A Nice Harry Potter Fix
By: Noel de Souza
The drive from the Dorchester Hotel in London to the Leavesden Studios is usually scenic, filled with green parks and lawns. But this year global warming has taken its toll and there are expanses of dried brown grass everywhere.
Leavesden Studios is where they manufactured war planes during the Second World War. The Harry Potter series of films was looking for a permanent place to build its sets and shoot the films. Leavesden seemed ideal. They didn’t change much about the structure either, leaving the low ceilings in place, forcing directors to be inventive.
I was dropped off at a tent structure for breakfast; the walls of the tent were lined with story-board drawings of the current Harry Potter film — The Order of The Phoenix — being directed by David Yates, the first English director to direct a Potter film.
Magic at the movies with Yates
What qualities do you have that would enable you to direct the film?
Editor's Note: SPOILERS ALERT!!!.....if you haven't read the book.
David Yates: The core of J K’s book is emotional: we see the death of Sirius; Harry Potter has no mum or dad and the only thing he clings to obviously is friends and his relationship with Sirius Black. I think what the producers were looking for when they asked me to do this was to make sure we had a story that felt emotionally rich and that’s what I’m trying to bring to it.
Were you shocked when you were approached?
I was surprised. It was a great honour to be asked. I hadn’t read the books. I was walking in Cornwall, south England. I was on a coastal walk when I got the phone call from my agent and they said they’d like me to look at Harry Potter and they sent me the book. I read it in a week and I loved it; I fell in love with it. And I suddenly caught up with everybody else. Then I went to see David Heyman the producer who’s a delightful man, and I thought the experience would be fun. And it has proved to be, so far, just incredible fun. Editor's Note: Wonder if he's gone back and read the other books as well? Or just the one he's directing?
What specifically are you doing to make this film uniquely yours?
It’s probably a little more emotional than the others; it’s a little more grown up, inevitably because of the story. And in terms of the reality of magic it’ll feel a bit more raw and edgier, darker and tougher than the others. In terms of my contribution, I’d say it would be to kind of grow the films up as the books are growing up.
Harry gets his first kiss in the film; how did you approach the scene?
Most of the crew working on these films has been working with Daniel (Harry Potter) since he was little and the day we shot the kiss, they gathered around the monitor.They needed to see this moment, experience it, because for them, Daniel was really as much a son, because they’ve seen him go through all these changes as he’s growing up. Editor's Note: yeah...like a son. They're all pervs, just like the rest of us. Own up! And they got quite emotional watching his first kiss, it was a very interesting experience and I wanted make it feel as real and truthful as possible. We did many, many, many takes and it’s very tender and loving, as the first kiss should be.
Wandering around the sets, I discover that the entire production occupies eight stages with three sets on each stage and it takes 1,500 people to work on these sets.
Fifteen people work in the prop department and 90 per cent of the props for the Potter films are made specifically for the film.
Coming upon Grimmauld’s Place, I notice a tapestry with the design of Sirius Black’s family tree; this, I am told, is designed by J K Rowling herself.
The Room of Requirements at Hogwarts is of particular significance in this film, for it is here that Harry has his first kiss with Katie Leung, a young 18-year-old Asian actress who was discovered in Scotland; she’s been playing Cho Chang from the last film. Katie is very soft spoken and unassuming.
Was it easy to act opposite Daniel?
Katie Leung: Yeah, definitely. He’s energetic and makes you feel relaxed. He talks to you all the time and tells you not to be nervous; it’s great working with him.
What happens to her character in this film versus the last; does she get to do magic?
Yeah, Cho Chang actually has a wand in this one, which is great. In the last film Harry had a crush on her but she had a boyfriend so nothing happened. But after her boyfriend died in Goblet of Fire, her relationship with Harry developed in this one. Although, she’s bitter through the whole film because she can’t get over her boyfriend’s death. And that kind of complicates their friendship with each other and it ends in disaster.
Is Daniel a good kisser?
Yes, Daniel is a good kisser, I really enjoyed it. Editor's Note: Bad thoughts....moving on.....
One of the new and unfinished sets is the atrium, a copy of the London Underground, and will be used in the last fight scene between Harry and Voldemort. An English flag left over from the World Cup hangs over this set.
