November 4, 2010

HP 7: the finale begins

From the moment he was introduced, people all over the globe have thrilled to the adventures of Harry Potter, the boy wizard who changed both literary and cinema history. For more than a decade, David Heyman has been immersed in that magical world, as the producer of all the films based on the best-selling books by J.K. Rowling, who also served as a producer on the film adaptation of her seventh and final title, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

But as Heyman approached the last installment in the record-breaking film franchise, he realized that it presented some unique challenges, not the least of which was how to encompass all of the series’ interwoven story threads as they sped toward the climactic conclusion.

Breaking from the tradition of the film series, the decision was made to split “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” into two full-length parts. “When Steve Kloves began working on the screenplay, it became clear we would have to omit too much to do justice to Jo’s book in one film,” Heyman explains. “There were simply too many details that were integral to the resolution of the series.”

Daniel Radcliffe, who plays the title role of Harry Potter, offers, “The intricacy of the plot Jo had mapped out from the beginning is a fantastic feat of storytelling. It has twists and turns, mystery and romance, comedy and action…all the brilliant things people have responded to over the years. It was the only way we could tell the story in a complete and fulfilling way.”

Helming his third Harry Potter feature, David Yates says that Part 1 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” also breaks tradition by taking the central characters away from the familiar surroundings of Hogwarts. It is actually the first film in the franchise in which the iconic School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is never even seen. “I think that’s one of the most intriguing things about Part 1,” the director states. “We’re away from the magical environment of Hogwarts, which felt very safe even when the characters were in utter jeopardy. Suddenly Harry, Ron and Hermione are trying to survive out in the big, bad world, and it’s a dangerous place. They feel isolated and alone and very vulnerable. It makes the adventure much edgier and more grownup, which really appealed to me, and to Dan, Rupert and Emma as well.”

Radcliffe attests, “I think it gives the film a more adult tone because it’s harder to see us as school kids when we’re no longer at school.”

Reprising the role of Ron Weasley, Rupert Grint comments, “Away from the safety of Hogwarts and the protection of their parents and teachers, anything can happen. They can be attacked at any moment, which gives the film a different energy.”

“Harry, Hermione and Ron don’t have a home anymore,” notes Emma Watson, who returns to the part of Hermione Granger. “They are always on the move and, worse, they are being hunted, so they don’t know who to trust. But the stakes are high, so they have to be brave.”

In fact, the stakes have never been higher as the fates of both the Wizarding world and the Muggle world rest in their young hands. Having learned the secret to Voldemort’s power and immortality, Harry is on a mission to track down the Horcruxes: items in which the Dark Lord has hidden pieces of his very soul. If even one remains, Voldemort can never be defeated. Two of the Horcruxes have already been destroyed—Tom Riddle’s diary and the ring that belonged to Marvolo Gaunt, Riddle’s maternal grandfather. Harry and Dumbledore believed they had located the third Horcrux, Salazar Slytherin’s locket, but it turned out to be a fake, and the real one stolen by someone with the initials R.A.B.

And the others…? The problem is the Horcruxes can be virtually anywhere or in anything.

“I’ve always believed that, for all the magic and action and adventure of the Harry Potter stories, at the heart it’s about these characters,” Heyman emphasizes. “In this film, their relationship is more complex than ever, and in exploring them more deeply, Dan, Rupert and Emma are better than ever.”

Yates agrees, adding that Radcliffe, Grint and Watson felt a strong sense of responsibility towards the roles they inhabited for almost half their lives. “They knew intuitively how their characters would respond to certain things, often much better than we did. I love that about them. As a director, it was wonderful to engage with them because there were times I wasn’t just talking to the actor; I was actually talking to the character.”

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” will be released worldwide starting November 18, 2010, and “Part 2” starting July 15, 2011.

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