As one of the producers of the “Harry Potter” films, David Heyman has done the impossible – he made the beloved books work brilliantly as standalone movies. And the most recent – “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” – is getting some of the best reviews yet. In fact, many have called it the best of the series.
Anyway, while “Half-Blood Prince” has just been released, David and the “Potter” team have been hard at work for the past three months on the final film, which is being released as a two-parter in November 2010 and July 2011. Since he was cool to talk about everything, we spent almost thirty minutes discussing all three films.
After the jump you can read about changes from the book to the screen, deleted scenes, the running time for “Deathly Hallows”, will there be a trailer for part two on part one, how long will the final battle be in part two, what else he’s producing, and a lot more! It’s a great interview and a must-read if you’re a “Harry Potter” fan.
Warning: Spoilers are discussed.
Since the interview is quite long, here are some of the highlights:
- Had a draft of “Half-Blood Prince” that had the opening of the book (the Prime Minister scene). They also had Dumbledore’s funeral at one point.
- They don’t have many deleted scenes for “Half-Blood Prince’s” DVD/Blu-ray. One that is included is Jim Broadbent (Professor Slughorn) posing with more celebrities in the “Potter” universe. Director David Yates cut a montage of all the ones that were cut. Another scene will be the casting of Lavender Brown where you’ll see Rupert and Jessie Cave improvising.
- The tone of “Deathly Hallows Part 1” is a road movie and part 2 is “more operatic with the huge, great battle for Hogwarts.”
- They’re currently on Day 94 out of 250 on the “Deathly Hallows” shoot. The first 50 or 60 days were all for part 1 and now they’re shooting both films.
- The ending of part 2 is one of the last things they’re going to shoot. David also says he expects the ending battle to be around 30 minutes in the movie. He says the gang gets to Hogwarts early on and then they’re a lot of build up to the battle.
- They haven’t decided the length of part 1 and 2. But he expects it to be around 2 to 2 and a half hours per film.
- They haven’t decided if they’re going to put a trailer for part 2 at the end of part 1.
- Says an ultimate collector’s edition of all the films is being planned for down the road.
- Was surprised they got a PG and not a PG-13 on “Half-Blood Prince”
- Developing “The Curious Incident of the Dog and the Nighttime” which Steve Kloves is scheduled to direct. It’s about a young boy with Asperser’s Syndrome. He also is developing a super hero film called “Methuselah”, which is about a man who’s 300 or so years old and whose super powers are born out of his experiences, of having greater experiences than most.
- Not sure when we’re getting the first trailer for “Deathly Hallows Part 1”
- And when I asked him about all the people that have tried to make big movies back to back like “The Matrix” sequels and “Back to the Future 2 and 3″…he said the difference is they “have incredible source material.” He went on to say, “there will be no quality compromised in any way at all.”
Here’s the full interview. Again, if you’re a fan of the “Harry Potter” movies and how they’re made, you’ll love reading this.
Collider: Usually I talk to people before the movie comes out, but I’m talking to you after a record breaking midnight showings.
DAVID HEYMAN: I know. It’s…that’s why I say it’s a good day. I thought it might do okay. The tracking was alright but I had no idea that it would do quite as well as it’s done. And you know who knows if it lasts or if it’s just the first flush but it’s a very exciting beginning.
Definitely. One of the things that fandom seems to be united on and all the online people, myself included, is the movie is just damn good. And so how did this thing turn out so good?
HEYMAN: Well, I mean I said it’s part David Yates and Steve Kloves who are fantastic and Jo [aka J.K. Rowling] supplied us with the book, which I think the advantage we have over so many other franchises. I mean with the Bonds, they have to invent new stories each and every time. We don’t have to do that. We have Jo’s books. But I think that one of the things with this book in particular is that there’s not a clear…it’s not like Voldemort is present throughout it in a tangible way. I mean, he’s casts a long shadow as a result of memories but he’s not there throughout. And so there are other things that are at play and I think we spend more time with the characters in this one. And I think people seem to be enjoying that. You know, the romance and the relationships. And the other thing I think is that David Yates and Steve Kloves have done a brilliant job going back and forth in tone, which is very like Jo’s books, where you have some darkness and then you have the comedy and then you go back to some drama and then you flip back to some comedy. And I think people enjoy that and it’s something that in a traditional development process may get ironed out because you’re trying to have a consistency of tones, but seems to have worked in this case and a thing that Jo, as I say, does so well.
