Harry Potter and the deathly hallows part 1
It has been a long journey for the cast of the Harry Potter films, but now, after 10 years and — by the time the series reaches its climax next year — eight movies, the end of the road is finally in sight.
In a way the metaphor is apt: the final chapter of J.K. Rowlings best-selling saga comes to the screen as two separate films, and the first of these, The Deathly Hallows Part 1, unfolds as a road movie.
The two films that make up The Deathly Hallows feel like two very different films, begins the director David Yates on the Harry Potter film set at Leavesden, Hertfordshire, which Warner Bros bought for use as a permanent film studio. When we meet, Yates and his cast are shooting the films back-to-back.
The films are from the same book but the first part does feel very much like a road movie. Were taking these three characters and pulling them away from the comfort zone of Hogwarts, and you cant underestimate the power of that. Its like theyre being thrown out into the grown-up world for the very first time, with all its jeopardy and all its dangers.
The first part of The Deathly Hallows sees Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) bid to prevent their nemesis, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), from completing his quest for immortality, and they drop out of school to undertake their task.
The second instalment, which is due for release in July next year, is much more fantasy-based, says the director.
Its got dragons, spiders and bank raids on Gringotts (the Wizarding Bank), so its much more of a fantasy blockbuster in the traditional sense, with lots of battles and magic. But the fact that with part one we take the characters out into the outside world is a huge advantage.
Yates, who also directed the preceding two films, The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince, points to the fact that after six previous instalments in the franchise, audiences can almost predict what the next scene is going to be. He smiles, People are like, Oh, this is where we get to the school, and this is where that John Williams theme will start, and so forth, so in the new film its almost as though the safety nets been removed for the audience, too, and I think itll feel fresher for them as well as us.
Certainly, on the day we meet, the young cast appears invigorated. The triumvirate of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint have spent more than half their lives as students of Hogwarts and the last two films stand as their final examination before graduation.
Each of them professes a mixture of high excitement and slight melancholy, and all concede that the concluding films bring an added pressure.
Its a bit weird, notes a typically talkative Radcliffe during a break in filming, because were all much more aware of these being the final films than I thought wed be. Its not really distracting or disturbing me, but I think there is a bit more pressure. When were done with The Deathly Hallows that will be it, while before, at least subconsciously, we always knew wed get another chance.
For Radcliffe, in particular, The Deathly Hallows is a taxing affair — Harry endures a great deal of emotional turmoil.
It is tougher. It is the hardest film to do, absolutely, he says. When the seventh book came out, (producer) David Heyman finished it a couple of days before I did and he rang me up and said, Howd you fancy playing Hamlet?
Obviously Hamlets much harder, but it makes the point.
Harrys faith is tested to breaking point. Were viewing my character as a pilgrim soldier, continues Radcliffe, and he is on a kind of crusade. Its not about religion, but it is certainly about faith.
During their adventure, Harry and his friends uncover unwelcome secrets about their former mentor, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). Its also about hero worship and the sadness of seeing your idols for what they actually are; and if that happens, it is a dreadful moment in anyones life.
Watson agrees. The actress, who joins us on set pre-pixie haircut, and clutching an old camera shes recently bought in Hampstead, also believes that both Hermione and Ron have their own challenging moments on film. With the book and these films I think its very much focused on the three of us again as characters, she says.
Hermione has a really cool journey in this one. The film actually opens with Hermione leaving her parents house and wiping their memories, which is really nice because you dont actually read about that in the book, you just know that she does it. I think that all three characters have their own journeys in this one, and its been great for me.
She excitedly describes the young heroes high-speed chase through a dense forest. We were hopping over tree trunks and hurtling underneath. It was really crazy. Also they had two camera guys, with these massive quad bikes, chasing us. That was great.
Also, things come to a head with Ron. He really messes up and you think that theres no way shell be able to forgive him. This one really tests Hermione and Harrys friendship, too.
Still, with the final few days filming fast approaching, Watson admits to mixed feelings. I will have been here for over a decade by the time were done and Ill be ready to do new things and work on new projects. Its been like my home, its been my school, its been like my family, its been everything.
Obviously Ill be very sad to leave so many people that I care about behind, but Im also excited to do other things.