Friday, December 16, 2005

OddBob's Corner (yet again)

The Top 7 Differences If Peter Jackson and Michael Jackson Switched Places
7> Sauron? A giant, hideous prosthetic nose.

6> Black Riders actually whiter than Shadowfax.

5> When Pete jumps on top of a car to dance, he puts a big ol' dent in the roof.EDITOR'S NOTE: NOT SO MUCH ANY MORE.

4> Gollum's split-personality monologue much shorter: "I'm bad, I'm good, you know it!"

3> Macaulay Culkin's "Frodo" sports tiny neoprene hotpants, dangles Gollum over the Crack of Doom.

2> Liv Tyler replaced with that kid from "Two and a Half Men."

and the Number 1 Difference If Peter Jackson and Michael Jackson Switched Places...

1> Hey, those aren't dwarfs, they're just little boys with glued-on beards! EDITOR'S NOTE: ODD ODD ODD, BOB.

The Top 9 Things Not to Say to King Kong on a Date

9> "Is that an aircraft carrier in your tightly clenched fist, or are you just happy to see me?"

8> "Ever think of shaving your back?"

7> "Godzilla is a better dancer."

6> "See those airplanes? They can climb higher than you can."

5> "Somehow, I thought it would be bigger."EDITOR'S NOTE: OH SO WRONG.

4> "Ya know, Kong, a wink and a nudge are sufficient indications of your naughty desires. You didn't have to climb the tallest building in town."

3> "AIIIEEEE! PUT ME DOWN! PUT ME... hey, I can see my apartment from here!"

2> "Honey, one more operation and I'll be all woman!"

and the Number 1 Thing Not to Say to King Kong on a Date...

1> "No, you're great, King. It's just that Grape Ape is better at expressing his feelings."

Friday Star Wars Pictures


The stormy and frigid weather the crew experienced in Tunisia during principal photography was not very Tatooine-like.

Terryl Whitlatch illustrates concepts for Senators 5 & 6 -- who will eventually be realized as practical creature effects to become Orn Free Taa and Passel Argente. Note Bib Fortuna, who at this point was to be Orn Free Taa's aide.

This bulky, outdated astromech droid forms a convincing piece of corroded set dressing for the Jawa auction scene in A New Hope.

Ralph McQuarrie's illustrations of Yoda's home includes a garden of bulbous fungal growths.

Utapau from space, surrounded by its brood of moons.

A collection of Yuzzum concepts illustrated by Nilo Rodis Jamero -- originally, Endor was to be seen inhabited by both Ewoks and Yuzzums. Note the "summer cut" fur design to help the Yuzzums cool off in the hot months. EDITOR'S NOTE: SORT OF LIKE LAMBIES ON STILTS!

In a scene cut from the movie, Anakin Skywalker greets Chancellor Palpatine at the Senate building, where the elder statesman casually discusses "unfounded" rumors of Obi-Wan Kenobi carrying on with a female Senator.

General Grievous' dirt-tearing wheelbike was realized as a very intricate computer-generated model.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Another MishMash



Christmas films
A long-time favourite of Tinseltown, the season of goodwill has been immortalisedEDITOR'S NOTE: YEP, FROM A BRIT PAPER. in various forms - from the sweet (Holiday Inn) to the downright nasty (A Nightmare Before Christmas).

Tackle our ten questions of Christmas and discover if you're top of the tree or an ignorant turkey,5952,413580,00.html

MoMA exhibition celebrates 20 years of art from Pixar
NEW YORK -- For once, kids might be dragging their parents to the museum instead of the other way around.

A new exhibition showcases some very recognizable images for anyone who has sat in a movie theater over the past decade -- Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Nemo's dad Marlin -- all creations of artists at Pixar Animation Studios.

But anyone visiting the show at the Museum of Modern Art who thinks it's going to be all about digital monitors and computer-generated images, think again.

"Pixar: 20 Years of Animation" is filled with paintings, drawings, sculptures -- all the traditional tools of animation.