So I definitely have to ask, did you ever have, at any point, the beginning of book 6 in script form to do it? With like the Prime Minister and stuff?
HEYMAN: Oh, yes. In the very first draft the Prime Minister did a scene in it and I loved that scene, but again what it seemed to lead to as we developed it as too many beginnings, which again, was one of the reasons why we cut out the funeral which is one of my favorite scenes in the book. But again, what we felt was with the emotion of Dumbledore’s death and after the fight and then coming back and having the scene in the courtyard when Harry is there with Dumbledore’s body. To then have the funeral felt like it was one step too many. I loved that scene in the book, but it just…it’s part of the adaptation process, you know? It’s capturing the-and I think this really began with the 3rd adaptation with Alfonso Cuaron-where we began to tell the story from Harry’s point of view and things that didn’t relate to Harry were often excised which meant killing some things that you really loved, of course. But we did that and I think with this it’s about capturing the spirit of Jo’s books as much as being literally faithful. I think if we capture the spirit then we’ve done a better job properly than if we were just transposing the book to the big screen.
People still have the book to go back to.
I am curious, for the DVD and Blu-ray, about how many deleted scenes do you think will make it onto that that fans can look forward to?
HEYMAN: You know surprisingly few, oddly enough. This is a film that the script was pretty lean or the film that ended up on the screen is quite close to the script on the screen. There are a few scenes…I mean one of the things that the fans will get to see on the Blu-ray and DVD is Jim Broadbent-Slughorn, there were quite a few portraits we did of him with in various situations. You know, putting his arm around celebrities. There were probably around 25 or 30 of these and only a handful ended up in the final film. So David Yates put together a little montage of all of those, which I think is a treat. But in terms of scenes, and we have a…I think it’s going to be on the Blu-ray and the DVD, is casting for Lavender Brown, which is really fun, where David Yates did this improv with Rupert and Jessie Cave and it was really funny. Letting them.. just seeing them get to know…just doing a bit of scene and then just being…actually they were just improvising and it’s really funny and Rupert’s brilliant. The awkwardness is quite voracious, aggressive, enthusiastic young girl is trying to get Ron’s attention. It’s very funny.
So I definitely want to ask you a few questions about the film you’re currently making-“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”. How would you describe to people maybe the tone of Part 1 vs. Part 2? Are you guys taking a different approach to the different parts?
HEYMAN: Well, I’d say that Part 1 is a road movie. You know Harry, Ron and Hermione are on the run. It’s quite naturalistic in the way it’s been shot. And I think the 2nd half is more operatic with the huge, great battle for Hogwarts. It’s very emotional. It’s funny because normally when I talk to people when we’re releasing a film, we haven’t yet started shooting the next one, and it seems a little bit weird we’re on day 94 of 250 or so talking about HP…you know talking about the 6th film without borrowing into the 7th. But I have to say it’s been hanging over us a little bit, so it’s quite nice to get it out and have it be received well is a treat. But I’d say we’re immersed in “Deathly Hallows” and I think “Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2” are going to be better than “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” I really feel that way as we’re in it. Probably shouldn’t say that with the 6th film out now but I really do feel that.
I have no problem hearing that. So when you’re filming, right now you’re on day 94 as you said, are you filming Part 1 and 2 together or are you doing like 120 days on Part 1 and then the other half? Or are you sort of…
HEYMAN: Oh no, no, no. Because it wouldn’t work that way for actor’s schedules, you know? When you make a deal with an actor you often…you’ve got to deal with spreads and all that. That’s one reason. And two: Emma’s going off to University in September and though she’s coming back in a couple of points to do other scenes and we have to try and get as much…we have to try and complete as much of her work as possible. So no, we’ve been mixing it up so we’ve been going back and forth between those 2 films. The first…I’d say the first 50 or 60 days was only Part 1, but now we’re going back and forth between the two.
