creatures and we’ve soldered them all together to make, what I would say, is one of the richest folklores in the world because it’s so varied. So I feel no compunction about borrowing from that freely but adding a…

SF: Absolutely.
JKR: But you’re right yes, that children…either they know, obviously they know that I didn’t invent unicorns but I’ve had to explain frequently that I didn’t actually invent hippogriffs. Although a hippogriff is quite obscure, I went looking because when I do use a creature that I know is a mythological entity…

SF: Yeah.
JKR: I like to find out as much as I can about it. I might not use it, but to make it as consistent as I feel is good for my plot. Very little on hippogriffs, I could…

SF: It’s the map isn’t it, is the Here Be Hippogriffs.
JKR: Yes, exactly. Here Be Hippogriffs, yes.

SF: Yeah, like Heffalumps in Pooh.
JKR: But they don’t seem to have been closely observed by medieval naturalists.

[Both laugh]
JKR: So I could, I could take liberties.

SF: And presumably they are, as the name would imply, and this brings us on to your other love which is language itself at its most basic level…

SF: Of words and derivations that hippogriff is of course a mixture of the Welsh Griffin and the Greek Horse Hippo.
JKR: That’s right.

SF: Which is a perfect example, as you say, of the bastardization of our English folklore, like our language.
JKR: Like our language.

SF: It’s a perfect mixture.
JKR: Which is what makes our language so rich.

SF: Exactly.
JKR: So knobbly and textured, and I love it.

SF: Even things like Mundungus have a meaning.
JKR: Mundungus, isn’t that a fantastic word?

SF: And it means?
JKR: Foul stinking tobacco, which really suits him.

SF: Exactly. Isn’t it perfect?
[JKR laughs]
SF: Now do you actually troll through books of rare words or OED or things or…
JKR: Erm...

SF: Or are they just things that you somehow, you’ve got a good memory for words?
JKR: I don’t really troll books. They tend to be things I’ve collected or stumbled across in general reading. The exception was Gilderoy. Gilderoy Lockhart. The name, Lockhart, although I know it’s quite a well-known Scottish Surname…

SF: Yes.
JKR: I found on a war memorial. I was looking for sort of quite a glamorous, dashing sort of surname and Lockhart caught my eye on this war memorial and that was it. I couldn’t find a Christian name, and I was leafing through the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable one night, consciously looking for stuff generally…

SF: Yes.
JKR: ...that would be useful and I saw Gilderoy who was actually a highwayman and a very good-looking rogue.

SF: Really?
JKR: And Gilderoy Lockhart, it just sounded…

SF: It is a perfect…
JKR: Perfect.

SF: Perfect.
JKR: Impressive and yet, in the middle, quite hollow of course.

SF: A [inaudible] thing, as we know he was.
JKR: As we know.

SF: So. To get down to the really important bit which is me.
JKR: [Laughs] Yes, let’s do you!

[Both laugh]

SF: I wondered if the way I’ve read the books has altered your writing of them.
JKR: I know that I’ve told you this before, there was a time when Jessica, my daughter who’s now ten, she absolutely loves the tapes and there was a time when I was writing Goblet of Fire in particular where I would settle down to work in the evening and I could hear you reading from her bedroom, which really was a mind-warping experience to be writing one book while listening to you reading Chamber or, you know, Azkaban.

SF: Yes.
JKR: It was bizarre and I felt that I couldn’t escape Harry Potter, there was no escape. I could hear him and I could see him and I was writing about him and…

SF: Yes. Certainly I have to say without just clearly meaning to be flattering that the shapes, the phrasing, the balance of sentences does make the books a delight to read in that sense. EDITOR'S NOTE: OK, NOW YOU'RE JUST SUCKING UP.
JKR: Oh that’s really kind.

SF: It really…
JKR: That’s really good to hear.

SF: Sometimes writers have a marvelous sense of writing for the page and the words and that part of the brain that does it.
JKR: Yeah.

SF: But…but reading them out is, is terribly difficult.
JKR: See, I love writing dialogue.

SF: Yeah.
JKR: I really love writing dialogue.