"We wanted to make sure that people understood that computer animation wasn't created by pushing a button," said Steven Higgins, the main curator of the show. "The preparation work is done with traditional pencil and paper just like animation has always been done."

The show opened Wednesday at the museum and runs through Feb. 6EDITOR'S NOTE: SOUNDS PRETTY NIFTY!


Showtime may book 'Arrested'
Will the pay TV environs of Showtime be a friendlier place for the Emmy-winning comedy "Arrested Development"?

Word around town this week is that Showtime is in talks with "Arrested" producers 20th Century Fox TV and Imagine TV about picking up the comedy from creator/executive producer Mitch Hurwitz.

Sources stressed that the talks are still exploratory and that it would be a big financial commitment on Showtime's part to pick up the show in its current form with a large ensemble cast that includes Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Portia de Rossi, Jessica Walter and Will Arnett. EDITOR'S NOTE: SOUNDS LIKE A NEGOTIATION STATEMENT FOR LOWER SALARIES, HUH?

"Arrested" was an instant hit with critics following its debut on Fox in late 2003, but the show never could pull in much of a crowd during its run on Fox Broadcasting Co., even after it won the Emmy for best comedy series in 2004. Last month, Fox threw in the towel, cutting its episode order for "Arrested's" third season from its initial 22-episode ticket to.

Reps for Showtime, 20th and Imagine declined comment late Tuesday

Networks Try Telenovelas: Cheap Summer Entertainment?
A media critique by Wayne Friedman, Thursday, December 15, 2005
WHAT WITH THE STANDARD FLUX of sitcoms, procedural crime dramas, reality shows, and medical shows, prime-time genres have been pretty stale over the last few years.

Now ABC and CBS, as well as a bunch of other producers, are looking to break out a bit in the summer--their experimentation time--by producing English-language versions of Spanish-language style "telenovelas," focused mainly on love and betrayal. EDITOR'S NOTE: OH GOODY. NOW ENGLISH-LANGUAGE TV CAN LOWER THAT LAST LITTLE BIT DOWN TO THE TAWDRY AND RIDICULOUS LEVEL OF SPANISH-LANGUAGE TV. (NOT THAT IT'S A STEEP DROP, BUT IT'S NICE TO KNOW WE WON'T HAVE TO PUT UP THAT FIGHT ANY MORE).

ABC and CBS are looking at telenovelas as short-term programming efforts--perfect for the summer. These limited series could run perhaps twice, or up to five times, a week, and resolve all plots after two or three months of summertime airing.

Running English language telenovelas will also have the side benefit of attracting growing U.S. bilingual Latin-American viewers already familiar with the format.

And, yes, there is an economic reason behind all of this--programming costs to produce these efforts would be lower than standard scripted fare. EDITOR'S NOTE: YEAH. THEY SAVE MONEY ON WRITERS SINCE IT'S MOSTLY SEX SCENES AND SOAP OPERA BABBLING. (I FORESEE THE NEXT 'REALITY' SHOW.....WRITE A TELENOVELA). PLUS THEY SAVE A LOT ON COSTUMING, SINCE THE NUBILE BODIES ARE ONLY SEMI-CLOTHED. Still, networks should be cheered in coming up with another prime-time category--and making good their efforts to bulk up their schedules with more scripted programming.

Lower economic costs could perhaps be even a bit lower now that Jonathan Prince and Madison Road Entertainment are linked to some prospective telenovela projects. Madison Road is the branded entertainment agency that has integrated projects into a number of shows--including "The Apprentice," and "America's Next Top Model."

Both networks have said that product integration could be part of these summer series. EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL OF COURSE THEY WILL! SO THEY SAVE ON PROPS AND SETS TOO, SINCE THOSE WILL BE PROVIDED BY PAYING ADVERTISERS. SIGH....All this is consistent with summertime fare such as reality and game shows, which typically throw many products into shows.

