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Interview: Deathly Hallows director David Yates

Nov. 17, 2010by:

I am a HARRY POTTER fangirl. I know there will be plenty of you saying it like it's a bad thing when you read my review of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. But the truth is, I loved it. We'll have that for you asap and plenty of interviews from my trip to London as well. Today's Potter goodness? Director David Yates spills the Bernie Bott's Every Flavor Beans on the final films in the series, where he chose to split the story, a rather controversial scene and some smooching. As with the other interviews, there be SPOILERS here! I have marked them for you. If you haven't read the book, skip both the questions and the answers. BUT...there is one scene in the film that is NOT in the book. It's a doosy and I've marked it clearly. And once you've seen the film, I'm dying to hear what you thought of it!

Director David Yates

We were just hearing how J. K. Rowling gave the whole Black Family Tree, that sort of thing. Is there any insight she gave you into any of the characters that we may not know?

Im sure the Davids [producers Heyman and Barron] have told you, but she revealed that Dumbledore was gay, during a reading for HALF BLOOD PRINCE, which was a shock to us all. And I didnt tell Michael Gambon because I just knew it would change his performance in a profound way. He would come up to me occasionally and say, Is it true? Am I gay? That was a big revelation we didnt really know about.

JoI think her characters are so clear in the book, so rich that everybody feels they know them already and we dont really talk too much about that. We had a really good conversation last week about two scenes in DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 which Im looking at now and she was incredible helpful. We talked about what she originally intended with these scenes when she wrote them in the book Im editing them at the moment and she was great. She sort of just goes right to the heart of what the scene should be about. Generally, I dont need to phone her up shes really at a graceful distance. She reads the script in the beginning and she turns up for the premiere. Shes been really helpful.

One of the advantages you had as a director is that all the books were done when you made your movies. While you were working on the fifth and sixth movies, did you already have ideas for the seventh and eighth?

I was so focused, it was a bit like climbing a mountain. You look at each footfall as you go. The prep time on HALLOWS 1 & 2 was really tight. ORDER OF THE PHOENIX I had months and months to prepare it. I was sort of rigorous. I would go to the office everyday and we would storyboard, storyboard, storyboard. It was such careful preparation. By the time we got to HALLOWS, it was sort of like three or four months finishing six and starting seven PART 1. It was really tight.

Actually, that was liberating in a way because I knew the world, people knew how I thought, I worked with the actors quite a lot so it had more of a spontaneity of sorts, on the floor. It was less tightly controlled than the first movie and the second movie. We didnt have the time to rigorously prepare how I like to prepare, but in a way, because I knew the world, I knew the guys, we had a slightly different dynamic in the way we worked, and that was interesting and quite helpful.

You have a different DP this time around.

Yes, Eduardo Serra.

Was it difficult working with this new look?

I really wanted it to feel a bit edgier and more modern. I wanted it to feel more not at all fantasy. I said to Eduardo Serra at the beginning, just make it feel real. I wanted this one to feel real. The second one comes back to Hogwarts at the endits a big fantasy film. Its got dragons and giants and spiders and we go full circle back to the roots of the series. But I wanted this one to betheyre away from Hogwarts, away from this magical place. I wanted it to feel like a harsh, edgy world. I quite like the look of it; its punchy, quite grainy, and it was a fun thing to do. Those little changes keep the series more interesting for me, because I couldnt do the same look. I love what Bruno [Delbonnel] did in six, that very romantic, lyrical thing. But I needed to do something else, and Eduardos challenge was to light PART 1 differently than PART 2-PART 1 needs to feel edgy and punchy, PART 2 is an opera. Its big, lush, full of reds. So we had to switch heads every few days because we shot out of sequence.

[SPOILER! SCENE NOT IN BOOK!] Can you talk a little about the tent scene?

We felt very early on[writer] Steve Kloves said to me we were working away in the office and he says to me, This might sound really weird, but I could see them dancing, and the minute he said that, I said, My God, youre right, that would be great. Lets make that work. Lets try that. And its a scene that seems to divide people some people love it, some people absolutely hate it. I love it, thats why its in the movie. I find it very tender, very funny, very moving. For me, its about them becoming grown-ups, growing up in a very painful way. I got a wonderful choreographer named Anthony Van Laast, and I know it doesnt look very choreographed, but actually, it is. It was all about the awkwardness of the moment, letting go a little bit. I like the notion that they find comfort in each other when everything seems to be falling apart. It seems like a very natural thing to do. Trying to provide warmth for each other as friends. For me, its a very special moment in the film but I know it drives some people nuts [laughs].

