“Goblet of Fire” Press Junket with David Heyman and Mike Newell
Conference Leader (CL): So good afternoon, everybody here in London, and for those of us joining us by phone from North America, good morning to all of you. Our first press conference will last approximately thirty minutes with director Mike Newell and Producer David Heyman. And with that, we shall welcome them to the dais.
CL: Okay, so as I mentioned, we’d like all questions from the audience here to come via the microphone so that people joining us on phone from North America can hear. So we’ll wait just a minute for some tape recorders to be placed.
Mike Newell (MN): Hi, y’all. It’s very nice to see you. Thank you for being here. If you weren’t here, then who would you be? We’d be in trouble. We’d be in a lot of trouble.
Media: [unintelligible] from Boston Globe. I want to ask both Mike and David. How is this Harry Potter different from everything that’s gone before that? From everything about to change that’s on the posters to they’ve obviously hit adolescence and are growing up before our eyes. What’s the real dramatic difference in this one?
MN: I can go. For me, it’s that I think in the previous films, the age of the people is crucial. What’s been happening is that the scale of the challenge to the leading character has been limited. He’s had a basilisk to deal with; he’s had this problem, but he’s never actually been challenged in his self. He’s never had to put up or shut up. He’s always had the group to rely on, and now in this one, he’s older. He’s more conscious, so he knows much more what’s happening to him. And he knows when Voldemort says in the graveyard, “Come out here. What do you want? To take it in the back or take it in the front, but you’re going to get it whatever way.” But what Harry says is, “All right, I’ll show you.” And he comes out, and he’s ready for a fight, and he knows that it’s a fight to the death. And he has the moral courage to do it. So for me, the difference is… and of course there are lots and lots of differences. There are lots of wonderful, new things about this, like the jokes and growing up and girls, and “Oh, God, how do we dance?” and all of those things. But the big difference is the challenge is a moral one, and he may not survive it.
David Heyman (DH): And for Harry, when we went to Jo the first time, it was a very sort of important thing for her. A theme that will be continued, which is to stand up and be counted. Even if you might not win, rather you have to sound out for what you believe in.
MN: It was a very, very important time for that. David took me up there two years ago now, and she talked about these moral challenges, and she was brilliant about it. And I took a great deal away from that.
DH: And that’s really the fundamental essence that Mike took that sort of goes from the beginning to the end. It is a thriller, the world is expanded, and we’ve got two new schools coming in. We’ve got the first interactions with the opposite sex – both the good and the awkward – and the uncomfortable sides of that that begins at thirteen/fourteen and never goes away. We have at its heart, as Mike says, is this moral development. Harry is now fourteen. He’s much more of an individual than he’s ever been before. He’s becoming more who he is and who is meant to be.
MN: Both you and I have taken Emma as a sort of honorary boy. But of course Emma now gets to be a young woman, which is something that I am personally very proud of. Because I thought that she was wonderful, allowed herself to be very vulnerable. She so easily could have said, “Well, I’m Hermione, and I’m going to be this and that.” But she was very, very allowing of vulnerability and not knowing and not being kind of cool. And I was very pleased of that because I thought that we got that. Just as in [Movie] 3, there is this hugely satisfying moment when she hits Malfoy. Bop. So is there in this one. There is this wonderful moment when she is unsure and insecure.
DH: And the other there is I think Mike is… the kids frankly are growing as actors, and Mike is benefitting from them having had two films with Chris and one film with Alfonso. And at the same time I think the real reason and one of the many reasons that we brought Mike in is that he is one of the great directors of actors. And the kids are challenged. He didn’t let them rest one minute on what felt comfortable. He pushed and pushed and pushed, and the performances show it.
Media: Mike, talking about challenges, as a director, you’ve got some of the greatest actors in England as the co-stars… about trying to use them. I mean, they are just in the background now to Harry’s story. I was wondering what the challenge is.