The subject matter of telenovelas seems too simple: love and betrayal, on a closed-end series. Existing Spanish-language telenovelas also seem to be pared down versus standard primetime programming--these dramas are produced on video, not film, and there are few costly exterior location scenes. EDITOR'S NOTE: NOT TO MENTION, NOT MUCH ACTING. (HAMMING, YES. ACTING...NOT SO MUCH).

This would then work well with viewers in the summer--who have shown they are too busy with other stuff to get really involved with new ongoing series. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND DURING THE REST OF THE YEAR THE VIEWING PUBLIC HAS SHOWN ITSELF TO BE DEEP?As is evident from the popularity of reality shows in previous summers such as "Big Brother" and "Dancing With the Stars," summertime viewers like stripped-down entertainment that'll end quickly. EDITOR'S NOTE: IS IT VIEWERS THAT WANT THAT, OR PENNY-PINCHING NETWORK PROGRAMMERS?


Twentieth TV to Roll Out Desire
In 2006, Twentieth Television will introduce Desire, a new one-hour strip franchise of multiple English-language telenovelas formatted from Latin America.

A minimum of three telenovelas per year (65 episodes each) will be reproduced for U.S. distribution under the Desire banner.

Included will be Table for Three from Columbia's Carolco, and Cuban program Fashion House from Miami's XYSTUS.

Each Desire miniseries will be stripped Monday through Friday over a span of 13 weeks. Desire has been cleared on the Fox owned-and-operated television stations group, representing almost 45 percent of the country.

"The telenovela is one of television's most enthralling genres, with a stellar track record in securing a passionate and loyal audience," said Bob Cook, president and COO of Twentieth Television. "We feel the U.S. market for English-language telenovelas presents a unique opportunity to develop and produce quality content that attracts viewers and allows us to establish a foothold in this exciting and emerging genre."EDITOR'S NOTE: DOES ANYONE ELSE'S BRAIN GO NUMB AND SORT OF FREEZE-UP WHEN ONE OF THE PR HACKS (OR CEOS) STARTS BABBLING? OR IS THAT JUST ME?


THE DA VINCI CODE Trailer Premieres

POSEIDON Trailer is now offering the trailer for Warner Bros.' POSEIDON. The film opens in theaters on May 12th, 2006.

From the official site:

"When a rogue wave EDITOR'S NOTE: DONCHA HATE IT WHEN WAVES GO ALL NAUGHTY AND BAD LIKE THAT?! capsizes a luxury cruise ship in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, a small group of survivors find themselves unlikely allies in a battle for their lives. Preferring to test the odds alone, career gambler John Dylan (Josh Lucas) ignores captain’s orders (Andre Braugher) to wait below for possible rescue and sets out to find his own way to safety. What begins as a solo mission soon draws others as Dylan is followed by a desperate father (Kurt Russell) searching for his daughter (Emmy Rossum) and her fiancé (Mike Vogel), a young couple who hours before couldn’t summon the courage to tell him they were engaged and now face much graver challenges. Along the way they are joined by a single mother (Jacinda Barrett) and her wise-beyond-his-years son (Jimmy Bennett), an anxious stowaway (Mia Maestro) and a despondent fellow passenger (Richard Dreyfuss) who boarded the ship not sure he wanted to live but now knows he doesn’t want to die. Determined to fight their way to the surface, the group sets off through the disorienting maze of twisted steel in the upside-down wreckage. As the unstable vessel rapidly fills with water each must draw on skills and strengths they didn’t even know they possessed, fighting against time for their own survival and for each other." EDITOR'S NOTE: HERE'S A GUESS...THE KID LIVES. THE CAPTAIN DIES? JUST GUESSING......


Christensen, Haas, Ribisi join 'Eden'

Lukas Haas, Giovanni Ribisi and Erika Christensen have signed on to topline indie "The Gardener of Eden" for Appian Way.