[SPOILER CONTINUES! SCENE NOT IN BOOK!] And the use of the Nick Cave song.

Yeah, I needed to find a piece of music that was melancholic. It had to fit the tone of that section of the movie, but also lift you up, in a weird way. Its hard to find that tone in a song. I had a chap named Matt Biffa, who is a wonderful music guy, send me lots of tracks from everything. I listened to hundreds of these things and I was almost giving up hope, and I thought, Oh, theres nothing quite like what I can feel in my head. And then I pressed play and Nick Cave started, and I was like, This is it. My biggest fear was playing it for Dan [Radcliffe] and Emma [Watson], cause I thought, God, are they going to understand? Because it was important to me that they understand the music as well, that they felt it. So I played it for them and it was my most nervous moment, and I played it for them and I was like, Oh God, are they going to like it? and they loved it.

I loved the use of animation in the scene that explains the origins of the Deathly Hallows. What prompted you to use a different style of filmmaking and why did you feel it was a better fit for that portion of the film?

That all started with Stuart Craig, whos the wonderful Production Designer. We were thinking of a live-action route, but I dont think it would have worked. It would have felt a bit clunky. And then Stuart came up with these wonderful shadow puppet images from the Victorian era, which were absolutely glorious. Then we looked at some Chinese imagesthis whole notion of shadow puppets came in to mind. Then we found this found this wonderful guy named Ben Hibon whos an animator and he supervised the whole sequence for us. I just wanted it to feel really elliptical. I wanted it to feel like we were going to a different place, basically, to transcend where we were. Its actually really hard to step outside the movie for three minutes and stop the movie for a story [laughs], so it had to be really beautiful. And Ben is hugely gifted.

Was the amount of exposition that has to be conveyed in this movie ever a burden?

Its always a problem. Its always our challenge theres so much exposition in these movies and in the books, and I swear, we cut so much out. I try and keep it in the moment. We feel like, by the time we got to the end of it, Wow, weve taken out all the exposition out! But when you guys see it, theres still quite a bit of exposition [laughs]. But we take as much out as we can to keep it moving.

[SPOILER] The big speculation has always been where you were going to split the movies. Can you talk about how you came to your decision?

We had two endings originally. One was Dobbys death, ending in a very melancholic way, on the beach, looking out to the dark, threatening sky. That wasnt quite right because it felt too somber, in a way. Then we ended on a real cliffhanger, with Harry on the gates, Bellatrix parts his hair, we see his scar and we know theyll be stuck now, taken to Malfoy manor. And that feltwellThen I had a scene in my head that I wanted to do right from the beginning. I thought, Wouldnt it be cool if you saw Voldemort together with Dumbledore, and if he desecrated Dumbledores grave. I had this scene in my head and I didnt know where to put it, thought. I was going to begin the second movie with it, because I thought, Opening the second movie with this would be really fun. You go into the theater, youre traveling over that lakeso I said, Lets shoot it, and well put it at the beginning of the second movie. But because those two endings didnt work [laughs] I put it at the end of the first movie and showed it to the guys and we all felt the same its a fun way to go out. It tees you up for Part 2, which has lots of fights and battles.

At what point did you decide to make it two movies? Did it feel like with two movies you had more room for exposition or you had more time you had to fill?

No, theres plenty of material. I think part of it is that its mainly for the fans, for the people whove been faithful and loyal for the things we do. I got hammered on five and six for leaving things out, and this is going to be the last ever HARRY POTTER experience, sowe tried to be as generous as possible. Also, from a practical point of view, I went through and listed all the things I wanted in the movie and it would have been the most expensive movie ever. The studio couldnt have made it, they would have been insane to greenlight it. Even at HARRY POTTER levels, it would have been impossible. It would have been four hours long and cost zillions. It would have cost what these two movies cost.

Are you worried about the movies being too scary for children who are fans?