MN: It’s actually a problem. I think that the way that we attacked it was that even though each of them is now, Maggie is established, Alan is established, Mike Gambon, Hagrid… all these people are established. So there is no more exploration for the audience to do of those characters. Indeed, they mustn’t change in a way, and so what you have to do is find a kind of lapidary way of using these tiny bits, which will show you parts of these characters that you’ve never seen before. So you’ve never seen Hagrid in love before – a very wonderful thing it is, too. She did this thing at rehearsal. Nobody could believe it – this is Frances DeLatour – and they found themselves opposite one another. And of course they are both of the great natural comedians. So it was great to see these two people awkward and blushing and retiring with one another. And then suddenly she bent forward and does what she actually does in the scene in the movie. She picks something out of his beard, and we all thought, “Isn’t that wonderful?” and then – God help us – she ate it. [laughs] So those little things. A tiny moment like that will keep those characters alive. But yes, it’s something you have to do. It’s difficult.
DH: Look at how Dumbledore in particular has really changed. Looking to explore, this is the first time that we’re really aware that things are getting beyond his control. And that he’s not altogether comfortable with it.
MN: It was really interesting actually. Because Michael was really game to do that. I think that he had not really wanted to be the same figure that Richard Harris had been, a figure of tremendous Olympian authority who’s never caught on the harp. He wanted something different simply because he’s not Richard Harris. And what he found in this one is that Dumbledore is fallible and not omnipotent and indeed is behind the game. A great deal of what he does is about being inadequate rather than super adequate, which of course is much more interesting to play.
Media: [unintelligible] This is a question for Mike. How much awareness did you have for the movies and the books? Have you read them? Had you watched the previous films before being approached for this?
MN: Before being approached? Yes, I had seen both of the films. I had one book – the first book – and seen both of the films before I was approached. And so I was hoping to be approached. And so therefore was educated pretty reasonably when I was approached. Of course, then I started to particularly watch the films obsessively. I can still recite in my sleep those textual analysis of [Movies] 1, 2, and 3.
DH: And Alfonso was very generous…
MN: Yes, he was actually, as I’m sure Chris had been.
DH: As Mike has been in turn with David Yates. Alfonso allowed – engaged – Mike in discussion of the process of visual effects and allowed him to see the film early. Just as Mike did with David Yates. I mean, David Yates has seen a rough cut of the film, so it’s pretty great in that way. By the way, I think Mike was the very first person who[m] I approached for the first Harry Potter, so I’d wanted him from the very beginning.
Media: This movie is so different from the previous films. Do you think that’s it’s not only a kids’ movie anymore?
MN: It isn’t for me, not a kid movie for me. It’s an adventure story, and it’s a huge entertainment. Warner Brothers absolutely hates me saying this, so I’m going to say it. For me, it has all the kind of variety that a Bollywood film has.
DH: Oh, no, he said it!
MN: But anyway, it’s a huge broad-based entertainment. But above all else, David is habitually modest about this stuff, but he was very, very good when he first approached me. Because what he said was, “You must read the book, and if you find a way of doing the book, then you must tell us what that is. You mustn’t come because it’s a franchise. You mustn’t come because it’s the most famous children’s film there’s ever been. You mustn’t come for this, that, and the other reason. You’ve got to be able to see how to make a 750-page book into a single movie.” And we then had one of the meetings made in heaven when we talked about the thing as being a thriller because that’s what I found in it. I thought that it was an absolute God-gift thriller, and then I convinced him.
DH: For me, the books are not children’s books. I think that’s a misconception. I think the books are books that appeal to maybe children of all ages. But they appeal to people of all ages. I think that there is something in them for everybody, and I think that this film… that each of the books is getting more mature than the one preceding it because it’s also dealing with a different age, a different year in Harry’s life. In this one Harry is fourteen, so there’s different issues, greater complexity. And I think that really shows in the film. The film is true to that spirit. The other thing is that when you bring in a director like Mike Newell, just as when you bring in a director like Alfonso Cuarón, you don’t want them to… they are different directors; they are not cookie cutters. You don’t bring in a director like Mike Newell and tell him, “Well, you’ve got to make a film just like Chris Columbus”. I mean, why? It would be foolish. So for me it’s been one of the… I look at this film. I see Mike Newell. I mean, I see Jo Rowling, but I see Mike Newell written all over it. And that was really exciting to me. I saw it with Alfonso. I saw Alfonso written all over it. And Chris.
