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

David Yates, director of Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix

Interview by Rob Carnevale

DIRECTOR David Yates talks about the latest Harry Potter movie, The Half-Blood Prince, its importance in the progression of the series, and why everyone is raising their game for the final instalment, The Deathly Hallows

Q. Are we right to regard this instalment in the series as a pivotal one?
David Yates: It’s absolutely pivotal actually. Basically, in our story Harry is charged with this mission to recover this memory from Horace Slughorn and in the DNA of that memory ultimately is the key to defeating Voldemort. So, in terms of narrative propulsion Half-Blood Prince is a very key step along the way, and it’s pivotal. But I suppose more importantly, and more interestingly as well, is the fact that our cast are just getting that little bit older now and the hormones are starting to fly. For me it marks a real transition point between our cast as children and our cast as adults. So it’s a very important transitional part of the journey.

Q. There is a darker tone to this film, how do you pitch it into this more grown up world?
David Yates: We’re just following what JK Rowling has given us really. This series gets more mature, more complex and more intense so we’re kind of following that tributary that she’s given us and I think the younger members of the audience respond to that and they appreciate it. Interestingly enough, we had a little screening a week ago and there were some very young members in the audience. My concern was that Half-Blood Prince would leave some of them behind and yet they came out of the viewing with their eyes shining, they really responded to the maturity and the intensity of some of the things that we’re doing in these films.

Q. Do you think kids are growing up faster now as viewers anyway?
David Yates: They don’t feel like they’re being patronised, when you give them something that is just beyond their fingertip reach I think they respond, I think they like that, I think they like being frightened and like the intensity of certain moments. So, we’re following the map that Jo Rowling has given us and I think we’re staying true to that and the younger audience as coming with us.

Q. Did you take inspiration from any painters in the look of the movie?
David Yates: Rembrandt was a big influence, and Bruno Delbonnel who lit the movie for us is such a gifted and special DoP. He’s very expressive in his use of light, so we looked at lots of paintings. We always felt we wanted this to feel very lyrical and beautiful and painterly. Bruno was a master of that, frankly. We were very lucky to get him for this movie. I’ve been a huge fan of his work for a long time, and we were very lucky that he came on board. We had a ball with him as well, he was delightful to work with. And very charming.

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 Yates: Inevitably, if the film is just sat there for a year you want to go back and have a look at it, and we did. We reflected on it, and we had time to look at it. Nothing really significant changed, I would say, fundamentally. We tuned it up a wee bit but nothing significant. The fact is you could work on a film for the rest of your life. It’s great to have a deadline because you have to let something go, and fortunately we had a deadline.

Q. How does it feel now that the Harry Potter series is nearly at an end? What are you going to do next?
David Yates: There’s a really interesting energy, we’re working at the moment on Deathly Hallows, and I think we’re all aware that this great juggernaut is reaching the end of its journey in a way. We finish shooting next spring, and everybody comes to work I think, with that knowledge in the back of their mind, and what it brings… not that there’s ever been a lack of commitment for people who work on these films, but everybody wants to do their very best work because they know we won’t go around again after Potter 7 part two. So, there’s a huge enthusiasm and passion, and a real family atmosphere there at the moment too. We all know it’s going to end soon, and we’re all making the very most of it, and we want to do our best work.

Read our interview with Daniel Radcliffe

Read our interview with David Heyman