Interview: David Yates

Micah: I guess I'll start. There was kind of a special moment at the world premiere...

David Yates: Yep.

Micah: ...between Dan, Emma, Rupert, JK Rowling, you, David Heyman, David Barron, and Steve Kloves, and you were thanking each other in a very emotional manner. Did you expect that at all, or was it kind of out of the blue?

David: We didn't quite expect it. It was inevitable, though, after working on these films for such a long time. You realize when you're up there on that stage that that's the last time collectively you're together to celebrate all these movies and the books and everything. So, it just spontaneously happened that we were there, and we could look in each other's eyes and say those things. I've never seen Rupert hold eye contact for that long.

[Micah laughs]

David: He held eye contact with Jo Rowling, and that was really moving and really tender, but it wasn't planned. We didn't say, "Hey, when we get up there, we've got to say this and that and that."

Micah: Right.

David: It just all spilled out.

Micah: And what was it like, I guess, first arriving at Trafalgar Square, sort of the atmosphere that was there?

David: It was electric. You've got twenty - I found out yesterday that there were twenty-five thousand fans there, apparently, and they're in Leicester Square. And so - and only Harry Potter, I think, could get that kind of space in central London, to kind of close everything. And it was electric, it was exciting, it was moving, because as you go along the line of fans, they're from Sweden, Argentina, Chile, Japan, and they're there because they love the material, they love the world. And it was - yeah, exciting and moving, I would say.

Micah: Now, as far as the movie goes, there were a couple of noted changes...

David: Yes.

Micah: ...I think fans...

David: Yeah.

Micah: ...were talking about a lot. One of them was sort of this epic battle that's taking place...

David: Yes.

Micah: ...between Harry and Voldemort...

David: Sure.

Micah: ...and it's - everybody knows from the book it happened in the Great Hall.

David: Yeah.

Micah: But in this movie - and I saw it the other day - it's this great battle that sort of takes place throughout Hogwarts. What was the - yeah, I guess the idea behind the change?

David: I wanted that final confrontation between the two of them to be a little bit more expansive, and so that you had a greater sense of climax, given that we had spent so long with those characters, and their animosity and their hatred for each other. So, it felt to me as though it would feel much more personal and dynamic if they were to head off away from the rest of everybody and continue fighting. So, that was the idea behind it. We had an earlier version of it, which finished in a similar way to the book, and it worked really well in the book, but in a movie, I think we needed a more kinetic conclusion.

Micah: Yeah, it's quite a short scene, actually, in the book.

David: It is quite short. And I love the notion of them - I love the notion of Harry pulling Voldemort off this precipice...

[Micah laughs]

David: ...and them sort of morphing together...

Micah: Yeah.

David: though they were one. For me, it kind of captured so much of their odd relationship together, that they're kind of one, but they're not one, in a weird kind of way. And so it was mainly to make sure that the movie felt like it had a theatrical enough ending to satisfy all the fans of the books and all the fans of the movies.

Micah: And then the other was Snape's death?

David: Yeah, and that was - two reasons we changed the location is, one, I felt the boathouse would be a more atmospheric place with the lapping of the water, and you could see the reflection of the school on fire in the water, so it would be more haunting as a space. But also, much more practically, the only way to get to the Shrieking Shack, based on Stuart's design, was to get across the wooden bridge and we had blown the bloody wooden bridge up...

[Micah laughs]

David: physically getting there became a bit of a number in terms of screen geography. So, it was much easier to get down to the water, and it felt like a more atmospheric place to finish and kill Snape.

Micah: Yeah. It was a great scene.

David: Yeah, cool.

Micah: Yeah, very cool.

David: Yeah. No, I'm glad. That's good.

Micah: And I mean, talking about those two things in particular, how important is it, do you think, for the fans to kind of differentiate between the books and the movies, and kind of realize that not every word that JK Rowling writes can sort of end up on the screen?

David: Well, I know the fans feel very strongly about all sorts of things, but if they were just a little bit more like Jo Rowling, who's just a - completely understands the difficulty of adaptation, how hard it is...

Micah: Sure.

David: sort of get all that wonderful stuff that she's created into a two and a half hour frame. It's really challenging, and I think that some of them are great, the fans, in terms of the fact that they understand and appreciate that it's two different experiences, in a way. And some of them, obviously, still feel frustrated at some of the things we take out. I get frustrated at some of the things we take out, too, because we're all fans of the material.

Micah: Sure.

David: The original books, but you have to make choices sometimes to make sure that what we end up in the theater ultimately works on its own terms.

