Having changed the cinematic Harry Potter landscape with the universally acclaimed fourth installment, The Order of the Phoenix, director David Yates returns to helm the follow-up film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
In the fantasy adventure, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) journey through time and space to discover the whereabouts of the pieces of the evil Lord Voldemort's soul (Ralph Fiennes), even as Dumbledore faces several assassination attempts.
In the following interview, Yates discusses what's it like doing the film, and why he describes the story as "love, potions and rock 'n' roll."
Question: What's it like coming back to work on your second Harry Potter film?
David Yates: It's lovely; it feels like home. There's a tremendous atmosphere here and it's very relaxed. We've got some lovely people. It just feels like being at home, really.
Question: Do you feel more relaxed or more terrified because you know what to expect?
Yates: It's kind of a bit of both. I felt really self-conscious making the last film. I didn't realise how big it was until I got to the premiere and then got to America and saw how massive the release was and how huge the reaction was. That was when the penny dropped that this was such a big thing for so many people.
Question: Have you noticed a difference in the cast who have been off to do big projects in the past year?
Yates: Yeah, I have. They are getting better and better and Emma [Watson] seems much more confident this time and much more at ease generally. And Dan, having done "Equus," he's just finding moments and beats that are really surprising and lovely. So, they're all getting better and more sophisticated.
Question: Are there practical lessons that you've learned from the last film?
Yates: You know, it's all storytelling. In all honesty, I do the same thing I've always done. Whenever I make anything I want it to be as expressive and as good as it can be, so I wouldn't say there is anything necessarily. I would say that I'm a lot more confident with visual effects.
Obviously when I started, I'd never done a visual effects film. Now that all seems very easy. The good thing about this one is that it's a funnier story. I joked with Mike Newell as he came off his film and said, "Oh, you've got adolescent love. I'm getting all the teen angst." Order of the Phoenix is all about anger and rebellion and displacement, which is all a bit intense. I love all that, but it's nice now to be dealing with something that's rock ‘n' roll. It's more fun.
Question: How quickly did you decide to return and direct The Half-Blood Prince?
Yates: I was in post-production. We were just finishing off Order of the Phoenix and we'd shown it to the studio and were just taking it to Chicago to test it with an audience. They asked me and I'd already felt that I wanted to continue. So, it was a good three or four months before the film was released.
Question: Shouldn't that be the time when you want to run away from it all?
Yates: Funnily enough, it was about halfway through making the previous one that I thought, I'm only going to do one of these, this is crazy. But I got a second wind and really loved the last few months and the post-production. And everyone's just delightful to work with.
Question: How would you describe this movie?
Yates: It's love, potions and rock ‘n' roll. There are all these wonderful things in our story. There's a potion that gives you perfect luck. You take it and everything goes right for you. But it does heighten your senses somewhat and you get quite breezy with it. Then there's a love potion that makes you very tactile with everybody. Rupert [Grint] gets overly tactile with Jim Broadbent at one point. So, it's got all those metaphorical values. There are some really lovely comic beats here, which we didn't really get a chance to do last time. It was just a very different beast.
Question: Are you conscious of a time when all the films will be watched back to back, so you have to keep a through-line?
Yates: Yes, and there is a through-line. We're just putting in all sorts of little details between the characters, which hopefully will resonate through the films. There's a line that goes right the way through to the end.
(Opening across the Philippines this July 2009, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will open this July
by posted on June 11, 2009