When do you actually film in the schedule the ending of the movie-of Part 2?
HEYMAN: That’ll be one of the last scenes we film.
I would imagine that would be a very emotional day on-set.
HEYMAN: Yes it will. It will be an emotional day on-set. Well, talking about the scene where Harry, Ron and Hermione are…
Oh I’m talking about that and the fact that it’s the ending of the filming.
HEYMAN: Well, in terms of the ending of the filming yeah, it’ll be a very emotional day. We are a…I know it’s kind of boring but we are like one happy family. We’ve been together-many of us-since…well I’ve been involved since 1997 but really a lot of the people have been with us since 2000. Stuart Craig since March of 2000 and we started filming in September of 2000 and a lot of the makeup, special effects, the creature effects, some of the visual effects. So many of the people are the same people from way back when and not just senior people but the younger crew. A person who was a runner in the producer’s office on the first film is now head of…in charge of post-production. He’s the post-production supervisor. Another who was a runner on the 2nd film, I think it was, is a key member of the publicity team. So, you know, people have grown up in this film-in this series-and it’ll be really sad. It’ll be an emotional day when the shooting crew says goodbye for the last time.
I’m curious, the running time on Part 6 is 2-1/2 hours. For me, I love it. I have no problems with it. Are you guys aiming for Part 7 for both Part 1 and 2, are you already thinking we want each one to be 2-1/2 hours, or is this going to be more like two 2-hour movies?
HEYMAN: I don’t know is the honest answer. I mean we have a finished script for Part 1 and we’re still working on Part 2. And both scripts are 120 pages or so. They will end up being the length they will be. The decision to make two was really…listen, Warner’s wouldn’t have let us do it if they were going to lose money on it, but it’s actually born out of the fact that when we made the decision that the film tell the story from Harry’s point of view, a lot of material fell by the wayside in subsequent books and subsequent films as it wasn’t connected to Harry. If Steve and I, Steve particularly said we’re going to make one film and then he started to lay it out and there was no way we could do it and complete the story and sew everything up, tie everything up in the right way that we had to make two films out of it. It’s funny, Steve the other day called me and said “You know what? This actually almost material for three. But no, we’re making 2 films and they’ll be 2, 2-1/2, they’ll be what they’ll be. We don’t go in there with a length in mind. Really that’s a fairly organic process. The film finds it’s length.
Because you guys are advertising this as Part 1 and obviously you’re going to have a Part 2 coming out 6-7 months after the first one, are you already thinking at the end of the credits of Part 1 or when the movie ends, putting a trailer? Is that going to be like the first time we see a trailer for Part 2 will be in the theatre?
HEYMAN: I have no idea. We haven’t really talked about that. We have talked during the development process about whether we wanted to recap in any way at the beginning of Part 2 and at the moment we’re not doing that. But yeah, I suspect…I have no idea as I’m sitting here talking to you, I have no idea. I’m sure there’ll be all sorts of marketing maneuvers and opportunities that we’ll discuss. It’s funny I was talking to Sue Krawl today who’s head of marketing at the studio and I said we should really…I said it’s easy for me to say because you have so many movies to deal with but it’d be really great to get a really good head start on Part 2 and discussing how you’re going to handle the fact that they’re only 7 months between the 2 films and how much weight marketing-wise do you put on the first. Is it too much having films so close together, etc, etc. So we began talking, having initial talks. We had no decision or discussion about where the 1st trailer’s going to be.
Have you already thought about, down the road, re-releasing any of the films with like extra content or doing anything special once all 7 are out theatrically?
HEYMAN: We haven’t done that but we have talked about the ultimate collector edition and things like that, which we’re already working on. I’m sure the DVD’s will find themselves repackage every which way over the coming years. But we are developing the ultimate collector’s edition and I’m sure…and there’s additional material that’s going on each of those, but there’s been no discussion about repackaging the films with cut scenes or in different ways, not yet.