SF: Yeah.
JKR: And uhm...when I hear you reading it, it gives me a whole new sense of pleasure because of course I never read my work aloud.

SF: Mmm.
JKR: And yet hearing the dialogues spoken …

SF: Mmm.
JKR: And I always hear you speak it before I hear actors speak it, is very pleasurable because I’ve always enjoyed writing it.

SF: Each time I do a new book there’s a CD that the engineer at the sound studio produces with all the characters and it’s a…
JKR: I remember, yes.

SF: It’s always good, it’ll have to be a DVD next time.
JKR: Oh sorry!

SF: It’s so that I can remind myself of you know, what Lavender sounded like or what, you know.
JKR: Yes.

SF: What, which particular character.
JKR: Of course.

SF: You know.
JKR: Jessica wanted to know how, how you got Hermione’s voice. She thinks you’re so brilliant at doing Hermione and…and she doesn’t understand how someone with such a deep voice can do a girl’s voice. So I was to ask you that.

SF: That’s a very, that’s an interesting question. I always loved the Scottish comedian Stanley Baxter, do you remember him?
JKR: Yes. [laughs]

SF: And I noticed from a very early age, when I was ten, that when he did a woman he usually deepened his voice. So unlike trying to do a sort of falsetto, he would go [puts on deep voice] "Hello, I’m Faith Douche."
[JKR laughs]
SF: Or whatever. [Deep voice] Some strange character like that. [Normal voice] And actually for a lot of women that works well.
JKR: Yes.

SF: Not for young girls, but for grown-up women that works pretty well.
JKR: So it’s softening the voice really more than…

SF: It’s a sort of softening, exactly.
JKR: Yes. I do, I do remember being there to see you record, and you [laughs], you said to me, "It’s very hard to hiss something with no sibilant in it." [laughs]
[SF laughs]
JKR: Someone had hissed something like “Don’t do that.”
[Both laugh]
JKR: That’s another influence you’ve had on me, every time I want someone to be hissing which Snape does quite a lot, I have to check there’s actually an ‘s’ in it before I… EDITOR'S NOTE: GIGGLE. TOO FUNNY!

JKR: Before I make them do it. [laughs]

SF: Well you see that was with, with Snape and all that’s around him, he’s got three S’s himself.
JKR: Yes, right. [laughs]

JKR: Exactly!

SF: And it's got a slither and it’s…you know, the whole, the whole...
[JKR laughs]
SF: The whole snake-like work is done. Now, a question I’m sure you’re asked a lot and that is for generations now, the ideal child’s hero is Harry Potter. But that didn’t exist when you were a child. Who was the one you went hunting with, the one you…
JKR: Loads.

SF: Well, being with and, you know…
JKR: Loads and loads.

SF: Loads.
JKR: Uhm...I liked the heroine of The Little White Horse, because she was quite plain and I was plain and, and most heroines are very beautiful.

SF: Yes, yeah.
JKR: She was freckly and had reddish hair and I identified with her a lot.

SF: Eloise was a bit like that as well.
JKR: Yes, I love Eloise.

SF: I loved Eloise.
JKR: There was so many, I loved E. Nesbitt. She is still probably the children’s writer with whom I most identify.

SF: Yes.
JKR: She wasn’t very sentimental.

SF: She wasn’t, was she?
JKR: And she loved a quirky detail.
[SF laughs]
JKR: So uhm...yes, I thought she was very, very good. I think the female writers generally are less sentimental about childhood than male writers in my opinion.

SF: I think you’re absolutely right, it’s a strange thing children’s fiction. There’s the boy’s adventure style…
JKR: Yes.

SF: Which you know is, I suppose, the greatest example of them is Treasure Island.
JKR: Yes.

SF: Which is just one of the most immaculately written books of any genre.
JKR: Which is, which is a wonderful book and which I also love, yes.

SF: It is a truly great book, isn’t it? Yeah. And that really has almost no females in it at all. EDITOR'S NOTE: HE SEEMS TO BE TYING THESE TWO THINGS TOGETHER? NO CHICKS, GOOD!
JKR: That’s right.

SF: But what you’ve done is you’ve written a boy's adventure book but…
JKR: But with girls [laughs].

