JK Rowling: Harry Potter and Me Special
BIG thanks to Morgoth, a member of our forum, for compiling this for us!
Starts off with voice-over and clips of people in bed/in bath reading the books.
Cut to scenes of people buying GoF on its release.
Harry Potter has sold 135 million copies worldwide.
Every thirty seconds someone somewhere in the world starts a Harry Potter book.
Brief on JKRs early career.
She wants to do the documentary to settle a lot of tales that have been said about her and to clear some issues up.
"A lot of rubbish has been written. Not always malicious, but distorted." She's doing the documentary to clear up a lot of nonsense about her and the book.
From this point on, the BBC has recreated some of the scenes from the books.
Brief on Harry's early life from the Dursleys to Hogwarts.
Clips from Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone. It's one of the trailers.
JKR tells of idea for Harry. On a train.
The journey began back in 1990. She was going from Manchester to London, thinking of nothing to do with writing and out of nowhere she suddenly saw Harry, "This scrawny little boy." "I got so excited when I thought of it." She had no pen or nothing on her and for four hours she had all the ideas bubbling in her head.
Narrative from the first book by Stephen Fry. Official BBC tapes on Harry Potter that was broadcast on BBC Radio last Christmas, 2000.
She got off train as though she'd just met someone wonderful. As though she'd just seen the man of her dreams and fallen in love. She got back to her flat in Clapham Junction and started writing and she's been doing it ever since.
She finds Kings Cross very romantic. Her parents met there. Her dad was in Navy. Her mum was a Wren. She wanted Harry to go to Hogwarts by train. She's always had a thing about trains. "Like all HP books, it's reality with a twist." "Those with knowledge and power could go through barrier to platform 9 ¾." She didn't want the platform to be done through a time warp or some kind of other method. It had to be natural to the Wizards and Witches. She wrote platform 9 ¾ when she was in Manchester and wrongly visualised the platforms of Euston and Kings Cross. It was Five years from train journey to finishing Philosopher's Stone.
Cut to JKR sitting on her floor looking at every single piece of paper to do with Harry. "To the untrained eye it may look like a pile of wastepaper but this is 10 years work."
She has booklet of every pupil. Their parentage in terms of allegiances to dark forces. Their magical ability. Every character is there in alphabetical order.
She wrote Latin words in her 1998 diary to come up with Dementors.
Discarded chapters of Book 1. There are 15. They all gave too much away. If u put all 15 together it would give whole story away.
She carries on by showing us her application for Housing Benefit (that's aid given to people in the UK who are unemployed, etc.) and all the scribbles she made on it to do with Harry. She show's us a book with history of Dementors in it. Now I say book. It's probably about 150 pages all about the Dementors.
She wrote another discarded chapter 1 in a Portuguese diary.
She has done some drawings of Harry. She's a bloody good artist. She drew them to get some perspective of what they look like and seeing them and then looking at the actors in the film, all I will say is that they are 99% matched...
She drew a print of Diagon Alley and lost it before filming started on the movie. The major difference is that the entrance to the alley swirled open rather than all the bricks coming in and going out and reshaping into an archway. "Chris is going to murder me when he finds out."
Carving the books out of all her notes was a case of editing and condensing and sculpting it so the story moulded into shape. She had a mass of stuff on Harry that she had to edit down quite a bit. She figured Harry Potter would be a book for the obsessives. She figured it was a book for people who enjoyed every little detail that a story like Harry offers. Narrative of Philosopher's Stone. Instructions for 1st Year students.
As JKR wrote Harry and got his world together, her own fell apart. Married, divorced and then she became a penniless single mother. She arrived in Edinburgh in 1993 after teacher English in Portugal. She talks about the press writing stupid things like the ridiculous rumour that she had to write on Napkins because she couldn't afford paper.
We go back to her old flat/apartment. "I don't like being back here". She did most of her writing in the flat but it was a very unhappy six months living there. It was there that the first book became a book as opposed to three chapters and a collection of notes. She couldn't look around and say she had a decent life. She lived on seventy pounds a week. Unemployed. Depressed. She had no childcare so it was a shock to the system. We go into her old apartment, but it's completely different. It's really nice and well furnished. She expected it to be the same, like time standing still. "I should know better." "It's like an exorcism." A lot of people ask her "How did you do it. Write, bring a child up and do other things." Her answer: She did no housework for four years.
Narrative on Dementors. "...they glory on decay and despair..." - Dementors personify her life in the apartment. They are the most depressing thing she has written. She was very depressed at that stage in her life.