Well, you know, I liked being scared as a kid. I like being scared. I used to watch DOCTOR WHO while hiding behind the settee, as you do. But I think parents have to be careful. Its got a PG-13, its got the right rating on it. I have seen children come out of the theater, weve had several screenings. The boys particularly like it, they get really buzzed by it. Would I take my kids? I dont have children, but if I did, if they were nine or ten or elevenI dont know. Exercise caution.

We talked about how the film ended, but can you talk a little about your decision of how the film began?

I really wanted to break away form the elegantI think you start to predict how the first two scenes are going to be in a HARRY POTTER movie. You go through the WB and then there will be elegant transition. And I said, Oh God, lets break that. I thought it immediately grabs your attention. I love the idea of the Horcrux in the sand, and if I could make it even louder I would. I love the idea of everyone sitting in the dark, being denied only images, feeling this horrible thing around them and then suddenly [snaps his fingers] theres this weird pair of eyes. It was an attempt to break the rhythm of how the last two movies started, and jolt the audience into a sense of, Oh, this is different then how were used to starting. The ambition behind that, to make it more surprising and visceral and odd. To be slightly uncomfortable.

The opening montage is equally as jolting watching Hermione cast the charm on her parents.

That was in the book, but only suggested. There was a whole scene I shot which wereIm not sure if its on the DVD extras, but its a whole scene with Hermione and her parents before she does it. Its really moving. I ended up montaging the whole opening because the opening was playing very too melancholic. What we ended up doing was creating a montage from all these separate scenes. But it stuck with me, that scene. It was another way of taking the audience by surprise, this character Hermionetheres always a lot of affection for her and now shes pointing a wand at her parents. Its really quite shocking. I like the notion of the making the audience think, Oh this doesnt feel comfortable. Or, Why is she doing that? It was great to do that. Emma really enjoyed the emotion of that.

[SPOILER] Everyones been buzzing about the kiss between Harry and Hermione how did you approach that?

We had a closed set, to make them feel comfortable. There were issues around the nudity - ratings were concerned. I didnt want Dan and Emma to completely strip down because its uncomfortable. So we had them in jeans and stuff. The studio was nervous about it and the ratings guys came back and said, Were going to have to slap on a sensuality notice on the front of the film. The studio requested that we try and put more smoke to cover the up, which I tried, but it just looked like they were in a sauna [laughs]. And theres the whole moment of Rupert [Grint] watching them, so you cut to Rupert then you cut to them and you see these two heads and all this steam. So I phoned them up and said, Guys, I have a version that keeps some sensuality and we have to do it. So we stuck with a slightly more sensual version. There is another version thats even naughtier, that even we thought was too much. It was very suggestive, so we took it out [laughs].

How did you come to the stylized look that they have in the scene?

[SPOILER CONTINUES] David Yates: We tried a couple different looks and that seemed the most interesting. David Heyman we were in a grey together he said, Wouldnt it be great if it looked like they were lit from within? and, obviously, thats a really difficult thing to achieve. But Peter Doyle, who is our grader, said, Thats cool and it became almost a Maplethorpe image, a really shiny texture. That was our initial starting point, and Davids notion of lighting form within. So we fiddled around with the grading and thats where we ended up.



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10:31AM on 11/17/2010


I hope what David said about there being an even naughtier version of Harry and Hermione, makes it to the DVD :)
I hope what David said about there being an even naughtier version of Harry and Hermione, makes it to the DVD :)
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5:23PM on 11/17/2010
Oh, me too!
Oh, me too!
2:57PM on 11/17/2010
David Yates was ok as director for the franchise but I wish that they had kept what they were doing for the first five movies where every director only got to do one or two movies and then a new one was brought in. If not that, then at least have let Alfonso Cuaron have another go. He made what was easily the best one that combined both atmosphere and plot. Yates' films always feel rushed even though they're 2 and a half hours long. The new ones don't look like they'll be any different. It
David Yates was ok as director for the franchise but I wish that they had kept what they were doing for the first five movies where every director only got to do one or two movies and then a new one was brought in. If not that, then at least have let Alfonso Cuaron have another go. He made what was easily the best one that combined both atmosphere and plot. Yates' films always feel rushed even though they're 2 and a half hours long. The new ones don't look like they'll be any different. It still looks cool visually though.
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