SF: It’s also a girl’s book. Which is actually extraordinary. And, you know, one perhaps shouldn’t over-talk about the idea of gender in it, I remember seeing in a Martin Amis novel, I think it’s the Information [laughs], the characters have an enormous row talking about this very subject. You know, they actually leave the dinner table because of talking about you know, “Women read certain types of book and men read other types of book.” EDITOR'S NOTE: WHICH IS MALARKY, OF COURSE.
JKR: Mm-hmm.

SF: And that it will “Ever be thus.”
JKR: Yes.

SF: But do you find…I expect you get more letters from women, from girls, simply because girls are better at writing letters you said [laughs].
JKR: I have a theory. It was roughly 50% each and my theory is that parents were so thrilled their sons were reading that they would prompt them into writing to me in the hope that they would keep this enthusiasm going. And I occasionally had extraordinary letters from boys - very, very, very touching letters from boys. Arguably more touching, particularly when it’s a letter that’s written by someone who obviously doesn’t find writing very easy, telling me that it’s the first book they’ve ever read and they really like it.

SF: It’s a wonderful compliment.
JKR: Oh yes, it is.

SF: And an extraordinary thought, and it must make you slightly go all pink and…
[Both laugh]

SF: Exactly, yes. “What good is a book,” said Alice, “without pictures and conversations” in Alice and Wonderland which is always a book I think grown-ups actually like more than children though. EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL, DUH. WITHOUT HALLUCINIGENIC DRUGS, HOW CAN YOU MAKE HEADS OR TAILS OF IT. (AND IT IS SO FROWNED UPON TO GIVE LSD TO YOUR KIDS. IN AMERICA, ANYWAY).
JKR: I think so too.

SF: But it’s a splendid comment and a very sophisticated one which is why adults like Alice so much. I wondered if, simply the expense of the first edition of your first book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, whether the issue of illustration had come up? And whether it was just “Well, this is the biggest children’s novel we’ve ever published in terms of size…”
JKR: Yes.

SF: “Length, we’re not going to add to our expense…”
JKR: No.

SF: “By getting Quentin Blake or whoever…”
JKR: No. But you’re absolutely right. That was precisely the argument. They also felt that illustrations might aim it a little bit at a younger audience than they were aiming for.

SF: Yes. I think it turned out to be quite right.
JKR: And they were right. The American edition, which is a very beautifully produced book I must say, they have very small line drawings at the beginning of every chapter, which I like. It’s just a suggestion of what’s to come.

SF: Yes.
JKR: But it’s not full-blown, full-page.

SF: Color plates.
JKR: Exactly, color plates, although I used to love a color plate. I used to flick through to find them before I read the book.

SF: Oh absolutely, absolutely. There was a smell to them, because the paper was shiny and different.
JKR: There was, a very distinctive smell.

SF: Argh! And sometimes they were frightening.
JKR: Yes.

SF: You knew the one was coming that you didn’t quite like for some reason.
JKR: Yeah.

SF: I can still remember them all, it’s weird isn’t it? While on the subject of America, you’re published there by Scholastic is the name, isn’t it?
JKR: Scholastic, yep.

SF: I remember you telling me about your first signing queue in America and…
JKR: Oh that was, yes.

SF: You had really expected a few boys to come with a scar penciled clumsily on their foreheads but you had…
JKR: There was…

SF: You had a woman in gilt.
JKR: [Laughs] That’s right.

SF: Tell us about her!
JKR: We had a woman who dressed up as the Fat Lady, complete with frame hung around her neck. That was extraordinary, and that was the closest I will ever get to being a pop star.
[SF laughs]
JKR: I walked through this door at the back of the store and there were screams, literally screams and flashbulbs going off and I didn’t know where I was. I was completely disorientated. I think as a defensive mechanism, when those events are over, I kind of shutdown and I think I have to shutdown and think that that was a very odd anomaly. And then I have to return to my office and just convince myself that this is just my world.

SF: Yeah.
JKR: I find this a really difficult question to answer myself and I wrote the characters so I don’t see why you should find it any easier really but I’m going to ask. Is there any character with whom you identify particularly?