And you got away with a PG rating on Part 6. I have to say…
HEYMAN: That was, by the way, that was a “mistake”. I mean it’s not like anything we went for or could have predicted. It was just something that the rating board felt that the film deserved. I’m somewhat surprised because, I mean you’ve seen the film, I think that it, in some ways, is every bit as dark as “Order of the Phoenix”. Maybe looser, the darkness may be leavened by the comedy. And I don’t think of them as “dark” films, per say, but the films are mature. And just like the books don’t talk-down just as Jo doesn’t write-down to the audience, but the last one got a PG-13. I’m somewhat surprised that this didn’t too.
So I was going to ask you with Part 7, I’m assuming you guys are aiming for a PG-13 as you’re shooting it.
HEYMAN: I don’t think you go…we don’t discuss PG-13 or PG. We just discuss….what happened was we showed some material…we showed…it’s a sensitive issue like the Inferi which the design might have disturbed some people. Things like that. We try and get an indication of is this too dark? Is this going to push us towards an R? But anything less than an R we’re comfortable with. An R is not acceptable, obviously. The PG or PG-13 is fine. You can’t go in there with an okay we’re going for a PG or oh, we’re going for a PG-13. It’s just whatever the film will abide.
You mentioned that your shoot for Part 7 is 250 days. What was your shoot for movie 6? How many days was it?
HEYMAN: I can’t remember exactly but it was over 130.
So for your 2-parter it’s pretty much just doubling everything?
HEYMAN: Yeah, it’s a little less than doubling everything because the kids are able to work a little longer hours because they are older. We only have them still for 9-1/2 hours, which was the traditional time we had them on strike, but where as before they had to take 3 hours for education, a hour for lunch, a 15 minute break every hour. Now they no longer have their education because they’ve graduated from high school so that’s not an issue for us.
With the 2 parts that you’re filming now, what is the longest part of the shoot? Like what scene are you guys planning on spending the most time on?
HEYMAN: The final battle.
And how many days have you allotted?
HEYMAN: I don’t remember and it’s evolving because we’re still…David Yates is still determining how he wants to do it.
I’m a huge fan of the book. The ending of Book 7 is really climatic in so many ways. Is that going to be like a 20-minute part of the movie or a 30-minute part of the movie? Have you guys already started thinking about that?
HEYMAN: Absolutely. I mean we’ve got a script version of it. I think it’ll probably be 30 minutes, they get the Hogwarts fairly early on, but there’s a lot of build up before the battle happens, you know? And there are 2 parts to the battle. There’s the first part and then there’s the post-death of Harry part, if you know what I mean.
I know exactly what you mean.
HEYMAN: Yeah, so in a way there’s a couple of different parts to that battle.
Well, it’s almost like the ending of Book 7 and the ending of movie 2-part 2 is almost like what people have been waiting for all the movies to see, which is the big, big showdown.
HEYMAN: It’s funny, yes I think that’s true and the showdown will be…that poses its own challenges in terms of adaptation. Not only the expectation of that final showdown but also what I love about Jo’s work is that’s it’s emotionally rooted. And in the book, actually, Harry doesn’t do much fighting back. In fact, he’s…I’m not going to use the word but he has the “blank” beaten out of him. I just said well, there’s more engagement in our version of the final battle.
I was going to ask you about that because that’s one of the things, to me, is amazing about the ending of that book is that Harry accepts his fate without knowing what’s going to happen. It can go either way, you know? And it’s sort of he’s…
HEYMAN: That’s true up until…when he’s reborn, Harry is aware that Voldemort is vulnerable and is a defeated man. And that’s something that we’re wrestling with and determining right now just so that it works in cinematic terms and not just on a…yeah that it works cinematically.
Well, absolutely. And as you said, one of the reasons why the book is so good is that it is emotionally rooted.
HEYMAN: I think that’s one of the things I love about David Yates’ direction and I think one of the reasons this film works and people are responding to it so is he is an emotional director or rather he’s a humane director. And the emotional truth of a scene or a moment of the story is really what he is most interested in. Character and humanity. And I think that’s one of the things that excites me so much about him doing the last 2 films is that I think that he will connect emotionally with the story in the way it should be…in the way that it deserved.
