- The Lunch with Alison Willmore, Film Critic for BuzzFeed
- The Lunch with Matt and Tom Berninger of ‘Mistaken for Strangers’
- The Lunch, with Anne Thompson, Journalist and Author of ‘The $11-Billion Year’
- The Lunch with Chad Hartigan, Dir. of ‘This is Martin Bonner’
- The Lunch: Todd Sklar & Alex Rennie of ‘Awful Nice’
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Tag Archives: Daniel Radcliffe
While the child actors of Harry Potter have been with us for every film, there’s an equally important group of people behind-the-scenes from the very start. Producer David Heyman was the man who first saw some potential in a book by a first-time author; David Barron, who came on board with “Chamber of Secrets,” was the more experienced of the two. Speaking in New York, the two gave plenty of insight into the secrets of the films — and the pains and pleasures of wrapping the series.
On what things kept the “Potter” leads level-headed during 10 years of fame and filming:
Heyman: I think first I count their parents; I think that’s key. Also, we had the privilege of making these films in Leavesden Studios, which were a little … dank. It certainly wasn’t a grand place, so it was a little isolated. We had a lot of the same crew working on the films from 2000 right up until 2010, when we finished shooting the films. There was a great consistency in terms of the people, so nobody could get away with anything. If anybody got high on their horse, we’d sure as hell hear about it. It’s a great atmosphere; it’s a film of great pride but no ego. I think that encouraged a sense of humility on their part, which is one of the qualities I really respect they’ve retained. They’re also surrounded by actors who are at the top of their game who they could learn from, but also saw how they behaved. You had Michael Gambon and Gary Oldman and Imelda Staunton and Ralph Fiennes. They’re regular people; they’re not a**holes — excuse my language. They’re really lovely, and I think they saw that and they learned from that and they retained their humility and their decency.
Barron: When we started, they were very, very young. The environment had to be one that we could all look at ourselves in the mirror in the morning and feel we were doing the very best we could for children. They weren’t some actors, they weren’t adults — they were literally children. They set the tone for the rest of the proceedings. It was a safe place, a friendly place, and there was no ego, as David said.
Heyman: I also think that we tried to keep it fun. Nobody treated anybody like a star. Sure, they each had their dresser and things that you and I may not have on a daily basis, though I probably could use one. They were treated as they were Dan and Rupert and Emma, and everybody’s treated with respect, but not fawned over.
On the last day on set:
Barron: We actually had several last days on set. We had the main unit last day, and then we had inserts and things, but the main unit day was incredibly emotional. We scheduled something very easy for the cast. It was not at all dramatic: It was from the previous film, from ‘Part I,’ where they were diving into the fireplace and making their escape from the Ministry of Magic. They were on the green stage diving onto a green mattress, so it’s not too demanding in terms of their emotional acting range. We were finishing at lunch time because Dan was coming to New York to present a Tony the following day, and we did it: we finished.
Heyman: (First Assistant Director Jamie Christopher) got one of the assistant directors to go around the set, go around the offices and (film) everybody wave goodbye, which were intercut with Robbie Coltrane playing air guitar –
Barron: In his Hagrid costume.
Heyman: In his Hagrid costume, as Hagrid would. Then it ended with this shot of going through the offices with everybody waving goodbye and ending with David Yates getting in his car and driving off. At the end of that, let me tell you …
Barron: There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Heyman: We were all sobbing. Myself, David, (Director) David Yates and Dan (Radcliffe) gave short grief speeches. Then we had a little wrap party, which was really quite humble: It was a barbeque. … Rupert brought his ice cream truck.
Barron: He served ice cream to the crew once they’d eaten their lunch. It was fun; it was really warm, very emotional. A lot of people were there who some were even older than me, who’d been around even longer than me, and actually had seen everything you could probably wish to see on the film set — they were in tears, too. It was extraordinary.