SF: The easy wisdom and slightly kind of twinkling…
JKR: Of Dumbledore.

SF: Quality of Dumbledore. I’ve always had this love of great teachers, with the first fictional character I, William Ramsey, who created was for a radio program, was an old Cambridge Don, an old...
JKR: I used to listen to... yeah.

SF: [Laughs] Can you remember an Archbishop of Canterbury called Ramsey, the last of the really sort of great and monumental primates of the Church of England, which I don’t [inaudible] of course.
[JKR laughs]
SF: And I remember seeing him being interviewed by a Malcolm Muggeridge type person who said [puts on voices] "Now, you tend to be a very wise man," he said "Am I, am I, am I wise, I wonder, am I wise, am I?"
[Both laugh]
SF: And the interviewer said, “Well, Your Grace, perhaps you could explain what you think wisdom is” “Wisdom? Wisdom. Mmm. Mmm, wisdom. I think it’s the ability to cope.”
JKR: Oh is that…

SF: Which is a marvelous definition, you know. It is…and so right, I mean it comes as you know, it’s the wisdom is the kingdom of wit, it is wit, witdom – wit-knowing, the German of knowing, wissenschaft and so on and in-wit is a marvelous...
JKR: See you are Dumbledore, look.
[SF laughs]
JKR: A sort of teacher.

SF: [Laughs] And that sense of being able to cope with things.
JKR: Yes.

SF: And it’s not how much you know.
JKR: No. Completely different.

SF: And you sense that with that, that rather marvelous, occasionally rather tired, worn quality that Dumbledore has.
JKR: Mm-hmmm.

SF: Because he has experienced so much, and he can cope but he would almost rather not be able to.
JKR: That’s it, that’s exactly right. Dumbledore does express the regret that he is, always had to be the one who knew and who had the burden of knowing.

SF: Yes.
JKR: And uhm...he would rather not know.

SF: But of all, I mean of course, Harry Potter is the one…because he’s the point of consciousness of the book. Harry is the one who undergoes all the tests, the ordeals by fire and all kinds of other things, and as with any hero, you measure yourself against him and there are times when I think I would just run away or…
JKR: Mmm.

SF: Or I wouldn’t care, I’d wave my wand even though I’m not supposed to, you know. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHICH IS WHY YOU ARE NOT THE HERO OF A SAGA, I GUESS.
JKR: My favorite comment about Harry at the time of the first book was, it was a schoolboy who was interviewed on television and asked why he liked Harry, the character, so much and he said “He doesn’t seem to know what’s going on a lot of the time, and nor do I.”

SF: [Laughs] Oh that’s so good.
[Both laugh]
SF: I suppose there are times when you, you know, and I think I mentioned this to you when I first read the Order of the Phoenix, was [inaudible] is so cruel to him, I mean…
JKR: Well Phoenix I would say, in self-defense, Harry had to…because of what I’m trying to say about Harry as a hero, and because he’s a very human hero and this is obviously, there is a contrast between him as a very human hero and Voldemort, who has deliberately de-humanized himself, and Harry therefore did have to reach a point where he did almost break down and say he didn’t want to play anymore, he didn’t want to be the hero anymore and he’d lost too much and he didn’t want to lose anything else. And so that, Phoenix was the point at which I decided he would have his breakdown.

SF: Right.
JKR: And now he will rise from the ashes, strengthened. EDITOR'S NOTE:OOOOOO. LIKE A PHOENIX! OOOOOO.

SF: It is such a primary energy, particularly with children and we lose it I suppose, at our peril, the outrage at injustice which is one of the primary sort of major forces in all the books, isn’t it?
JKR: The feeling of the twelve-year-old boy that they’ve been unfairly accused, the burning sense of outrage, you’re right, we shouldn’t lose that.

SF: Yes.
JKR: But we do, often.

SF: Yeah.
JKR: Adults do.