Micah: Sure. Now, were there any additions or removals, changes that JK Rowling had for specifically Part 1 and 2? Anything that came to mind?

David: Generally, she was just very supportive and brilliant. She was really helpful with the Aberforth scene in Part 2. But generally, she was very kind and supportive, and off the top of my head, there wasn't anything she had a real problem with, or challenged, and she was always there on the end of the phone if we needed her help, basically. She's the best collaborator you could ever want, honestly, for this. David Heyman was just saying that when he first sat with her and they were talking about the adaptations, she said even ten years ago, "I know the films can't be the same as the books word-for-word. I completely get that." And she stayed true to her word, whereas some authors, I think, could be potentially more territorial about it all.

Micah: Sure.

David: But Jo is kind of wiser than that, in a way, and generally, she really enjoys the movies.

Micah: Mhm. Was there - can you talk a little bit about working with Desplat...

David: Yes.

Micah: ...for Parts 1 and 2?

David: Yeah.

Micah: How they are different from, I guess, Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince?

David: Yeah. Nick Hooper was the composer on Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, and he's a good mate. And I've worked with him many times, and he's composed all the earlier work I did. And Nick got very tired, basically, after Half-Blood Prince, because it's exhausting. The pressure is enormous, delivering one of these scores and delivering one of these films, and he bailed out. And I really liked Alexandre's music, I thought it was terrific. And he's French, he's funny, he's incredibly collaborative, he's joyful, he has a wonderful team around him, music editors - and we worked with the same mixer, a chap called Peter Cobbin, Abbey Road, and Peter is a genius, basically. So, doing the music for these movies with Alexandre was probably one of the most enjoyable parts of the whole process of making the movie. And what we would do is Alexandre would compose a piece for a scene, I would go in, sometimes with a David, sometimes not, because they weren't there all the time, and I would give notes to Alexandre about what was working and what wasn't working. Some pieces of music didn't require notes. Some pieces of music we needed quite a bit and changed a bit. And we left some time at the end of the schedule to come back, once we had seen all the music together, and re-recorded some bits and pieces if we wanted them. So, it was really fun and he's a great composer. And I think for Hallows: Part 2 he's made a really muscular, moving, exciting score, and it's my favorite score, probably of the four films.

Micah: Yeah. I mean, just when it opens up with - you see Snape sort of in the window there...

David: Yeah.

Micah: ...staring out. It's kind of very dark feeling.

David: Yeah, I always wanted a really haunting feeling, too.

Micah: Yeah.

David: And so we always wanted a vocal and we heard all these singers, and the one we liked most was this Japanese lady called Mai, so we flew her over from Japan because she's really clever and we recorded that vocal with her.

Micah: Wow.

David: Yeah. Clever lady. Lovely lady. Tiny.

[Micah laughs]

David: Tiny lady, but wonderful, haunting voice because you listen to it and you go, "That sounds like a mother," you know?

Micah: Now, if you could take us back to the beginning when you found out you were going to be directing Order of the Phoenix...

David: Yes.

Micah: ...had you seen any of the previous movies or read the books prior to the job?

David: I had seen three of the previous movies but I hadn't read any of the books, so I read - I quickly got the first two books, which I loved, obviously, and it was those first two books that really got me into it. And then I went on to the fifth book which they were asking me to do, and there's something - it's difficult not to fall in love with the world, it's difficult not to fall in love with those characters, basically. And - but I was kind of a Potter virgin, if you like...

[Micah laughs]

David: ...because I had never read any of the books. I had seen the movies and I had enjoyed Chris's films and I thought Alfonso's film was really clever, but I wasn't really wrapped up in the universe like everybody else.

Micah: And what was the first day like, I guess, at Leavesden?

David: It was intense and exciting. Actually, it was really exciting...

Micah: Yep.

David: ...because you would turn up and there's this beautiful set that we've built, and Grawp - this bloke wearing a green suit with a big stick. And it was just really - I don't know. I stood there on that very first day, thinking, "Crikey, this is my first big Hollywood movie." It was a real - I felt very honored and very privileged to start that journey, and it was quite - a little bit scary, but you got used to it very quickly.

Micah: Now, if you had a chance to add one more scene into the films, what do you think it would be? I mean, if it was something that was, let's say, even in the books that didn't make it in.

David: Looking back?

Micah: Or something maybe that was in one of the deleted scenes.

