We catch up with Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson for a quick chat about the latest Harry Potter film
The summer’s biggest blockbuster is here. The wizard with a lightning scar on his forehead is back. So what can we expect?
Well, Ron plays quidditch for the first time following some ill-advised potion quaffing; Jim Broadbent makes his debut as Horace Slughorn; we see the introduction of the Inferi – a fearsome tribe of the undead said to make the Dementors look like kittens, and the terrifying Death Eaters make a dramatic return in a scene originally skirted over in the book, but given full CGI rein here as they wreak havoc in the wizard world over Christmas.
But, according to one of its stars, things are also not going so well for our eponymous hero. ‘Harry is unhappy for a lot of this film, mainly because people keep trying to kill him,’ Daniel Radcliffe explains. Fair enough. ‘And his love life is awful too.’ Ah, now we get to the nub of the matter.
Director David Yates describes the new film as ‘romance, potions and rock and roll’ – he’s pretty much spot on. Like the Hogwarts Express pulling into Platform 9¾ , the Potter franchise is grinding to a steamy conclusion as Harry increasingly finds himself drawn to Ginny Weasley and Hermione’s feelings for Ron begin to blossom (we still think she can do better), only to be thwarted by Ron’s new girlfriend, Lavendar Brown. Love triangles are now as big a problem as the Dementors for the kids of Hogwarts.
The push and pull of adolescent relationships forms the comic backdrop to the sixth film, but sticking close to the book it very much sets the scene for the final battle. The centrepiece remains the growing relationship of Harry and the ageing Dumbledore, who is slowly priming the young wizard to assume the mantle of defending the world from Voldemort and the Death Eaters.
But growing up is not only a theme of the film; it is a reality for the young cast, who have starred in it from the beginning. None of the Potter three could be called ‘child actors’ anymore. Emma Watson (18), who plays Hermione, returned to the set of Half-Blood Prince having completed her A-Levels; Rupert Grint (Ron) turns 21 in August, and Radcliffe (19), perhaps moreso than the rest, has done his best to shed his wizard’s robes in public. In 2007, he bore his soul (and his chest) in Peter Shaffer’s Equus on the London stage, and even appeared as a sleazy parody of himself on UK TV’s Extras.
‘Harry is brilliant, and I love playing him, but I do want to establish myself as someone other than that character,’ the young actor admits. ‘Equus did seem a bit of a change, and some people were expecting that I would fail, so the fact that I didn’t is something I’ve enjoyed.’
The young cast can still recall sitting in a London hotel room playing Monopoly together prior to being thrust in front of the world’s press for the first time back in 2001. ‘I was terrified,’ admits Watson. ‘I remember sitting on a massive bed, jumping around watching myself on the TV evening news.
It was mad.’ Eight years on, any group of actors who can claim to have starred in five films grossing close to US$1 billion each can surely consider themselves a part of the A-list, with all the accompanying neurotic perks. But the Potter clan seem to do normality well. In fact, coming back for the sixth film was ‘a lot like returning to school’, says Watson. Surely she means university.
Like any self-respecting student, the first thing the Potter three did was personalise their rooms. ‘Rupert has darts, pool, table tennis and all these games consoles, while Dan’s room is full of books and music. One summer I painted a big mural in my dressing room. Otherwise it’s all very girly, with candles and soft furnishings,’ confesses Watson.
The franchise comes to an end in 2011, with the final book split into two films. The end is nigh for fans and actors alike. For the cast it will be particularly hard. ‘It will be very, very odd to suddenly not be coming back to Harry Potter,’ Radcliffe confesses. ‘It does act as a safety net, in a way, when you’re going off to make something else.’
Unless JK Rowling writes any more (unlikely), we will soon be waving goodbye to Potter and chums. For the moment, though, Harry isn’t shedding any tears over the past. ‘When I eventually do look back it will be very interesting,’ says Radcliffe, who admits to being too embarrassed to watch any of his old performances. For now, though, there is the matter of Voldemort to deal with, not to mention premieres to attend. The magic isn’t over yet; in fact, for Radcliffe, Grint and Watson, we reckon it’s only just beginning.
• In 2007, Lucius Malfoy, father of Harry’s nemesis Draco, was named by Forbes magazine as the 15th wealthiest fictional character in the world, with his fortune the result of an inheritance.
• The secondary building at King’s Cross Station in London (where Harry and his classmates depart from at the beginning of each school term) has an alcove decorated with a ‘Platform 9¾’ sign, and a luggage trolley ‘stuck’ halfway through the wall as a tribute to the series.
• When the Honeydukes candy store was created for Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban, the cast members were told the prop sweets were coated in lacquer (when in fact they weren’t) to make sure none disappeared between takes.
• The first book in the series, Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone, has been translated into Ancient Greek as part of a learning exercise (and for use of the title in further teaching); it is the longest work published in the language since the novels of Heliodorus of Emesa in the third century AD.
• Canadian folk-rock band The Wyrd Sisters sued Warner Bros over the appearance of a band called The Weird Sisters in Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire. Jarvis Cocker had a cameo as the band’s lead singer and planned to release a related album, with appearances by Iggy Pop, Jack White and Franz Ferdinand. He abandoned the project due to the lawsuit, which is still ongoing. Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince is released in cinemas this month. See www.harrypotter.co.uk for more details.