On the challenges of adapting the books:
Heyman: Each book posed its own challenge. We knew we were always making the film ahead, so when we were making the first, we knew we were going to make the second; when we were making the second, we knew we were going to be making the third. Each time, they were treated in a way as self-contained units, as books that we wanted to adapt and make it the best that we could. Inevitably, with each coming director, there was a certain competitiveness, wanting to make the best film yet with each other and with themselves. David Yates wanted to make each film better than the one before.
On shooting the films’ epilogue — twice:
Heyman: First things first, we got our pictures of the parents of Dan, Rupert and Emma. What you realize is that one, it’s much more difficult to age someone who’s 17, 18, 19 than it is to age someone who’s 40. To damage their soft, perfect skin is much harder to age. Frankly, we messed up the first time — we did it twice. We didn’t get it right.
Barron: We set out to do prosthetic makeup to see if we could avoid any digital retouching, because it’s not always successful. Prosthetic makeup is much more successful, and we tested extensively. When we shot the first time, we shot at King’s Cross Station, and it has a particular peculiar light that we tried to match in our tests back at the studio. Something didn’t work: They didn’t look half as convincing when we were out on location as they did when we were testing.
Heyman: Also filming it at King’s Cross with the noise and trains leaving the station and the clacks and ‘the 336 from Lincoln to Liverpool …’ — it’s very distracting to little kids who have never been in front of the camera, knowing that they are filming the last scene of ‘Harry Potter.’ We ultimately took it back to Leavesden and redid the scene. It works immeasurably better than it did. The amazing thing is that there isn’t a big difference, obviously, between someone of 17, 18 and 37, 36. You’re not really, really wrinkly.
On the relationship with author J.K. Rowling:
Heyman: I’ve known Jo since 1997, and she has rarely expressed concern. Once she handed over the book to be adapted into film, she’s been nothing but a support. She was not one who said this or that; that’s not her approach. She understands the different medium. By the very fact that she’s taken a producer credit on these last two films, she’s really proud of the films, and I think one of the reasons she wanted to take credit — she’s not on set every day — (is that) she’s always there if we need her. If we have a question, if we’re uncertain about something, if we want to talk something through, we call her up or we have a meeting with her, and if we want to get the answer to this, we end up with this. Her knowledge of this world and her generosity with which she shares it is incredible. One of the reasons for her site, Pottermore, is that she has these endless notebooks filled with information. She was always there to support us, never there to criticize.
Barron: She completely supported the splitting of the book into two films, even though we set off with the notion that the DNA of the series was one book, one film. Previously, even in the very thick books like the fourth book, there’s plenty of color and character and a brilliant job on action, certainly enough for two films, but there never was enough story for two films, and I think they would have felt thin. Steve Kloves, when he spent a little time trying to get under the skin of the adaptation, said, ‘It’s too much for one film.’ Jo was very happy with that, because it meant we wouldn’t be trying to expunge anything from the final book where everything really is important.
On discovering the unpublished “Potter” manuscript in 1997:
Heyman: I moved back to London in 1996 from New York, and I have what’s called a first-look deal with Warner Bros. I persuaded them I spoke both languages — English and American — and they fell for it. I decided to make books the foundation of my business. I love to read, and in terms of development to films, books are amongst the most successful. Also, England, London, UK is still that island off the coast of Europe; it’s not thought of as a source of incredible materials, so you need something concrete to send the executives in California — so books. On Monday morning, we had our meeting — We started talking about what we read that weekend. (My secretary) Nisha said, ‘I read this book.’ I said, ‘What’s it called?’ She said, ”Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” I said, ‘That’s a terrible title. What’s it about?’ She said, ‘It’s about a young boy who goes to wizard school.’ I said, ‘That’s a really good idea.’ I took it home that night and I began to read, and I couldn’t stop. Around 3:30, 4:00 in the morning, I finished it, and I’d fallen in love. I had no idea what the next 14 years would hold. I loved it. I thought of (it as) something that I could share with my younger half-brother and -sister who are 24 and 28 now, who are 22 and 26 years younger than me. I loved it and thought it’d be fun, something I could share with them. One of the things I love about the books and hopefully the films is that they didn’t patronize. They were books that the parents could share with their children that they could enjoy, too. I think that therein lies one of their great pleasures.