MN: I saw Alfonso, too.
DH: And I think it’s really important. And I hope that David Yates… I’m sure that David Yates will imbue the fifth with the same. And it’s really exciting to me. This is a big generous, smart, funny thriller.
Media: Are you happy with the PG-13?
DH: Very much so, and I am very happy with the 12A in the UK. I see, yes. One, I think that it’ll be good for the slightly older audience, and two, I think that we had to be… we chose to be faithful to the material. I think if we can’t… books do not talk down to an audience; the audience reaches for the books, and I think the films do the same. They don’t patronize our audience; we make films very much in the spirit. It’s not literally faithful; it is truly faithful to the spirit of what Jo has written, and that’s really exciting.
MN: One of the challenges was that, of course, everything goes back to the book. Always. And that’s where the audience begins as well, and so as the audience, which began with the first book, progresses through [Movies] 2 and 3, they get to [Movie] 4, and they see that it’s a different kind of animal. It’s a much tougher beast than the others, and if you don’t get a PG-13 in a way, then that audience that began with [Movie] 1 – and is now fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, or 64, whatever – will want to know why you are still infantilizing the situation. Of course, what David says is that these are not children’s books. These are adult stories with a very strong moral aim and view, so with PG-13 they can believe. Without it, I am not sure they can.
Media: Mike, in this stage of your career after all of these remarkable films, how does this rank personally? Not only the film but [also] the whole entire project?
MN: Okay, so I always hate what I make. I think that it simply shows a depth of… a lack of… I truly mean this. It sounds like such a joke sometimes, but it isn’t. I can’t stand myself sometimes. He’s seen me in rushes where I simply can’t bear the ordinariness of what I do, and I always feel that about everyone.
DH: Even when it’s extraordinary, by the way.
MN: What’s that?
DH: Even when it’s extraordinary.
MN: Woo. Anyway, I really do, and I always hate the end result. And this time may be a very bad sign. I don’t know, but this time I don’t hate it. This time I think it’s what I tried to do – what we all tried to do – which was to make this wonderful, terrifying thriller ride, and so it pleases me very much, and that’s a better way of answering your question.
DH: By the way, no, we didn’t answer your question.
Media: David, this question is for you. I wanted to ask you, “In working with Mike and bringing him on board… he brings a certain sense of British sensibility, and I was wondering from your perspective… can you talk a little bit about that?”
DH: Mike went to a school – as did I, by the way – that’s like Hogwarts but without the magic.
MN: Our school was very… it’s very similar.
DH: And he brings an innate since of understanding of the school life. He is very comfortable getting on the floor and wrestling with the kids to bring the – as he did with the Weasley twins – sort of the school that’s more anarchic than I feel that it’s been in any of the other films. It’s a little more anarchic. It’s a little madder and a little looser. Yes, you have the authority of the teachers, but you also have the kids rebelling as kids do – kids standing up for themselves, kids complaining to teachers – and I think Mike brings a real… I think it’s very true to the schools… the school that I went to, and I think it’s true to school life in general, but it’s most certainly true to British schools. So yeah, and I also think that in a way the nature of the performances… it’s an incredible thing. I don’t know quite how to describe, but I really feel that the performances in this are more British than they have ever been. I feel that there is a complexity, and at times when he talks about the Bollywood theatrical largeness in a really positive way to the performances… the way I think Dan is incredibly subtle and nuanced, and I think all the performances [have] a boldness about the performances, which I think is very, very British, and I’m very happy for that.
CL: We have time for two more questions at this end. And then we’ll go to the phone questions.
Media: You talked a bit about how the characters have evolved. The kids… how they have grown up and how they have handled becoming teenagers. Can you talk a bit about how the actors themselves are handling this fame and how they are sort of dealing with growing up really on set and in front of the whole world?
