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Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix - David Yates and David Heyman interview

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

Interview by Rob Carnevale

DAVID Yates, director of Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix, and David Heyman, producer of all five movies so far, talk about the challenges of bringing the latest of JK Rowling’s novels to the big screen and the ongoing success of the franchise.

Q. This is of course the fifth of what has been an extraordinary successful Harry Potter series so far. Every new film we see, we expect more as an audience and as fans of the books. How do you rise to those challenges? How do you keep it fresh?
David Heyman: Well, it happens quite easily in a strange sort of way. I mean making the films is never easy, but actually that aspect of trying to make a better film or to keep the standard high is something that comes organically. We have the gift of Jo Rowling’s books, which obviously provide us with fantastic and rich source material. So that’s the starting point, then everybody involved in the films is ambitious and wants to make the very best film they and we can. The feeling is, because we’re all avid fans, if we can make a great film, or a film that we’re all pleased with then the fans will be too.

Directors are quite competitive, even though they may not admit it and I know that Alfonso [Cuaron] wanted to make a better film than Chris [Columbus], and Mike [Newell] wanted to make a better film than Chris and Alfonso, and I know, even though he may not admit it, David Yates wanted to make a better film than anybody who’d come before him. And I suspect that with the sixth film he’ll want to make a better film than this one. In fact, I know he will. Also, I think that we learn from our mistakes or anything that we’ve done before and all of that helps, I hope, to make each film better, more mature than what’s come before.

Q. Is that true David? Were you quite competitive with the previous directors? Is that one of the benchmarks for this film?
David Yates: [Laughs] I don’t think you can be a director without a kind of sense of competitiveness. It’s quite a competitive business, but in truth I loved those earlier films. But when you come to a series like this you’re desperate to put your stamp on it and you’re desperate to kind of move it forward and do your best. So I’m very proud of the film that we’ve made and we’re doing Half-Blood Prince next and I want that to be a better film than five.

David Heyman: The other thing which is quite amazing is the generosity of the directors that have come before, so that Chris spent time with Alfonso, Alfonso spent time with Mike and Mike spent time with David, showing him an early cut of the film, talking through what it means to be a director and how they went about it and any sort of titbits that they can pass on. And it’s a really collegial and supportive environment between directors, but also I think within Leavesden itself.

Q. I understand the open casting call for the role of Luna Lovegood drew a massive response. What was that like to experience as a director?
David Yates: When we were looking for Luna Lovegood, it was extraordinary. I turned up at the casting and I was in a car and the queue just went round the block again, again and again. 15,000 people turned up, it was the most amazing thing! What was brilliant for us, normally when you cast you have all these casting agents sending you people that they’ve found and sometimes you’ve got kids who have been to stage school, who come in tap dancing and singing.

But what you’re always looking for is someone who’s absolutely natural and absolutely credible in their own right. That’s how we found Evanna and it was a real thrill, through these 15,000 people to suddenly land someone who in our film, Order of the Phoenix, just presents the most amazing and naturally gifted performance.

Q. You’re doing the next film, The Half Blood Prince, so how big a challenge is it to keep what you need on the screen in order to tell the story without losing too much of the stuff you don’t from the book?
David Yates: Right off we felt in the fifth film it was Harry’s journey in terms of the conflict within himself and dealing with the relationships with his friends, so that kind of fell down quite easily for us. The next movie is less intense on one level. It’s more sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll I’d say. Half-Blood Prince is American Graffiti with wands. It’s enormous fun and has enormous energy. They’re two very different films.

Q: How did the experience of making this film compare with your other film projects?
David Yates: For me, it just felt like coming home because it’s a very welcoming place Leavesden where this film was shot and David Heyman and David Barron, my producers on the film, were incredibly supportive and made me feel very safe. The studio were really delighted with the material we were getting so it felt perfectly natural and normal to be telling this big story on this big canvas and I had a ball. It’s probably the most enjoyable filmmaking experience I’ve had. I can’t wait to start shooting the next one.

Read our review of The Order Of The Phoenix