Penned by Adam "Tex" Davis, the dark comedy centers on a young man who accidentally saves a girl from a neighborhood assault and then decides his calling in life is to become a modern-day hero. Kevin Connolly will make his directorial debut.

Appian Way in association with IEG Virtual Studios is producing the film with the 7th Floor. Appian Way's Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Simpson are producing along with 7th Floor's Allen Bain. Graham King and Benjamin Waisbren of IEG Virtual Studios and Jesse Scolaro and Darren Goldberg of the 7th Floor are executive producing.

Fox Sends Jackman FED X
Twentieth Century Fox has bought the script FED X for Hugh Jackman to star in.

Written by Dario Scardapane, the story centers on a green FBI agent sent to Miami to retrieve a criminal for prosecution. During the return trip, the fed and the thug each learn there's more to the other than expected. EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR, DOESN'T IT? "CINDERELLA LIBERTY", MAYBE? (NOT THAT IT MATTERS....HUGH JACKMAN. I'M THERE).

Hugh Jackman and John Palermo will produce FED X via their Seed Productions banner.

Sony Bumps GHOST
Sony has moved the release date of GHOST RIDER, starring Nicolas Cage, to February 16, 2007. Originally, it was supposed to be released on July 14, 2006. EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL THERE GOES MY PLANNING CALENDAR ALL TO HECK! (SNICKER)

The new date still allows some space between RIDER and SPIDER-MAN 3, which will be released three months later in May. In addition, RIDER no longer has to open so close to SUPERMAN RETURNS, which opens on June 30, 2006.

The biggest headache is for Marvel Studios, who must change their plans for ancillary tie-in deals.


Top exhibitors roll out blueprint for d-cinema
By Nicole Sperling
In a move that constitutes the largest exhibitor commitment yet to digital cinema, Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Entertainment Inc. and Cinemark USA have partnered to work on the development of a digital cinema business plan.

National CineMedia, the joint venture owned by the three companies that was founded to create a national digital preshow advertising network, will manage the process under the guidance of NCM chairman and CEO Kurt Hall.

The plan will be open to all industry exhibitors as well as NCM's founding partners with the goal of driving down digital cinema costs from the sheer size of NCM's network of theaters.

"NCM's primary objective is to work with manufacturers to reduce the cost of digital cinema equipment through volume purchasing for NCM partners' 13,000 screens and other participating exhibitor screens," Hall said. "NCM will also seek to develop an efficient financing structure for the purchase of the digital cinema equipment that will be open to all capital sources and that will provide a transparent, cost-effective arrangement for exhibitors, distribution partners, capital providers and all other key constituents."Hall added, "Once the financing model and equipment volume pricing has been established, our founding partners and other exhibitors who participate will have ultimate responsibility for deployment of digital cinema systems."

The business plan, while not fully developed, is expected to be based on a virtual print fee model, under which the studios bear the brunt of the costs for each digital print in theaters. The plan is similar to those being proposed by other financing vehicles hoping to roll out digital cinema, such as AccessIT's subsidiary Christie/AIX and Technicolor Digital Cinema.

Hall said NCM's plan is an "open-book financing plan," whereby all parties can see how the contributed funds are being allocated.

AccessIT and Technicolor have signed content deals with the majority of the studios.

When asked whether the NCM effort would bypass those being put forth by AccessIT and Technicolor, Hall said that he would be happy to talk to either of the parties regarding financing but has not. In-depth talks with the studios also have not taken place.

"The studios have done a great job with digital cinema through (the Digital Cinema Initiative). Now with this approach, the exhibitors are coming to the table. It's a natural point for this to happen given all the work distribution has done," AMC chairman and CEO Peter Brown said.

"This could be a win-win plan for the exhibitor members of NCM and the studios," Regal Cinemas CEO Mike Campbell said. "It could potentially give us some additional efficiencies in regards to the purchase of digital equipment and could give the studios additional cost savings. The studios have already committed to paying virtual print fees to the digital cinema initiatives already announced. We believe we can present something to the studios that's even more efficient if we can aggregate the NCM screens."