MN: I don’t know. I…
DH: How did you find them when they arrived?
DH: No. People like Dan, Rupert, and Emma in particular.
MN: Oh, I mean I had been expecting… my worst fear was that they would have realized that these films were stories in which they absolutely were the stars. Now most children’s films, that’s not true of most children’s films. They are that sort of little [unintelligible] of a third of a story taken by the adults in that way. Mary Poppins is not quite a children’s story; it’s an adult’s story, but that’s not the case here. This is a story in which the children are stars, and that can do terrible things to children. Miraculously, mostly because of the way they are handled by the production and also because they have got really good parents – good kids, good parents -They haven’t. They know exactly what they are worth, but they have not become impossible, and so they are still loose, and they are still cute, curious. And they are still prepared to have a go at it and everything. We had – before we began shooting – two weeks of acting classes, and the reason that we did this was that I was very anxious that the established characters would not dominate the newcomers, many of whom had never acted before. The Chinese girl had never acted before, the two little Indian girls had never acted before, and I didn’t want them feeling they were secondary citizens, and so we had these two weeks where what we did was we played. We did physical exercises, we did improvisation exercises, and so on and so forth. And by the end of that, everybody was loose in one another’s company, and there was not a rank structure with Dan outshone. Everybody else… they were all the same, and they were prepared to do that, which was a very wonderful thing, and it shows what you’ve got now is an ensemble rather than a from-the-top-down pyramid structure. You have an ensemble.
DH: And I think in this film more than in the previous three films, partly because of the number of the cast and the number of extras… I mean, the number of extras was larger than any of the previous films. It was more than the other films – the sense of community amongst the kids – and whether you got Stan – who plays Krum – or… and all the playing and joking and laughing; there was a lot more hanging out, and I think it also gave a real… Dan and Rupert [were both] part of that, so it was a much more extended community school life then.
MN: That’s a good point actually. I hadn’t thought of that. It was much more a kind of relationship you would build up in school, much bigger.
DH: Yeah ,and I say we are blessed – I mean, with three kids who could make it so easy to be brats are not. They want to learn. They want to get through what they do. They are enthusiastic still, and they have a lot of fun doing it. And partly the rehearsal that Mike had them do but also by the very nature, they are non-judgmental, open people who are as good to the person. They are good to people from the top down. It’s not a… I think Michael can attest, too, though. The buck always stops with him ultimately. It’s a very democratic environment. It’s one in which people… everyone has a voice. Sometimes too much of one, but everyone…
MN: I agree. The trouble is you can’t start that game unless you play that game all the way through.
DH: I agree with you. Iit’s a very democratic… it’s a really… it’s a place in which everybody is welcome. It’s very open-door, very safe place for the kids to be… quickly tell them about the fight.
MN: Well, there had to be a fight at one point between the two Weasley twins, and they did horrible adolescent stage screen fighting. It just wasn’t… it was awful, and I had tried, and I pushed them and pushed them, and they said they couldn’t get past it, and I said, “Okay, which one of you wants to fight me?” And they were like rabbits in the head lights, and I said what they thought I said. Finally, one of them put their hands up, and so we fell upon one another and we rolled over and over and over on the floor of the Great Hall, and I actually cracked a rib, and it was very early on in the shooting schedule, and all the kids were there, and they all saw the director make a complete prat of himself and also get himself injured, ha ha ha, and things were a lot easier after that actually. It doesn’t do any harm to punch your dignity.
CL: We have time for one more question here, and then we’ll go to the phones. Okay?
Media: Matthew Vines from Veritaserum.com. This question is for Mr. Newell. How frequently did you consult with J.K. Rowling about deviations from the book and sub-plots cut from the story line and what about in particular?