SF: Yeah. No, that’s quite right.
JKR: I think the thing that I find most extraordinary is…I don’t know how many characters I have in play now…how do you find voices for them? EDITOR'S NOTE: I WONDER THAT OFTEN ABOUT JIM DALE'S READINGS OF THE HP BOOKS. NOW I'M VERY VERY CURIOUS AS TO WHAT STEPHEN FRY SOUNDS LIKE. (HARD TO IMAGINE IT COULD BE AS GOOD AS JIM DALE'S...AS BRILLIANT AS HE IS , BUT IT SOUNDS LIKE IT MIGHT BE)

SF: It’s not a simple thing to answer. I mean, so often they’re there and I hope that generally speaking, I’ve…if not given exactly the voice you imagine that it’s somewhere in that area. I mean there are characters like Tonks which for some reason I just instinctively felt she had that slightly sort of Burnley, you know sort of Jane Horrocks sort of accent.
[JKR laughs]
SF: And it just seemed to fit her exactly and I think…
JKR: It does, yeah.

SF: Yeah, and I think yeah, the producer had the same idea in her head, that it should be that.
JKR: Mm-hmm.

SF: And yet you did…there’s no kind of “Put wood in coal.”
JKR: No.

SF: And “About tat” kind of northern writing in it, it’s just something that’s there and I’m sure it’s just as I’m conscious with you sometimes, that you, you’re writing a smallish character that, use a turn of phrase that makes me think “Now that sounds like a Cockney," or "that’s….that’s an older character or that’s a younger character.”
JKR: Because you knew that Hagrid was West Country.

SF: Yes.
JKR: And that was the only thing I wanted to warn you before you started reading them and my plane was delayed. That was the first time we ever met. And I got there and one of the first things you said to me was “I’ve done Hagrid as a kind of Somerset.”

SF: Yes.
JKR: And I was “Oh, thank goodness for that” because I thought if you make him Glaswegian, I would have to…

SF: [Laughs] No!
JKR: That was the only character I felt protective about, accent-wise.

SF: Yeah.
JKR: What I really enjoy about your reading is, the accents aren’t intrusive. I don’t feel as though you’re in any sense giving a sort of virtuoso performance of “These are as many accents as I can do, or different voices.” You don’t form a big barrier between the listener and the story I feel. Do you know…

SF: I do exactly.
JKR: Do you know what I mean?

SF: That is precisely what one…you know, what I aim for, is not to get in the way of it.
JKR: Yes.

SF: Is for people not to hear the voice after a while. You know how when you’re reading, sometimes you lose it and you find you’re having to go back and…
JKR: Yes.

SF: Because you’re too aware of the letters and the words and then you can read a whole chapter and not be aware of having turned over a page.
JKR: Mm-hmm.

SF: And you know, the print and the paper have not been there.
JKR: That’s right.

SF: And it should be the same with my voice when they’re listening, you know, that the first paragraph or so, but then immediately their mind is in the world of the Dursleys and of Hogwarts and the Knight Bus and everything else and they don’t notice me doing it. And [inaudible] the producer and Helen are very good at making sure that I don’t over-project a voice or you know, overdo something. And the only other problem is the pacing, you know…
JKR: Yes.

SF: I think it’s so important to refresh a page.
JKR: Yes, yes.

SF: You know? Because otherwise it can get a bit lulled and…
JKR: Mm-hmm.

SF: But you mustn’t overdo that either.
JKR: So I...[laughs] I don’t feel I should almost push you that much further but, are there any scenes that you have particularly, or that you can remember enjoying reading?

SF: Well the know the whole creepy stuff at the climax of Order of the Phoenix you know, in the bowels of the Ministry of Magic and so on. I love the fact that it was so frightening and scary and dramatic and I loved, you know, building up the tension and so on of the strange glass orbs and what, what they’re going to mean and then getting stuck behind the doors.
JKR: There are a few children who have told me that they took it in much better when you read it to them, than when they read it on the page and I think that’s because with Phoenix, because people had had to wait three years for it, they raced through it. EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS LIKELY TRUE. BUT WHOSE FAULT IS IT THAT WE HAD TO WAIT SO LONG, HUH???!!!

SF: They read too fast, the leaped ahead and they lost the…
JKR: Really raced it, exactly. And then…

SF: Yeah.
JKR: I’ve had readers say to me “I’ve read it again and there’s a lot more than I thought,” “Well that’s because I think you read it in about an afternoon, didn’t you?” So listening to you, I think has really, yes, given them a sense of where they are.