She would write in Cafes. SHE DID NOT WRITE IN CAFÉS TO ESCAPE HER UNHEATED FLAT. She wants that on the record... She wrote in Cafés because the only way to make her daughter Jessica go to sleep was to move around Cafés a lot. She would put her into her buggy and as soon she was asleep she would go into a café and start writing. We go into Nicholson's the café where she wrote huge parts of the book. It's very big and quite good-looking. She didn't feel guilty about sitting there because it was so large. They tolerated her because her brother in law worked there.
She only went on with the book because she had to finish it. She believed in the dream of unknown author finding fame. But she says that it was her total belief in the book that kept her going. Her realistic side kept telling her that she had to come down and realise that it may not happen. "Just because I though it was great. Know one else was guaranteed to like it." Loads of publishing houses rejected it. Too many publishers turned it down because it was too long and dealt with children going to school???
Interview with man from Bloomsbury's. Of course everyone now denies turning it down. "It's like turning down the Beatles." JKR refuses to name which publishers turned her down although the interviewer wants to know. She explained the whole story to Bloomsbury and they became entranced. "She knew exactly about this world. It was fascinating. Children's book characters don't normally grow up in real time." Best bit of advice JKR was given was: "The important thing Jo, is to keep your real job because Children's authors don't tend to make money."
Eventually Bloomsbury Publishers paid JKR £2,500. NOT A LOT. Cut to scene of her books being printed. Next to giving birth to her daughter, it's the best moment of her life. Her reaction when her literary agent phoned up was complete silence. He asked her: "Are you alright?" and she said: "It was my lifetime ambition and it's been fulfilled." She went into Waterstones Bookshop in Princes Street and went to the shelves and found her book. "I was there on the R shelf just like the other authors. It was incredible." She had an urge to sneak one off the shelf and sign it and then put it back, but the staff probably wouldn't have appreciated that.
Narrative on 1st book and his parent's death.
Interview with Phillip Pullman, a writer. "The orphan is an excellent protagonist, because they are free and yet they are bereft. There bereft because they are free of what gives a child the sense of where they come from and who they are. They are cut adrift in some strange way. We all need to know where we've come from and where we will eventually belong."
Cut to scene from film. The Sorting Hat on Harry's head. Not Slytherin. NOT Slytherin. JKR Says: He's like every child starting a new school. You don't know where to go or how to fit in, but greatly exaggerated. He's set apart by everything there including his fame and his ancestry and the quirk, which meant he survived what should have been this fateful attack. He's every boy but with a twist.
The magical world of Hogwarts is a like the real world only distorted. We're not going off to a different planet. It's a fantastic world which has to exist shoulder to shoulder with the real world.
Interview with Stephen Fry. He did audiotapes of books. He likes the reality of Harry Potter. Not everything is great and not everything has a happy ending. Not everything works right. He likes the fact that the traditional folklore of English magic is woven into the story. Harry Potter doesn't represent the Disney world of all your dreams coming true and that's good.
Narrative from 1st book. First scene in Potions.
JKR doesn't believe in witchcraft. 95% of magic in Harry Potter books is invented. She's taken liberties with folklore, twisting them to her own satisfaction. The appeal of magic which can influence the world we live in is enormous which is what appeals to both adults and children. Wizards and Witches are a huge part of Children's stories and I don't think they'll ever go away in 100 or 200 years time.
Narrative on CoS.
Book 1 was doing well but JKR was still making her living as a teacher. Then the real magic happened HARRY CAST A SPELL ON AMERICA AND US PUBLISHERS GOT CAUGHT IN BIDDING WAR. $105,000 for publishing rights with Scholastic Inc. Gave JKR life long ambition of writing books full time. It was more money than Scholastic had ever paid for a first novel.
She can't understand why no one would not want to write a novel. It's a great gift. You cannot write a children's novel if you cannot remember what is what like to be a child. She can remember very well what it was like to be a young child. It was her childhood memories that had a big influence on her writing. She grew up near Bristol in south west of England in a town called Chipping Sodbury. (OOOH I LIVE NEAR THERE!).
She was bookish and bossy as a child not too dissimilar to the character: Hermione. When I came to write Hermione, she came incredibly easily because she's me. Like Hermione she projected a false confidence and sense of insecurity. Underneath all the layers she felt very inadequate.
Pictures of JKR as a young child.
She talks about her first book Rabbit. She wrote it when she was six. She wrote them for ages. She wrote a series of books on the Rabbit and illustrated it.
