Feature by: Jack Foley
THEYVE been ringing the changes at Hogwarts School for
young magicians. The third Harry Potter film is notable for several
things, most notably the change of director, Alfonso Cuarón,
but also a change in tone.
The Prisoner of Azkaban marks a more mature outlook for Harry
Potter and friends, as they approach teenage life, and realise
the mounting evil which surrounds them.
And it marked a good point for the films producers to broaden
their horizons somewhat, having already established a good
will with the audience.
"We were aware that parents thought the films were too long,
but the kids wanted more, and it was a delicate balancing act
with the first two," explained former director, turned producer,
Chris Columbus, at a recent London press conference.
"So with this third film, it felt like the right time to
streamline and condense it, while also bringing in the darker
elements of the story."
The time also felt right for Columbus to take a back seat
to directing duties, in order to preserve my sanity,
and search for a new director, who could combine the visual flair
necessary for a Harry Potter adventure, with the ability to work
well with the children. That search resulted in the rapidly-emerging
"There was always a fantasy list of directors - Scorsese,
Coppola, Alfonso, although Im not sure Oliver Stone would
fit in," he maintained. "But my main concern was finding
someone who would bond with the kids, and I was certain they would
be in good hands."
For Cuarón, the idea of stepping from the hip, Mexican
independent rights-of-passage flick, Y
Tu Mamá También, to the blockbuster heights
of Harry Potter, wasnt as intimidating as it may sound.
"From the moment I read the material I connected with it,"
he stated, confidently. "The film is about a kid who is seeking
his identity as a teenager and I knew I could make that.
"But I actually had it pretty easy, so sort of came to have
fun," he added. "Chris had already prepared the kitchen,
and found the ingredients for the food, etc, so when I arrived,
it was all there. I even had the chef who prepared the previous
meal telling me what to do.
"And by serving the material, I was coming from a very comfortable
As for the darkness, Cuarón maintains that he was merely
serving the material, adding that JK Rowlings
story, itself, evolves in that way. The hardest part, was finding
a balance between that and the humour.
The change in tone and director also brought fresh challenges
for the young cast of the series - Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson
and Rupert Grint - who maintained that they still enjoyed the
process of making the films.
And while Grint admitted that it was weird, when
they first learned that there would be a new director, he went
on to refer to Cuarón as wicked.
All three young actors believe they have grown in confidence
as the film series has progressed and looked forward to continuing
in their roles, for as long as it was possible to do so - the
fourth film, The Goblet of Fire, began filming three weeks ago,
under the direction of Mike Newell.
But asked whether he could predict an ending for the young wizard
in the seventh and final book of the series, Radcliffe shuffled
a little awkwardly in his chair, and then risked the wrath of
countless fans, by stating: "People are going to hate me
for saying this, but I've always had the suspicion that Harry
"Harry and Voldemort have got the same core in them, which
you see in the fourth book. The only way Voldemort could die,
is if Harry dies as well."
Grint, too, leaned towards a darker ending for his character,
Ron, joking that he would like to see him turn a bit evil,
but Watson remained upbeat, hoping that she would end up
doing something that she loves.
In the meantime, Radcliffe is sensibly playing down the impact
that Harry Potter may have on his own life, and career, refusing
to rise to the bait of a question which asked him to ponder whether
he feared the Macaulay Culkin factor.
"Thats a cheery thought," he joked, before adding:
"It would actually be the stupidest thing to think like that,
because this role has been amazing for me, and has provided so
"I would hope to be able to go on to other things, of course,
and that people will like what I do, but I guess I will just have
to wait and see what happens."
For the moment, Radcliffe is more concerned with doing his best
for the Potter films and continuing to grow as an actor, and found
the opportunity of working with childhood hero, Gary Oldman, to
be an honour and a privilege.
Oldman plays escaped murderer, Sirius Black, who is intent on
finding Potter and possibly killing him. But while Radcliffe maintained
that working with Oldman did not prove as intimidating as first
thought, the same could not be said for the more established star.
He confessed: "I did feel a little intimidated, because
I was aware that Daniel was a fan, and so had the added responsibility
of hoping to live up to his expectations.
"I didnt want to disappoint him and I wanted to do
the best Sirius Black I could."
The role has had its perks, however, given that he became an
overnight superstar for his own children, and got to appear
in one of the biggest movie franchises of all-time.
"Im thrilled to be a part of this family and this
phenomenon," he added. "And my children are loving the
whole experience of it. My eldest son, Alfie, will be at the premiere
with me [on Sunday], so its just been really great fun."