SF: Is it really true that you’ve got it all planned out?
JKR: Yes, it is really true.

SF: Astonishing.
JKR: Yes, I do know what’s going to happen in the end, and occasionally I get cold shivers when someone guesses.

SF: Yes.
JKR: At something that’s very close. And then I panic and I think “Oh is it very obvious?” and then someone says something that’s so off-the-wall I think “No, it’s clearly not that obvious!”

SF: Good!
JKR: I always leave myself latitude to go on a little stroll off the path, but the path of it is what I’m essentially following. So much that happens in 6 relates to what happens in 7, and you really sort of skid of the end of 6 straight into 7.

SF: Really? Yes.
JKR: You know, it’s not…it’s not the discreet adventure that the others have all been.

SF: Right.
JKR: Even though you have the underlying theme of Harry versus Voldemort, in each case…well you know better than anyone…there has been an adventure that has resolved itself.

SF: Yes, exactly.
JKR: Whereas in 6, although there is, there is an ending that could be seen as definitive in one sense, you very strongly feel the plot is not over this time and it will continue.

SF: Yes.
JKR: It’s an odd feeling. For the first time I’m very, very aware that I’m finishing.

SF: The tape is in sight.
JKR: The end is in sight, yeah.

SF: It’s extraordinary.
JKR: Yes.

SF: Uhm…you’ll always write because it’s a need you have, do you imagine you will write for children next time you write something new?
JKR: Uhm…there is a…

SF: Will you write for the children who were children but are now adults?
JKR: [Laughs] Yes.

SF: Who were your first generation! [laughs]
JKR: I don’t know. Truthfully I don’t know. I am…there is another children’s book that’s sort of moldering in a cupboard that I quite like which is for slightly younger children I would say. But there are other things I’d like to write too. But I think I need to find a good pseudonym and do it all secretly because…

SF: Yes.
JKR: I’m very frightened, you can imagine.

SF: Oh, absolutely.
JKR: Of the unbearable hype that would attend a post-Harry book and…

SF: Yeah.
JKR: Not sure I look forward to that at all.

Robbie's back in home of Cracker
BACK IN THE ROLE: Robbie as Fitz
ROBBIE Coltrane has been amazed by his return to Manchester. "I hardly recognise the place," he smiles.

"I'm up on the 14th floor and I can count 25 cranes, those huge big ones that look like giant insects. That must be the scariest job. I don't suppose they come down for their lunch."

The Harry Potter star is back in the city, filming the return of award-winning Cracker, reprising the role of criminal psychologist Edward "Fitz" Fitzgerald in a new two-hour ITV1 film about change.

"Physically, Manchester has changed unbelievably. I don't understand economics and whenever I see a factory being flattened and flats going up, I say, 'Well, what are the people in the flats going to do now the factory's flat?'

"And I get patted on the head by economic people, who say, 'Well, they're just not doing that kind of thing anymore.' But how many insurance companies can there be?"

Robbie, 55, originally played the role of Fitz between 1993 and 1996, winning three consecutive Best Actor Bafta awards for the character who declared: "I smoke too much, I drink too much, I gamble too much, I am too much."

Fitz rivals Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester's most famous Scotsman but Robbie quit the series, leaving the public wanting more. There's a huge sense of anticipation about next year's screen return.

Relaxing before a night of filming on location at Worsley Golf Club, he's enthused about the new script by Jimmy McGovern.

"Every day of my life I get asked why they didn't make any more Cracker. It's nice that you have something the public remembers that strongly.

"Jimmy and I always left it that if ever he came up with a really great idea - and if it was a strong enough story and we got enough money to do it properly, we would. So we did.

"One of the great fuels for Jimmy's writing has always been anger and moral outrage, and I think he just found an awful lot to be outraged about in the world at the moment. I get angry about all sorts of things, including quite a few of the subjects in the show."

The story sees Fitz return to the city for his daughter's wedding, after working as a lecturer in Australia.