Of all the actors discovered for Harry Potter, none’s faced a more complicated path from youth to stardom than Emma Watson. Originally ambivalent about success — at one point stating she might leave the series, then trying to juggle a college education — Watson seems to have settled into life as an actress and newly-minted glamour girl, even signing on as a new “face” for L’Oreal cosmetics. With her newly-shorn locks evoking memories of Jean Seberg or Mia Farrow, Watson met the press in New York in a feathered Givenchy dress to talk about the end of Harry Potter, global stardom and what’s next.
On her last day and last shot for the series:
The last shot we did was this strange moment where we dive into the fireplace in the Ministry of Magic. It was actually for ‘Part I,’ not ‘Part II.’ Dan, Rupert and I, one by one, jumped onto these blue safety mats, basically; that was the shot, that was it. It seemed like a strange one to go out on, but David made the point that we were leaping into the unknown. It was a perfect metaphor for what we were about to go into. It’s so funny, I can’t tell you how I felt when we were shooting it — I think I was numb.
On when it hit her the hardest:
It’s so funny; this film obviously was incredibly challenging for me. It really pushed me as an actress, but at the same time, I was able to use a lot of my own genuine emotion that I felt about loss and all of it coming to an end. I was able to bring how I was feeling to the role. A perfect example of that is the scene when we stand on the bridge after the battle and before we flash forward. I remember really feeling exactly how Hermoine would be feeling, which is, ‘Wow, this is all coming to an end; look at everything we’ve achieved.’ The set was built looking out over Leavesden studios, which is where I grew up, essentially, and spent the last 12 years. Not much acting required, really. It was all there for me.
On what she had in common with Hermonie then and now:
Not so much now, but I guess an earnestness, eager to please and do the right thing, terrified of ever getting into trouble. I’m very heady in the same way that she is, constantly thinking 3 or 4 moves ahead. I try and intellectualize a lot, which she does as well, obviously. She’s very determined; I am as well. I like to think I’m very loyal in the same way that she is. I’m a bit of a feminist in the same way that she is; I will speak my mind in the same way that she does. It’s hard to say, really. I feel as though so much of me went into her and so much of her went into me, I can’t really differentiate too much anymore: It’s all a bit of a blur.
On how she’s changed in the past 10 years:
It’s hard to say, because obviously when you go through the ages of nine to 21, that’s when you change that are inevitable that are just part of growing up. It’s hard to say what isn’t just that natural process and what else has happened. I went from being a nine-year-old schoolgirl to having a job. I’ve learned how to be an actress and how films are made and how to do interviews — hopefully. I always had quite a strong sense of who I am, but it’s nice coming through this and feeling like I have still managed to maintain my own sense of identity away from something that potentially could have overwhelmed (me). I’m glad that I had that. I was quite the stubborn young girl.
On her favorite films in the series and what’s next:
The last two, ‘Part I’ and ‘Part II’ for me really stand apart from all of the rest. Their quality is amazing, and the role and the depth and how much darker they get really gave me a chance to stretch myself as an actress and really feel like I was an actress, like I was acting; for the first however many years, I didn’t really feel as though I was doing much acting at all. It’s nice, I feel like I can say I’m an actress and really believe in that. What’s next for me, I’m going to travel this summer, I’m actually really excited about. It’s obviously scary — change is always scary — but I feel really excited; I feel like I’m entering a new chapter, like I get a fresh start, and there’s something really exciting about that. I’m going back to school in the fall; I’ve got two years left until I complete my degree. I’ve just made a film called ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower,’ which was the most incredible experience — I had the best six weeks. I’m very excited about that movie. Having an experience like that outside of ‘Harry Potter’ is what really convinced me that acting really was what I should be doing and that I was good at it — It really solidified that for me. Now: Reading, reading, reading, and trying to find the next thing that really speaks to me and that I really care about, finding great directors hopefully who will keep teaching me so I can keep learning. I’m excited about the idea of being an actress now, in a way that I wasn’t so sure of when I was younger.