You’re busy with other projects…what are you working on right now if you have time for anything else?
HEYMAN: Well, you know I had a few films that came out last year. I made a film called “Yes Man” and “Is Anybody There” and “The Boy in Striped Pajamas”. Now I’m working on a few things. There’s “Paddington Bear”, which is a classic British tale about an immigrant bear. I’m working on a book Steve Kloves is writing and will direct called “The Curious Incident of the Dog and the Nighttime”. So I’m excited about that.
I’m actually not familiar with that.
HEYMAN: It’s a brilliant book about a young boy with Asperser’s Syndrome and it’s an award winning novel by Mark Haddon. And it’s a brilliant book and challenging adaptation but Steve Kloves is used to challenging adaptations and I think he’s going to do a brilliant job and it’s great to get him behind the camera again because you know he directed 2 films “Fabulous Baker Boys” and then “Flesh and Bone” and he hasn’t directed a film since and he’s a very fine director so I think that will be…I’m excited about that. And there’s various other projects, you know? I’ve got a “super hero” film called “Methuselah” which is about a man who’s 300 or so years old and whose super powers are born out of his experiences, of having greater experiences than most. And that’s going to be really fun. And there’s all sorts of things and let’s just hope some of them come to fruition and become successful films.
How has the economic uncertainty affected some of your future projects?
HEYMAN: Well, I think it certainly will affect the smaller independent ones. You know you look at the specialty arms of the studios-they’re gone. You look at [Paramount] Vantage and Whip and Picturehouse and Focus [Features] is a shadow of its former self. It’s really tough there for independent cinema and that I’m also aware of and having to deal with the interest is in more conservative entertainment. And what I love about “Potter” is I also think you can be at time a little subversive and also we don’t churn them out, if you know what I mean. I think that’s real. We really make an effort to tell good stories in the best way possible.
You guys seem to be cranking out some really good films and you know I will say to you that I am a little nervous as a fan, I’m not super nervous, but I am a little nervous that a lot of people who tried to make films back-to-back, inevitably somehow either working for 200 or something days or whatever it is, there sometimes can be a little bit of a quality suffering. I look at the 2 “Matrix” movies. I look at “Back to the Future 2 and 3”.
HEYMAN: Well I tell you what the fundamental difference is, we have incredible source material. You know we have Jo Rowling. And I think that’s really the card…it’s the card that we have which I think offers us the greatest security, is she has written these books which are great stories. And so we have a great story in both movies. And I don’t think we will suffer and also you have people who are incredibly ambitious in these films who are true fans. And I can assure you that there will be no quality compromised in any way at all.
Last question, when are we going to get our first trailer for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”?
HEYMAN: I have no idea. I think we should just people enjoy 6 for awhile before we go out with the trailers. It’s still November 2010 is a long way away. I’m sure they’ll be some teaser at some point, but at the moment we’re in the land of “Half-Blood Prince”.
I know it’s so strange that you guys are so deep in Movie 7 and 6 is just finally coming out.
HEYMAN: I know. There’s one point actually where some interviewer was…I was talking to some interviewer and he asked for a synopsis of the film-a brief synopsis of the film. One, I was not very succinct in my responses because I can rattle on, but not only was I not very succinct but around 4 or 5 minutes later I realized that I’d given him a really sort of unclear synopsis of the 7th book. It can be, at times, that’s why I’m really glad to put 6 behind us because we can immerse ourselves fully…I mean we have been doing it all along but it’s a strange feeling when you’ve got this hanging over you-but no longer.
Well, I’m sure it’s also going to help energize the cast and crew after this weekend and seeing the box office and I’m sure it’s going to be huge around the world. It has to give a nice little energy boost.
HEYMAN: It’s funny you say that because that’s exactly what David Yates said. He said that to me today. I spoke to him tonight. He said, you know what? Let’s just…you know the final part of the script, let’s just use this now to just bring it just to tone it. And I think the cast and crew has been really galvanized by the response.