"He's had to wear a tie and behave himself." But he's soon back to his old ways as he arrives in Manchester and surveys a changed skyline.

Was it easy to slip back into the role?

"No, it wasn't, actually, because I guess I've kind of changed a bit. I've got two kids and a slight mellowing has been going on, whereas Fitz hasn't mellowed at all. He's still mad, bad and dangerous to know."

It's not just the streets that have changed. So have attitudes.

"The way people are politically apathetic now and really only interested in one wee subject. It's true. People will get really exercised about saving the whales, and if you start talking about the relationship between capital and labour, they don't know what you're on about." EDITOR'S NOTE: ONE OF MY DAD'S BIG BUGABOOS...ONE-ISSUE VOTERS. LIKE THE WHOLE THING ISN'T INTERCONNECTED AND THERE ISN'T A BIG PICTURE WHERE PEOPLE'S (POLITICIANS') PRINCIPLES AND ACTIONS DON'T COUNT TOWARDS A LARGER SENSE OF CHARACTER.


Reflecting on this week's first Commons clash between Tony Blair and new Tory leader David Cameron, he adds: "Politics has got like that, hasn't it? If you watched Blair and buggerlugs EDITOR'S NOTE: BUGGERLUGS? talking, it looks like an old boy's club, doesn't it?"

As fate would have it, Robbie has just finished playing the prime minister in a new film called Stormbreaker.

"That was very funny - but it was meant to be funny," he laughs.

Would he like the job for real?

"Absolutely not. I don't know how any of them get past 45. They don't get any sleep. People wake them up in the middle of the night. I wouldn't do it for all the tea in China. I think you really must want it real bad, as the Americans say."

With fellow Scot Gordon Brown in line to take over at No 10, he adds: "There was a big article the other day talking about the `Tartan Mafia' running Britain and how wrong it was. I thought that was really offensive. Would you say that if it was Jewish people, or women, or gay men?" EDITOR'S N OTE: WELL OF COURSE THEY WOULD. IF IT ISN'T BEING RUN BY PASTY WHITE OLD GUYS, IT'S WORTHY OF COMMENT.

Born Robert MacMillan on the outskirts of Glasgow, Robbie has always been a straight talker. He took the surname of jazz legend John Coltrane and was known in the early part of his career as a comedy performer, with roles in The Comic Strip and Blackadder.

Tutti Frutti
But there was more to Robbie than funny turns. He attracted wider attention in BBC TV's Tutti Frutti, the story of Scot rock band The Majestics, alongside Emma Thompson and Richard Wilson.

Fitz opened previously closed doors. He was so memorable as Russian Bond baddy Valentin Zukovsky in Goldeneye, that the 007 producers asked him back for The World Is Not Enough.

His private life is out of bounds. In 2003, it was reported that he had separated from sculptress wife, Rhona. The couple have two children, son Spencer, 13, and daughter Alice, eight.

It was his children who helped convince him to take the role of Rubeus Hagrid, the half giant gamekeeper in the Harry Potter films. His own education may explain why Hagrid is so happy to live outside the walls of Hogwarts. "Having been to public school, I would really hate to go to jail."

He reveals he's yet to sign up for the fifth Harry Potter film, to be made next year. "We don't know yet. It's not negotiated yet." EDITOR'S NOTE: HE MUST. HE ABSOLUTELY MUST!

WizardRobbie is also surprised at reported remarks by actor Jim Dale, who voices the teenage wizard in the US audio books, that author JK Rowling has killed Harry off in her seventh and final novel.

Has she told Robbie the ending? "No, she hasn't. I asked her not to. She told me what happens to Hagrid, because I couldn't do it unless I knew what the story was."

As dusk approaches over the nearby dew-soaked first hole, I wonder if Robbie is game for another round of Cracker after this return.

"Yeah," he replies. "It wouldn't be a series. I don't want to be locked into that.

"This one is a really clever script with a couple of twists.

"I think it's going to be fab - I still get that buzz."

Photo from deleted bathroom scene in GOF
Thanks to Harry Media and UHP for this image from a deleted scene in the fourth movie, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The pic shows Harry walking in the prefects' bathroom carrying the golden egg.


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