On when she realized she was no longer just Emma Watson:
It was when I was in a shantytown in Bangladesh, and a boy stopped me in the street and said, ‘You’re the girl from “Harry Potter.”‘ There’s nowhere in the world I can go that isn’t somehow touched by this film franchise. It’s absolutely amazing; it reaches the furthest corners of the earth and the least expected places that you’d expect. I was like, ‘Wow, I really can’t go anywhere. This is incredible.’
Matthew Lewis of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2 on Action, the End of the Saga and Horrible Sweaters
One of the pleasures of the “Harry Potter” films has been the way they function almost as a high school yearbook for a group of people we’ve never met, both actors and characters. But while we’ve seen Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe go from childhood to youth in the leads, we’ve also enjoyed watching several other actors grow from film to film — not merely in size, but, rather, in story as well. Hired on board the “Potter” franchise from the first film, Matthew Lewis was cast as series sad-sack Neville Longbottom — a character whose early mentions (and very, very British name) gave no clue to the importance of the role he’d wind up playing in the saga. I spoke with Lewis in New York as the acting job that had defined his life — through both the years and at least one growth spurt — was coming to a close.
When you’re reading the script — with Neville’s big speech to rally the troops against series nemesis Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) — when did it sink in that you get to bring it in this film?
Lewis: I read the book, so I knew what Neville was bringing to the table. You never know when you’re making a film if (the exact story from the book) is going to make the screenplay, and it did. I read it and thought, ‘Geez, it’s going to be something — I don’t know what — (shooting) with Ralph Fiennes.’ I was terrified of the prospect of that; he’s an amazing actor. I (thought) they might not get around to shooting it, and then we did, with the whole process, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. That was enough — I was happy just filming it. Whether it got into the film or not, that we would find out later on. Then it did, and I watched it at first, and blew me away. I think you never really know until you sit in a cinema and actually watch it. I feel very proud and very, very lucky.
It’s not just the level of moral heroism Neville gets to bring with that great, rousing speech at the end — you get to jump around and do a lot of action. When you’re getting ready to leap with a weapon in your hands, do you have to psych yourself up?
Lewis: Yeah, definitely. Particularly in that scene you’re talking about, at that moment Neville’s been fighting not only all night at the final battle; he’s been fighting all year. He’s physically and mentally exhausted; he’s got nothing left in the tank. He’s on autopilot; he’s on instinct. Me and David(Yates, director) wanted it to be very primal, and to get into that frame of mind is not easy. I had to sit there very quietly for a long time and think to myself and try to get into that feeling. With the scream that comes out as he swings the sword, it was not something I’d ever had to do before, never had to do in real life ever. I certainly had to dig deep for that one.
When wardrobe showed you the sweater you were wearing in that sequence, did you roll your eyes, or did you go, “That seems pretty Neville?”
Lewis: (Laughing) Yeah, that’s what it is. It’s like the fat suit before that, and the false teeth and everything. They’re difficult to work with, but you go, “They’re Neville.” The thing about Neville that’s so brilliant is that he’s not a commander, he’s not Tom Cruise; he’s your everyguy, your everyday guy who just happens to be a hero. I don’t think he’s aware of quite what a hero he is; he just gets on with it and does the right thing. I love that, as an actor. As a male, 18, 19. It’s difficult to wear those cardigans sometimes, but it works.