"The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge is one of her biggest influences because the book would describe everything in utmost detail down to the very food they were eating. She remembers finding that so satisfying as a child.
More narrative on CoS.
JKR was a realist teenager. She liked dramatic Gritty stories. Like a lot of teenagers she was an urban rebel. However she lived in Chepstow in the middle of muddy fields and it was hard to act like a disenchanted youth there. WE SEE THE COTTAGE SHE USED TO LIVE IN. She used to hang out of bedroom window at night smoking. My dad won't be happy to hear that.
Into her old school Tutshill Primary School. Kids aged 5-10. She goes in and we cut to the teacher in an assembly talking to the children Teacher says: Now this morning we have a very special guest. Her name is JK Rowling and she's here to talk to us
The kids mouths drop. They can't believe who it is they're seeing. She talks to them about growing up in the town and about writing Harry Potter. Nothing is more fun to me than meeting the children who read the books especially the ones who say that Harry introduced them to the pleasures of reading. One child asks: What advice can you give to young authors.
JKR says: Keep reading and improve your vocabulary. It will teach you what you like and what you hate.
Another child asks: What Hogwarts house would you like to be in?
JKR Says: Gryffindor. That's why I put Harry there
We meet her best friend, Sean (the man she based Ron on). She always felt like an outsider and Sean was an outsider and they bonded. Ron owes a fair bit to Sean. He doesn't have red hair, but he was Ron as a child. He had an old Ford Anglia, like The Weasley's in CoS and JKR says Sean was coolest man in upper school.
Narrative from CoS. Flying Anglia.
Talks about her mother death from Multiple Sclerosis. Her mother was the book lover in the family. Mum dying was like a depth charge in my life. The one thing she really would have liked to see was her daughter become a successful author and she's not alive to see it. it add's a little bit of poison to the knife. She wrote Harry's parents death without much explanation at the pain he would have to go through and within six months of her writing it, her own mother died and that made an ernomous difference to watch she had written. The Mirror of Erised is based on her own longing to see her mother again. Please God. Give me five more minutes. That desire to see them and talk to them and tell them about your life and not remembering to ask them: So what's death like?
Death is the most important theme throughout all seven books. More people are going to die. One death is going to be horrible to write. IT HAS TO BE. Some parents have questioned whether kids can take the dark themes of the books.
She had a nasty letter from a mother after book two: This was a very disturbing book and I'm sure a writer of your ability can think of a better way to end the next book. She wrote back and all she said was:
Don't read the rest of the books.
She cares very deeply about her readers, but she does not believe that they should dictate what she writes. I should be the one that is in total control and I'm not writing to make anyone's children feel safe.
Kids talking about Voldemort and how tense they are reading the book during its pivotal moments and the tension it produces and the urge to not put the book down.
Phillip Pullman says: Adults have made the mistake in thinking that todays children's books deal with little things for little minds. They couldn't be farther from the truth.
Narrative on PoA.
Small briefs from here on:
Talking about book signings and New York Times bestseller list.
Kids from all over the world talking in their native tongue reading Harry Potter. Hebrew, German, Swedish, Turkish, Italian, Japanese, Greek, American English.
Brief on Goblet of Fire. Worldwide release footage. Kids running around screaming. Mainly American footage. In fact I think it's all American.
Cut to Toronto book reading. The cheers! Man, it was like watching a boy band in concert. She hates public speaking but she says she got into after the first few lines.
Fame and success was mirrored in GoF with Rita Skeeter. It's her way of getting at the media attention in her life. Originally Rita turns up in Book One, in The Leaky Cauldron where she makes a beeline for him, but it was written out and she eventually made an appearance in Goblet of Fire.
Cut to newspaper headlines of her personal life. She hates it. She talks about journalists going after her father and making lies up about her. Cut to South Carolina, USA and Anti-Potter fanatics and they're attempts to ban the books from the classrooms. She has to restrain herself from swearing
Brief on Harry Potter movie. It's domestic sales. Her fears for the movies plot and eventual relief at being true to the books.
AND NOW BOOK FIVE: TITLE IS ORDER OF THE PHOENIX.
Talks about Boy/Girl stuff.
Harry finds out a lot more about his past.
Book 7 will answer a lot of questions
We see final chapter in a yellow folder, but we don't see anything. She really didn't want to show it.
There was no mention of any specific relationships beginning, but it's clear that one of the sub-stories of the next book is relationships and lurrrve.