It is not clear how the studios will respond to such a plan, but theater owners are optimistic that a common goal should allow them to work with the studios. Said Cinemark vp marketing and communications Terrell Falk: "We all want the same thing -- high-quality presentation on our screens at a reasonable cost with few technical issues. If we work together, we can come up with a positive end result."

Hall's company has spent the past three years operating a national Digital Content Network that deploys digital preshows and other live and prerecorded digital content. The company, first owned by Regal, partnered with AMC in March to form National CineMedia; Cinemark joined in July.

Once deployment of the DCN is complete, its network will comprise 11,000 digitally equipped screens nationwide.The network is not DCI-compliant at this time, but Hall said that it has the capability to become so by plugging into higher-end equipment.EDITOR'S NOTE: SO. SLOWLY SLOWLY SLOWLY. AND ONLY ABOUT 6 YEARS AFTER UNCLE GEORGE TRIED TO MAKE IT HAPPEN. THE MOVIE WORLD IS FINALLY ALMOST COMING INTO THE DIGITAL AGE. (WHICH MEANS THAT UNCLE G IS PROBABLY ALREADY ONTO PUSHING FOR SOME STEP BEYOND MERE DIGITAL, I BET?)

SAG election, leadership challenged

Three current and former New York-based SAG leaders have challenged the results of the fall election on grounds that their political rivals allegedly used an illegally obtained e-mail list to contact members in violation of guild and Department of Labor rules. EDITOR'S NOTE: THESE CREATIVE UNIONS JUST CAN'T PLAY NICE, HUH? IT'S LIKE THE "ON THE WATERFRONT" BUT WITH A LOT MORE COSMETIC SURGERY.

The challenge, filed with the DOL last week by SAG national vp Paul Christie, New York vp Sam Freed and former New York president Eileen Henry, also claims that the newly elected leadership, including SAG president Alan Rosenberg, is using its power to impede an investigation into this matter. EDITOR'S NOTE: AWWW...SWEET LITTLE ALAN? SAY IT AIN'T SO!

"At issue is not only the taint of the recent election but the future threat to the democratic process within the union if the current leadership is permitted to retain the advantage of confidential member information for political use," according to the election challenge. SAG officials said Friday that they had not yet reviewed the challenge.



An image and information for the SUPERMAN THROUGH THE AGES Action Figure Gift Set has been released by DC Direct. The set consists of four different 6" scale versions of Superman, including the Jim Lee Superman, John Byrne Superman, First Appearance Superman and Robot Superman.

Each figure features a new head and cape, multiple points of articulation and a display base. This set is packaged in a 4 color window box with a full-size 48-page comic book compiling material from ACTION COMICS #1, SUPERMAN (Second Series) #7, and AMAZING WORLD OF SUPERMAN.

The set will go on sale August 16, 2006. EDITOR'S NOTE: I JUST ABOUT CAN'T HARDLY WAIT.

Star Wars Misc.


Don't Heckle Darth Vader reports:

"Star Wars Anakin Skywalker, aka actor Hayden Christensen, let at least one recent New York detractor see his Darth Vader dark side.

The Canadian actor is currently filming the movie, "Awake," in New York with Jessica Alba.

He was leaving his trailer the other day when he was approached by what appeared to be a fan seeking an autograph, the New York Post reported Tuesday. But instead of asking for his John Hancock, the "fan" yelled at the actor: "You ruined the 'Star Wars' movies!"

A source on the set told the Post Christensen "chased the guy down the street and scared him away." A spokeswoman for the Weinstein Co., which is producing "Awake," declined comment."

Fashionable Star Wars Timepieces from Japan
For those who like to accessorize with a bit of sophisticated Star Wars flair,EDITOR'S NOTE: AND WHO DOESN'T!? Japan's GSX company has released the first in a cool new line of high-end Star Wars watches.