MN: Well, actually, I will answer it, but usually you should ask David because this is an absolutely key function of David’s. Jo Rowling appears to me to be quite extraordinarily hands-off. Everybody says, “Oh, we’re surprised to hear that; we thought she was very controlling.” Well, I speak as I find. She wasn’t with me, and I don’t think it’s in her nature. I don’t think she’s like that. However, David’s relationship with her – which is very close – meant that the whole time the script as it evolved, and the script continued I had a set of script pages. It’s a joke. We’ve been shooting the film for six months, and I get several script pages…
DH: [laughs] … and I looked to Michael and said, “What is this?” and he says, “Oh, we shot them yesterday, and it was great.” That’s right. It was great, yes. I don’t know what color they were.
MN: Sorry, it’s a joke. Sorry. Of course, what happened [unintelligible] it’s a huge tribute to David. It’s an enormous tribute to Steve Kloves that in fact they could – both of them and everybody around them – be loose enough to see that actually we might get to be going to a place – although we couldn’t exactly point to it on a map, yet – which wasn’t exactly where the first draft of the script had started out, but of course, in that the danger is that you lose Jo Rowling, at which point you lose the audience. Because they come in the end for her, and she was very, very sweet. She was very available. She’s not the best returner of a phone call that I’ve come across, but she was fine. She gave me very clear things when I needed them like what did the Avada Kedavra curse actually do when it hits you. But she also had this very strong view how the story fitted into the seven-book arc. Beyond that, she didn’t control at all, but of course, it was to David’s credit that she was brought into the process just as much as he knew she wanted to be and not an inch more. How does that work?
DH: Jo is the most generous of collaborators. She sees each and every draft of the screenplay. We want to do that because 1) I made a promise at the beginning that I – that we – would be true, but 2) because we would be fools to do otherwise. So we show her each draft, and we also don’t want to do anything [that] will disrupt books’… at that time Book 6 hadn’t been published. Or Book 7. We didn’t want to do anything that would adversely affect that order, that would make people read them askant or looking askant. So she has incredible knowledge! What’s in the books is just the surface of what she knows. She has notebook upon notebook with more material that doesn’t quite make the books but I think one of the reasons for the success of the books is because the universe is so clearly thought through. She knows the sixth use of dragon’s blood! You could have a question; she knows the answer. There was one very significant change that we made, and we called Jo to ask her about it because it was a major… I mean, we would have done it anyway, but it was major. It had to do with Barty Crouch, Jr. being present in that very first scene in the film, with Voldemort and Peter Pettigrew, which isn’t in the book. The scene takes place, but Barty Crouch, Jr. is not in it. And the reason why we wanted that was because we needed Barty Crouch, Jr. to be a more recognizable and formidable presence when you got to the end, when Moody turns back into him. Without that, the only time you’re just seeing him would’ve been in the flashback when he didn’t look exactly like he did at the end. So I called Jo and asked her about it, and she said, “Yeah, that could’ve happened. That’s absolutely fine.” What she loved about the third film… she hasn’t yet seen the fourth, but what she loved about the third film was that it was true to the spirit. That it made changes, but it made changes in the spirit of the work. That’s what she has felt so far in the inclusive process of the script, and I know she’ll feel when she sees the film. Sshe was meant to see it last week, but some personal matters came up, and then she couldn’t. She will be seeing it shortly.
CL: I’m sorry. On that note, I’ve got to pitch it to the phone people, who have been very patient with us. So we have time for two questions from the phones.
DH: No. No. No interest. Never been asked. She has the attitude that says the book is the book, and the film is the film, and you won’t make a good film unless you have a certain amount of freedom.
CL: Okay. Operator?
Operator: Yes. The first question comes from the line of Steve Brian of Suburban Journal. Please go ahead.
Media: Good evening. I’m directing this toward Mike. This is one film where you had to put Daniel through all his paces – lots of running and jumping. How did he handle that?
MN: Well, he’s a very brave boy. He really is a brave boy. He’s a rotten swimmer, or he was when this began, and he had great trepidation and came to me about the swimming. There wasn’t any way around it; he had to swim. He had to spend huge amounts of time underwater in the tank. And apart from anything else, he was by no means sure that he had the physical resources to do that… you couldn’t say that he was frightened of it, but he was only a step away. Nonetheless, he knuckled down, and he did what he had to do. There was another shot that I was actually there for, and I could see that he was absolutely terrified that he had to do it! Falling off the roof – sliding down the roof. Have you seen the movie?