You were worried you were going to get let go from the series for growing too tall, but screenwriter Steve Kloves said, “If Matthew had tried to leave, we would have kidnapped him.” Is it gratifying to hear things like that?
Lewis: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve not heard that before, but that’s an awfully nice thing to say. You never know in a film like this. It was a worry of mine, having changed physically, whether they wanted to bring me back or not, and they did. When you hear things like that, it’s very lovely. Steve Kloves knows these characters as much as anyone — J.K. Rowling and myself; he knows each and every one of them, so for him to say that means a great deal. I’m glad I could do a good job and do a service to him.
And not face kidnapping.
Lewis: And not face kidnapping. Again, if they wanted to kidnap me for these films, I wouldn’t have minded it that much. It’s a great series of films; I’d love to have been kidnapped to have done them.
With this week’s release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2″ closing out the Potter saga, it feels like as good a time as any to remind ourselves that no matter how you feel about Christopher Columbus’ skill set as a director, he certainly deserves praise for finding a set of child actors who, each and every one, grew to become actors — especially Tom Felton, cast as bad seed Draco Malfoy. With his shock-blonde hair and sneer, Draco was a kid you loved to hate – even as later events in the series challenged both our view of Draco and his view of himself. We spoke with Felton in New York.
This film series will never be out of your life, but when’s it going to be off your schedule in that you’re doing this last press tour? When does it stop being something you think about every day?
Felton: It will be a while, I imagine. We’ve been looking forward to this last film for so long. Of course, there’s going to be DVDs that come out of it, and I’m sure 3D, and 4D and “On Ice” and musicals and all the rest of it. It’s something that I’m not looking to shake. I hope to be remembered — all of us are going to be remembered, I think, for these characters for the rest of our lives. Obviously I’m hoping to develop things as well, but I’m definitely not looking to shake it any time soon.
When they announce ‘Harry Potter on Ice,’ you won’t be stretching and lacing up?
Felton: I’m actually developing the choreography of that myself; it’s my show. We’re working on a few different things. I doubt I would — I’m a terrible skater.
The great thing about your character is that this is a film where, while there’s conflict between good and evil, people aren’t necessarily one or the other all the time: If one character speaks to the humanity of that, it’s Draco. He’s torn, he’s conflicted, he’s caught up. Did you appreciate that acting challenge while you were given it?
Felton: Yeah, I was terrified — and a little nervous. It was hugely rewarding after: Faith was entrusted in me by David Yates and I obviously had a great cast around, which makes it a lot easier. Yeah, I was nervous, but ultimately things that are nerve-wracking usually end up being the most fun.
The action sequences are incredible and gripping; there’s a level of special effects here, it’s the first time Hogwarts is fully CGI. What’s it like being in the middle of that? It’s got to be like shooting a war film.
Felton: It definitely was. A lot of it, we dubbed it “The war of Hogwarts” for the last half. It did seem (as if) all the world was running around with thier hair on fire and blood. It was crazy, and it was not like what we’d ever seen previously. Even stranger was after we’d seen it — a lot of the things weren’t there when we shot them, and all of a sudden all this other stuff is picking up, so it was great. It was very exciting — and at the same time slightly devastating to see your home of 10 years being blown to smithereens as well.
Do you ever go back to the older films and look at them — not as works of art or to get notes on your performance, but because they’re –
Felton (laughing): A lot of big performance, as you know — there’s a ton of performance when you’re 11 years old.
There was, but at the same time these movies are what you have instead of a high school yearbook. Do you go back and watch them for sentimental reasons?
Felton: I haven’t yet, but I definitely will, and I’m sure that will be on the release of this film on DVD. I imagine, I can see myself sitting there one day and plugging through all 8. That would probably be the day I realize what we actually took part in, because I haven’t really: I’ve seen the films at the premieres and occasionally on TV, bits and pieces, but never actually back-to-back as a fan should.
