Harry Potter ready to cast his final spell


With the massive impact the Harry Potter movies have had over the last decade, it’s difficult to conjure up the image of an anxious David Heyman.

But the Potter producer admits he was “incredibly nervous” about the future of the franchise just before the inaugural movie, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, opened in 2001.

“I couldn’t even get a two-picture deal before the release of that first one,” he recalled while promoting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 in London.

He has no worries now as the much anticipated Deathly Hallows — Part 2 opens on July 15. The blockbuster is poised to set box-office records, which will likely include surpassing the North American opening weekend of The Dark Knight, a staggering US$158.4-million.

Still, Heyman confesses that he has mixed emotions just like the films’ fans — a combination of sadness, celebration and frenzy befitting the dramatic conclusion to an iconic string of movies.

The great news for all concerned is that the series seems to be going out with a bang. In the finale, wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) confronts the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in a momentous showdown. “Part 2 is like a big opera with huge battles,” director David Yates says.

Of course, this last instalment in the series also features the long-awaited kiss between Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), while their burgeoning relationship offers much needed comic relief from the unrelenting tension.

“We go off on this little adventure together,” Watson says. “It’s kind of like a comedy act because it’s the first time that you see them in tune.

“I really enjoyed the experience. Rupert is a great comedic actor, and so we had a really good time bringing the humour out of everything that we could.”

There’s also a graduation at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which includes “lump-in-the-throat” nostalgic sequences.

Some ghostly apparitions recall family and friends from the past. And, an ethereal Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) presents himself to expose mind-boggling secrets from his younger days.

Still, the epic wand duel between Harry and Voldemort is the climactic set piece. It’s rejigged from the book to include a chase through the halls of Hogwarts and a mind-boggling brawl in which the “apparating” combatants appear and disappear.

Most pundits predict that Part 2 will be the best Potter picture yet. “It’s the perfect way to sign off,” says Heyman, a former studio executive who first saw film potential in J.K. Rowling’s books. Indeed, he was the optimistic filmmaker who persuaded a skeptical Rowling to do movie versions of her novels before they became a global phenomenon. He was also the stubborn movie maven who resisted studio demands to Americanize Potter, and backed Rowling when she insisted on the English setting and an English cast.

All the fretting seems moot now. Rowling has set worldwide publishing records, selling more than 450 million copies of the seven-book series. The eight films, based on the novels, will likely hit a box-office total of US$7.5-billion by the time Deathly Hallows — Part 2 runs its theatrical course this summer.

Even more amazing is the fact that multiple directors have nurtured the film versions of the books, which became darker and more threatening as they progressed.

American director Chris Columbus, who made his mark with the Home Alone movies, introduced Potter to the film world with Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets.

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón brought a furious flair to The Prisoner of Azkaban. Brit Mike Newell took on the fourth, The Goblet of Fire, and added foreboding to the narrative.

Former British TV director David Yates arrived to heighten the tautness, in the fifth Potter movie, The Order of the Phoenix, then The Half-Blood Prince and the two-part finale.

Radcliffe credits Yates for refining the performances in the pictures by quietly expecting more from his three lead actors.

“He was always telling us that we could do better,” says Radcliffe, currently receiving raves for his headlining role in the Broadway musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

By the time they approached the acting demands of both Deathly Hallows pictures, Yates had them ready for great challenges. “It really was a natural progression,” Radcliffe says. “It didn’t feel like we were being asked to make a massive leap. It felt like we were being allowed to do what we had been preparing to do for the last two or three years.”

Watson agrees that the director raised the acting bar from The Order of the Phoenix onward. “The thing about working with David Yates is that you always hear this word truth, and finding the truth, and being honest and real,” she says. “He wants it to be from the heart. Because of that, I think that made us better.”


Original article found here: arts.nationalpost.com| July 10th, 2011

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