MN: No, no, no. The man who’s talking to me. Have you seen the movie?
Media: I’ve seen all the trailers.
MN: Okay. I think it may be in the trailers. Anyway, during the dragon chase, he’s knocked off his broom, and he slides down a very steep roof, which he did for real. So he slid 30 feet from a 40-foot-high gantry – with a safety wire on, of course but not [unintelligible]. But nobody had to say, “Sorry, Dan, but you’ve got to do it.” We would ultimately, of course, have said that…
MN … but nobody had to say that. Because he will read himself the riot act; he will tell himself what he’s got to do. So I really think he’s naturally… he’s not going to turn into a stunt man, but he is a very responsible boy. He knows what he wants to do and simply does it.
DH: Actually, on the first film when we began the process, Dan was not a physical boy. He wants to be more physical, and we encourage that. We put him together with our stunt team, and he loves… and he is now a jock, of sorts. His body has changed; he’s really much more physical than he ever was. At lunch break, for example, several times a week, he’ll go down to the gym and work out. It’s nothing with actually asking him to do. He just loves to do it. He likes to do his own stunts. He’s very brave, as Mike said. In the underwater scene, he logged 41 hours on his log book.
CL: Sorry, we have time for one more question from… operator?
Operator: Thank you. And our next question comes from the line Daniel Fienberg of Zap2it.com. Please go ahead.
Media: Hi, guys. This question is probably more for David and also for Mike. Could you guys talk a little bit about the impact of Steve Kloves and the continuity of the series, and then, sort of as a quick follow-up, is Imelda Staunton signed on for the next movie?
MN: You broke up quite severely towards the end, there. Could you just, briefly, say the question again?
Media: The first, and main question, is about the role of Steven Kloves and the continuity of the series, and then, sort of as a quick follow-up, just wanted to know if Imelda Staunton signed on for the next movie, as rumored.
DH: Steve Kloves is one of the great experiences. To me, one of the great joys of this entire series has been working with Steve Kloves and frankly, his becoming a very good friend over the five years. I think he is one of the best writers writing. He is a brilliant adapter in the sense that he is able to retain the voice of the author that he’s adapting. He did it with Michael Chabon and the Wonderboys. He did it with another script I’ve read called [unintelligible], and I think he’s done it with the former films that he’s written. He is a fantastic writer, who manages to bring a keen sense of character and really understands the voice of the actors he is writing for. He can write with great emotion and at the same time, also a great humor. He is not doing the fifth because he is writing another project for me called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I hope he will direct. However, he read the sixth book and couldn’t stay away, and so he’s going to come back and write the sixth.
MN: Oh, great! Oh, that is good!
DH: Yeah, I know it’s great. [laughs] Michael Goldenberg is writing the fifth. He is another writer, who, actually, I talked to about the first film, and he’s doing a fantastic job. You can never make a good film out of a bad script. You most certainly can make a bad one out of a good one. But he does have a good script. And I really believe that Steve Kloves, on each of the four films, has given us a really good script. He’s also a man, in my perspective, who writes without ego. He’s someone who… it’s great when you sit in the script meeting with him because you can say anything, and he’s thought through everything. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t defend what he has, but he does it in a way [that] explains the reason why he has done what he has done. But it’s always open to changes. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of the world, and clearly, he and Jo are very much on the same wavelength.
CL: Thank you, all, very much.
Media: What about Mr. Newell?
MN: Everything he said. It was the most… it was the happiest collaboration I think I’ve ever had, certainly as an adapter. He never gets in your way. I am one of those who will start with them and re-write them and re-re-write them through the film, which is why the joke about getting pages six months and shooting… why, we all laughed at that. But he would never, ever complain. He would always see why. He would always dig down into his personal mine of stuff and come up with wonderful things. I can’t tell you how happy I was with him.
CL: Great. Thank you very much. For those on the phone, the next press conference will be starting in less than two minutes.