In the films’ final flash-forward scene, we get a little glimpse of the older Malfoy … was that like looking in a mirror? Not scary, but …
Felton: It was very scary. They said, ‘We’re going to take on 19 years,’ I think. I saw myself: ‘Oh good grief. If I’m here in 19 years …’ I think they were trying to paint a message to the kids that crime doesn’t pay regardless: The evil guys age incredibly. It was fun, it was nice, it was cool — lots of prosthetics on your face and wigs and beards, all sorts of stuff like that. It was even funner to get (it all) taken off; that was the real rewarding bit of that.
If you’ve had your eyes even half-open during the past 10 years of pop culture, you may be acutely aware that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1″ is coming to the big screen on this Friday. The first installment in the two-film adaptation of the final book in J.K. Rowling’s acclaimed series, it’s the beginning of the end for a film series that’s run over a decade and made billions of dollars while still managing to be impressively well-made and unexpectedly engaging. “Deathly Hallows” isn’t just a rousing adventure in its own right; it’s also full of hints as to how the final film will play out: with real action, real stakes and real consequences.
Talking with Daniel Radcliffe in London, I have to ask him about his reaction when he was first told the final book would be, in fact, split into two films — was it a sigh of exhaustion, or one of relief? “My reaction was, I was overjoyed, to be honest,” he says. “I was advocating it should be two films when I read the book, because I just thought it was impossible. The thing is, people say, ‘Yeah, but it’s not the biggest of the books.’ Well, the fourth (‘Goblet of Fire’) and fifth (‘Order of the Phoenix’) books, they’re big, but there’s so much you can cut from them.”
Diplomatically, Radcliffe explains, “Not being horrible, but if you’re being tough and ruthless about this, you can strip away a lot of stuff (from books four and five) so that you’re still left with the main story. In (“Deathly Hallows”), there aren’t really any subplots. Everything is contributing and vital to the main story, so it’s very hard to tell that story if you cut it down into one movie. Also, I think a lot of the stuff that would have been cut is the stuff that is in this first film where we’re in the forest, and that journey. That’s the really interesting character stuff where we get to explore the relationship. So I think if we had to cut all that, it would cut all our action in the movie, and I would have lost a lot of heart.”
Radcliffe is also honest about what pieces of Harry’s world he’s already grabbed for himself — and what he’s going to miss. “Well, I’ve got the glasses; I’m taking the glasses,” he says. “But also, there’s all the stuff in Dumbledore’s office. Dumbledore’s office is a very, very cool set, because it has a kind of amazing astrolabe and stuff like that. I’ll probably never get to work on a film again where it’s just the norm to have these amazing set pieces everywhere you go.”
This raises the question: Is it going to be hard for Radcliffe to adjust to other films in the future, where the material — and, more importantly, the budget — aren’t going to allow for the level of splurge and spectacle the Potter films have enjoyed? “Very, very few films have a budget comparable to ‘Harry Potter,’ he says. “It’s wild. So, I’m on a film now (‘The Woman in Black’) which is not made for a fraction of the money that ‘Harry Potter’ is, but is, I think, going to be just as good in terms of quality and in terms of how it looks. But I do think I’ve been spoiled, especially in terms of the sets that you just get to walk around. The fact that a huge amount of the exterior stuff of that we do in (“Deathly Hallows”) was actually filmed in the studio where we build forests. There are very few films I’ll go into where they’ll have that kind of capability.”
Finally, I ask Radcliffe what it’s like to be done filming the saga but not done with the release of the saga, as “Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ isn’t slated to hit theaters until July 2011. Is he finished with the films? Is ‘Potter’ frenzy in his metaphorical rear-view mirror? “To an extent, I am finished, but every so often I see it coming up, and then behind me again. I’m on another film at the moment, and next year I’m doing a musical in New York, ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.’ So I’ve got lots of stuff already going on … but July of next year, I will be doing ‘Potter’ again, so it keeps coming back. I think the premiere of the last film will be where I draw the line.”