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Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban - People are going to hate me for saying this, but I've always had the suspicion that Harry might die!

Feature by: Jack Foley

THEY’VE 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 film’s 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 Cuarón.

"There was always a fantasy list of directors - Scorsese, Coppola, Alfonso, although I’m 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, wasn’t 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 starting point."

As for the darkness, Cuarón maintains that he was merely ‘serving the material’, adding that JK Rowling’s 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 might die!

"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.

"That’s 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 many opportunities.

"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 didn’t 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.

"I’m 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 it’s just been really great fun."

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