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Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince - David Heyman interview

David Heyman

Interview by Rob Carnevale

PRODUCER David Heyman talks to us about the latest Harry Potter movie, The Half-Blood Prince, its importance in the progression of the series, going darker and what life will be like once the franchise has come to an end. He also pays tribute to the memory of murdered former co-star Robert Knox…

Q. Are we right to regard this instalment in the series as a pivotal one?
David Heyman: That’s particularly true for Michael Gambon. But there’s another aspect, which is that Dumbledore is really beginning to pass the mantle on to Harry really. Through this film and by the end of it the mantle has been passed and Harry really now is the person who is the protector of the wizard world, and the person who is charged with defeating Lord Voldemort.

Q. There is a darker tone to this film, how do you pitch it into this more grown up world?
David Heyman: It’s funny, you talk about it getting darker, in America this one gets a PG rating, whereas the last two films have got a PG-13. That being said I do think there are elements of this, which are darker. But I liked what David [Yates, director] has said – I think parents are more worried about the films being dark than the kids themselves. Kids really embrace reaching and I think where this film may be a little more mature is in the depth of character work and also the multiple strands working concurrently, it’s not a single linear story driven by a single purpose. And yet the kids that we’ve shown it to, young kids, really respond to that. I think we all, at every age, don’t like being patronised and we like to be challenged. I hope that we have done so and will continue to do that in the films to come.

Q. Although the release date being put back was not something instigated by your production, what did it allow you to do that you might otherwise have struggled to get done?
David Heyman: To a degree, because we were working on two films – 7, parts one and two, that meant that the time was limited. But the fact is if the film wasn’t being released for another 18 months David Yates would still be tweaking, because that’s his nature. He wants to make everything as good as it can be, and it’s mine too. There were very minimal tweaks here and there.

Q. Were they of an effects nature?
David Heyman: No, we didn’t do anything to the effects, there were maybe one or two visual effects shots in the cutting of a scene, a couple of shots added that needed a background. Actually, truthfully, I think one of the hardest parts about postponing the release of 6 for us was the fact that it was still hanging over us. We wanted to let the film go, we wanted it out there. We’re really proud of 6, really proud. I couldn’t be prouder, but we’re now onto the 7th. That’s where our headspace is, that’s what we’re focussing on. Someone asked me the synopsis of 6… it was an Italian journalist in a TV interview, and I must have taken around seven minutes not to answer the question because my head was already on 7. I think that’s probably true for all of us, that’s the hardest part of the process, now we’re talking about 6 but our head had moved on.

Q. Can you comment on the tragic death of former co-star Rob Knox and what kind of affect that had on everyone when it was reported?
David Heyman: Anybody who came into contact with Rob liked him, because he was a good guy. I didn’t know him that well but when anybody’s life is cut short, and his most certainly was in a really tragic way, at a really young age, I think it just casts a shadow. And I think for all of us it just makes us realise how lucky we are, and to live every moment as best you can. I think that, most certainly for me and for a lot of the people on the film, that’s what we feel. I think the most tragic thing is just the sheer waste.

One thing you get with Potter is this tremendous energy and passion for work, you’re surrounded by young people all day long who bring a great commitment to what they’re doing and Rob was no different. He came in and he wanted to do brilliant work and he put his heart and soul into it. You just think what a terrible waste… all these young people who have been struck down by knife crime, it’s such a waste, basically.

Q. How does it feel now that the Harry Potter series is nearly at an end? What are you going to do next?
David Heyman: I’ve been involved in these films for so long. I optioned the books in 1997 so this has been a huge part of my life. I’ve been in pre-production, production or post-production since 1999. it’s like having a real job in some ways. But each and every day I’m excited to come to work. But like Dan [Radcliffe] has said, I’m inspired and challenged and I think I’m a much better producer for the people that I’ve worked with these past 10 years so far, soon to be 12.

Directors like David Yates and the actors sitting along here, just challenge you and make you better as a professional and hopefully as a person. So, when it’s over, and I’m sure I’ll answer this question a few more times in a couple of year’s time, it will be really, really, really sad but at the same time really exciting to take on new challenges with the experience that one’s gained through this.

Read our interview with Daniel Radcliffe