Evanna Lynch plays Hogwarts student Luna Lovegood, a hotly contested role
The dining room is the oldest of the sets – it’s been standing for the last eight years, it seats 350 people, is 40 feet wide and 120 feet long; the floors are made of York stone which was laid for the very first film. This set is impressive.
The second longest standing set is Gryffindor’s common room; the portraits that hang on the walls are of the cast and some of the crew members.
Dumbledore’s office has portraits of former headmasters sleeping, adorning its walls.
The scene being shot is outdoors on a bridge with a blue screen behind; it involves Dan, Rupert, Emma and Matthew and Evanna. The director calls for the 15th take before dismissing the actors. Daniel is the first to walk off the set.
He explains the scene.“It’s all slightly hysterical today because I’ve been back for sort of a month and a half filming but it’s Emma’s first day. And Rupert had about a month or so off, so everyone’s sort of a little bit hysterical that is why we were laughing. I also tripped over Rupert.
We’re doing a scene that leads into the final act of the film where Umbridge has been taken off into the forbidden forest and we reconvene with Ron, Neville, Luna and Jenny. Then we all go off to fight Bellatrix LeStrange and Voldemort. So it’s trying to carry over the intensity from the last scene into this one, but we’ll get there.”
How different is this Potter?
Daniel Radcliffe: Very different so far — this role’s more challenging than the ones I done before. Not physically challenging but in terms of acting, it’s harder to do this one. And then it is different working with David, he’s sort of got a very high quiet voice and he’s soft spoken.This movie is also different because there was a big gap in the middle because we stopped for a month and a half to do school exams and stuff. So the production shut down in the middle, which was very odd because that hasn’t happened before.
Where is he in terms of his academic career?
I’ve just finished my penultimate year at school. So I’ve got a year left. But I’m taking a year out from school next year and then we’re going to sort of look at it all again the year after that.
Is it easy to get back after the breaks?
It might take a couple of days to get back in the swing of things. But because I’ve been playing Harry for so long now, you just sort of get into it very easily now, it becomes less of a challenge to get back into it after time off.
He’s 16. How does he compare his journey to Harry’s?
It’s the same; he has the same pits and troughs as any other kid his age. It’s just that they’re exaggerated in Harry’s story. It’s more than there would be for the average human being, because the average human being does not have magic. And because of the nature of the story, he lives in quite an accentuated world, a sort of heightened reality. I think Harry’s happiest moments are happier than anyone else could ever think of and his saddest moments are again probably more than people could consider.
Could he talk about the romantic aspect in the film?
Obviously it sort of had its beginnings in the fourth film. And this time I would say it comes to fruition. It was great, the kissing scene was great, it was good, and it was a lot of fun.
How does he respond to Katie saying he was a good kisser?
My God. It was fun; me and Katie – we were awkward and nervous at first but once we got it, it was fine.
On which take did he get it?
Probably on the thirtieth.
Is he looking forward to being on stage?
It’s going to be nerve-wracking, but it’s going to be incredibly exciting, it’s a new challenge. It’s something I’ve never done before. I’ve been voice training — learning to project my voice. Most actors go from drama school to the stage and then into film. But I’m sort of doing it the other way around. I’m going from film to stage. And so it’s an unorthodox way of doing it, but it’s going to be quite exciting.
Has playing Harry Potter all these years changed him?
I really don’t know if there has been a huge change in my character as a result of playing Harry. I think I’ve grown up in the way most 10 year olds grow up into 17 year olds; I might have grown up a little bit faster possibly than other people my age simply because I’m around so many adults all the time. Most kids, the only relationship with adults that they have is with their parents and teachers. I’ve been working with adults since I was about 11.
He’s reportedly the sixth richest man in England.
I don’t want to think about that; I try not to pay attention to it, because it’s all speculation really, I think for the most part.
What does he think of Harry’s world and life?
Harry’s life is pretty unfair, because he didn’t ask for any of this. He’s been thrust into this nightmarish world by circumstances and through no fault of his own. I suppose Harry’s situation is the most unfair simply because he doesn’t actually deserve it in the first place; it’s one of the greatest injustices.