David: There have been deleted scenes all along the way that I wish we could have kept in the movie. There's a lovely scene at Hallows: Part 1 where Harry says goodbye to his cousin at the Dursley house in Little Whinging, and Harry says goodbye and it's a really moving scene which I absolutely loved in the book. And I shot it, and I loved the scene and I had it at the beginning of Hallows, and no matter how many times we tried we couldn't quite make it work in the structure of the opening that we had. And I think it's on the DVD now, so...

Micah: Yeah.

David: Yeah, and it's a really sweet scene, and it's scenes like that I miss. In Hallows: Part 2 there's a scene on the beach where Hermione comes up and says, "How do I look?" and they have a little exchange together. And again, rhythmically it didn't quite flow in the way I wanted it to and so it kind of came out.

Micah: Okay. And then given the size of Books 5 and 6, seeing that you directed Order of the Phoenix...

David: Yes.

Micah: ...and Half-Blood Prince...

David: Yes.

Micah: ...was there ever any consideration to split those, or was it always, "We can get this in one movie"?

David: We always felt we could get it in one movie, and also the precedent hadn't been set, so - but it was Hallows that we suddenly felt, "This would be good to try."

Micah: Do you think, also, that that's started to set a precedent for book adaptations being split into two? Because I think The Hobbit is now going to be in two parts, and several others.

David: That's interesting. It might make it easier for some studios because they've got their head around it now. They might say, "Oh yeah, well, those guys did it so we should do it." But I'm sure Peter Jackson made that decision based on the material and...

Micah: Sure.

David: Rather than following anything. They probably thought it made sense to do that. But certainly the studio, Warner Bros., who are also making The Hobbit, probably thought, "Well, we've done it and it kind of works. We can do it again." So, it probably makes the studio feel more comfortable, but I'm sure Peter Jackson did it for the right reasons.

Micah: Mhm. Now the last couple of questions I have are kind of really quick.

David: No problem.

Micah: Really quick questions.

David: Sure.

Micah: What was your favorite book of the series?

David: My favorite book of the series, I would say, was Goblet of Fire. I think it's a terrific story, and I like Deathly Hallows. I think it's a really enjoyable - she almost - Jo wrote it almost like a movie. Actually, no, now you ask me that, I have to say probably it's the first one because that's the first experience I had of reading a Harry Potter, and the charm of it and the tone of it is difficult to beat, so I think I'd say the first book.

Micah: What about character?

David: I really love Lupin. I think Lupin is a really fun character.

Micah: Yeah. Creature?

David: Dobby, without question.

Micah: [laughs] What about - any favorite spell?

David: Favorite spell would be - I don't know, I think Expelliarmus is always quite fun because you can disarm your enemies which is great. But of course, Expecto Patronum probably has to be the one because at every point you get - Expecto Patronum.

Micah: And speaking of that, what do you think your Patronus would be?

David: That's a really good question. My Patronus would probably be - I hope it would be a really wonderful Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Micah: All right.

David: It's a really beautiful dog with a sort of - very quiet, quite gentle, much more elegant than I am, though. Doesn't drink as much beer as I do.

Micah: [laughs] And if you could have one of the Deathly Hallows...

David: Yes.

Micah: ...what do you think it would be?

David: I would probably go for the Elder Wand...

Micah: Yeah.

David: ...because it's pretty cool.

Micah: Yeah. Even though he snaps it and throws it off a cliff...

David: Yeah.

Micah: the end of the movie.

David: I could get some glue. It will be fine.

Micah: [laughs] It will be fine? All right, the last question I have, what overall message do you want the fans to take away from your Potter films? What's sort of the lasting legacy that you want to leave?

David: The things that are really important in Potter for me were the notion of loyalty and friendship, and the idea of faith, and sticking through difficult times and keeping faith. And the power of love, the fact that love is such a powerful force, and I think that's key to much of her work. Voldemort doesn't have love.

Micah: Right.

David: He leads by fear, and Harry has the love of his friends and that gets him through.

Micah: Okay. [laughs]

David: Yeah, cool. Yeah, pretty much...

Micah: Thank you very much.

David: Yeah, thank you so much.

Micah: Thank you also for everything that you've done...

David: Awww no, thank you, mate.

Micah: ...on behalf of all of us at MuggleNet.

David: Yeah.

Micah: We really appreciate all the films and everything...

David: No problem.

Micah: ...that you guys have done. We spoke with David Heyman I think months ago, or probably last year, June of last year...

David: Yeah. Micah ...and just - you guys care so much about taking that story...

David: We do.

Micah: ...and putting it on screen.

David: Yeah, we do. There's a lot of love, not just me and David but everyone who works on the movies.

Written by: The Transcribers