From the company's sleek GSX 500 series, the new
stormtrooper edition watch depicts the signature features of the iconic trooper helmet with an understated streamlined elegance.

What's more, a "phantom" Imperial logo reveals itself on the dial's lens when turned in the light, which lends some added dimension to the watch face. The modern feel and restrained use of Star Wars iconography should make this watch a favorite among fans, and most especially among trooper aficionados.

The edition size for the stormtrooper watch is 1,977, commemorating the first film's year of release. In Japan, these will retail for approximately 59,000 Yen, or $495.

An extremely limited
Darth Vader edition watch is also being released alongside the trooper edition, but features more robust styling and added features including a Death Star moon phase indicator. The Star Wars logo and Imperial insignia are discreetly showcased among three smaller dials on the watch face, which includes a calendar, stopwatch, and military time indicator.

The entire watch is finished in a gun-metal black, with the Imperial logo reprinted on the case's reverse and crown. The Darth Vader edition comes with an edition size of just 300, and will retail for 168,000 Yen in Japan, or $1,410.

Each watch comes with an etched edition number on the reverse and comes packaged in a handsome black laquer box. is working to bring several of these fashionable timepieces to its shoppers, so check back soon for updates.

Voting Begins! May The Choice Be With You
As reported yesterday, Hasbro and ToyFare have teamed up to determine the next Star Wars Fan's Choice Poll for 2006.

This figure will be available to everyone in the basic figure line, not an exclusive.

The entire universe is yours to choose from! If you want to see your favorite character made into an action figure, then Vote now and let your voice be heard.

Happy Holidays from Uncle George



Lucasfilm Holiday Greetings 2005
For nearly 30 years, Lucasfilm has created special holiday greeting cards for its employees and business partners, a tradition which continues for the 2005 holiday season.

In the past, the artwork chosen to grace the cards often reflected themes or events unique to the Lucasfilm family of companies, whether it's a suited-up Santa Yoda with a sleigh full of gifts, a snowflake composed of the company's various parts, or a move away from an old home into a new one.

Lucasfilm's first major move occurred way back in 1979, when stakes were pulled in Los Angeles so the company could move en masse to their new digs in San Rafael. A whimsical moving card was devised by saga artist Ralph McQuarrie for the event, depicting a cast of Star Wars characters, creatures and vehicles caravanning north on Highway 101.

For Lucasfilm's recent move to the Presidio from their homes in the North Bay Area, ILM artist Christian Alzmann decided to pay homage to McQuarrie's classic image with a clever spin on the original for this year's Lucasfilm holiday greeting card.

"The company has only moved one other time," explains Alzmann, "and I thought, what a great homage it would be to put all of the new prequel elements into the original card design.

Lucasfilm has helped create so many more film icons since the move to Northern California, and I kind of wanted a chance to include all of them."

Alzmann, who's worked at ILM for nearly seven years, currently holds an art director position, creating concept art for projects and helping ILM CG production realize their concepts to their filmed completion.

Alzmann's holiday card design, which has expanded on McQuarrie's original image to include Lucasfilm's extended cast of film and video game characters, depicts a parade of droids, cantina band members, dinosaurs, a mounted Nelwyn, a swinging adventurer, an "armed and dangerous" robot, and many other Lucasfilm characters, creatures, and vehicles making the journey across San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.

The artist initially envisioned a composition much closer to McQuarrie's original, with the classic Star Wars elements replaced by new ones found in the prequels. However, Lucasfilm has grown immensely since those early Star Wars days, and wanted to incorporate the new members that have since joined its growing family, as well as others created by the artists at Industrial Light & Magic.

Sharp-eyed viewers might have spotted the dual Tatooine suns setting behind the Skywalker and Big Rock Ranch properties, signifying the end of an era. Of course, the illustration also holds the promise of a sunrise on Lucasfilm's new Presidio shore, where a new era of creativity and growth is already warming up.

Fans can check out more works by Alzmann at his website by clicking here.

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.