David Yates was carving out a successful career as a director of TV movies and series in London when he got a life-altering phone call a few years ago. He was chosen to be the next director to tackle a "Harry Potter" film. Little did he know that after he scored – big-time – with “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” he would return to make three more "Potter" pictures. The newest, which makes up about the first half of J.K. Rowling’s final book, is “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.”
David Yates was carving out a successful career as a director of TV movies and series in London when he got a life-altering phone call a few years ago.
He was chosen to be the next director to tackle a "Harry Potter" film. Little did he know that after he scored – big-time – with “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” he would return to make three more "Potter" pictures.
The newest, which makes up about the first half of J.K. Rowling’s final book, is “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.”
“It’s a huge responsibility to make a Potter movie,” Yates said earlier this week in London.
Slightly hung over from a premiere celebration the night before, he added, “There are massive expectations on each movie.
“I’m very proud of this film, and I’m very proud of the previous two films.
“I’m just grateful that the fans are so faithful and loyal and enthusiastic.”
He’s also thrilled that his trio of stars – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint – have grown into their roles so well, having played them for 10 years now.
“They’re getting older and they’ve had more experience of life and more experience on the film set,” he said. “This is the last time they get to play these characters. And in some ways, the material is more nuanced than it’s ever been.
“All of those things together meant that they had to step up a notch, and they were really ready for that.”
While casual fans will be expecting just another Harry Potter film, those more familiar with the material know that the story told here is of a much darker nature than previous installments.
“We can explore some deeper things as they get older as actors,” said Yates. “And the material allowed us to do that.”
Some additional elements should pleasantly surprise everyone: an animated sequence that explains the film’s title, and a pop music tune that fits smoothly into the film’s atmosphere.
“The animation is really beautiful stuff,” said Yates. “We started with some references to Victorian shadow puppets, then looked at some Chinese shadow puppeteering – silhouettes that are backlit – as well.
“There were several options of delivering that part of the story.
“There’s something haunting and retro about it, but we also wanted it to feel part of our film.
The song, “O Children” by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds is heard on a radio while two of the principal characters share a slow dance.
“I listened to so many pieces of music for that dance, hundreds in fact,” recalled Yates.
“I needed something that was poignant and tender but oddly uplifting.
“When Nick’s piece was suggested to me, I loved it immediately. It has that curious capacity to break your heart but lift you up at the same time.
“So we phoned up Nick Cave and he said he’d be happy for us to use it.”
With part 1 finally released, and photography completed on part 2, Yates still sees a long road ahead of him.
“I’ve got quite a lot of work to do on part 2,” he said wearily. “I’ll have a couple of weeks off for Christmas, and I promise I’m going to take a vacation. But I’ve got so many scripts coming in.”
He laughed and added, “In fact, I told them to stop sending them last week because I haven’t read any of them. They’re just all piled up.”
Of his time spent getting the "Potter" stories on film, he said, “It’s a strange thing, but I don’t feel any sense of ownership. I don’t feel territorial about it. It’s a bit of a national treasure that I’m curating.
“But post-'Potter,' I won’t feel like I’ve made four of the biggest films in the world. I’ll feel like, that’s it, I’ve done 'Potter,' and now I’ll have all these beautiful scripts, and, in a way, I can begin my career again.
“I’m gonna do big things and tiny little things, and I won’t have any wizards in them.”