An Interview with Director David Yates at Harry Potter Home Entertainment Celebration
Eric Scull: We last caught up with you on the day of the U.S. premiere of Deathly Hallows – Part 2, at the WB offices in New York. How have you been since then?
David Yates: Good. Unwinding. Trying to, sort of, let go of everything. It’s very hard, it’s weird…
Eric: Letting go?
David: Yeah, letting go. Just… it was so intense making the movies. Really intense. And, actually, after finishing them we were all pretty knackered. So everybody… it’s been two-and-a-half months or so of just resting, reading scripts for the next thing, and chilling out… traveling as well. I went to Bali in Indonesia with my wife, and we went to Singapore and to Thailand and to Italy and Venice. So we’ve done a lot of traveling. And the amazing thing is, wherever we go, Harry Potter is never very far away. The number of people… everywhere we’ve been, it’s unbelievable. It can be Bali, it can be Italy, it can be wherever. And people always say, “my daughter’s into Harry Potter… can you just, sign this?” Or… they’re just aware of the kind of power of Potter. And the reach of it. And it’s very humbling, you know, to know that you’ve been just a tiny part of that whole thing. And that it’s reached so many people around the planet. It’s amazing. Amazing.
Eric: So we’re celebrating “The end…” The end. The home video celebration, the last…
David: Yeah. This is the end! The end! Is coming.
Eric: It’s a series that, on the whole, has been ending for roughly four years now. Since the last book…
David: That’s true.
Eric: We think it will continue. The fans are so passionate, and there’s been this tremendous response. Now having a Blu-ray set of all the films at home right now is going to be…
Eric: Fantastic, and sad at the same time. I know there are a few features on the blu-ray that talk about “The end.”
David: There’s some nice little pieces, I think. I saw a couple of them and thought they were really good.
Eric: Talking about Deathly Hallows – Part 2 – there are some rumors that it’s up for an Oscar. Or that there’s a real serious move for Oscar consideration.
David: We’re starting a campaign to try and push it, and Warner Bros. is doing a really great job at that. We’re going to do some junkets and some press stuff to help that process. I think the film deserves a bit of Oscar attention – the visual effects, Stuart’s [Craig] design, Alexandre’s [Desplat] music, David Heyman and David Barron as producers have done this extraordinary job.
David Heyman, in particular, has made eight of the most successful movies of all time with this enormous, popular reach. And critically, the films have always been given a reasonably good ride. We got a great response to the last one – I think, one of the best reviewed movies of the year.
So you kind of say, “Come on, guys, it’s time to step up to the plate!” And acknowledge that there is a lot of good work from a lot of good people that has gone into this movie and these movies. I hope the Davids… that sort of 10, 15 years of incredible input and output is somehow acknowledged.
Eric: We saw the BAFTA awards ceremony recently, the award that “Potter” picked up. Harry Potter’s gotten plenty of attention over there, but as for the Oscar…
David: We’ve always been sort of ignored slightly, and we’re all totally cool about it, equally. Let me say that. It’s very important. But we’re going to go all out and try and get some Oscar buzz. We’re very zen-like in our attitude towards the Oscars. Having been overlooked so many times before, we kind of fully expect to be overlooked again. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to go without a fight.
Eric: That’s too sad; I don’t think you’ll go out without a fight. Anything you guys have for us, we’ll forward on.
David: That would be cool! You can be our guerilla campaign. We need to ring you guys in to help with the cause!
And I’m cautiously optimistic that a lot of the visual effects and the design and the music and the costumes… we’ll see. Well, we’ll do our best.
Eric: Speaking of that. I know we’ve met briefly at the Potter pre-screenings in Chicago. (Historically, they’re in Chicago.)
Eric: I know afterwards there was always a session, like a focus-group session that you did with members of the audience having just seen the film. How was the feedback that you got from those sessions on your films, and how did it affect the end product of the film? I understood the film screened each time to be a very early draft…
David: On the first three that I did, the audience focus group was always really useful. I would say seven times out of ten, they would highlight things that you already were aware of. That you knew you were gonna fix. And in a way, there’s this reverse thing that when you’re making the movie, you know you’re not going to take it to Chicago perfect. You’ve got a few rough edges, and you wanna just “test” those rough edges.
But there are two or three things that always come up, that you go, “ah. That’s really useful. That’s really consistent, that’s really helpful, thank you very much. We’ll take that on board and we’ll go away and we’ll work with that.” And the last movie, on Hallows – Part 2, generally people were really, really enthusiastic. It was the best response we ever had. And…
We always hit a kind of… “It’s very good, thank you” kind of box. Rather than an “It’s brilliant!” box. With audiences. It was always either “good” or “very good, thank you very much.” It was never, “Aww! it’s brilliant!” And then we would go away and work to try and get it better.
But Hallows – Part 2 had a really good response. Straight from the open and we were really encouraged by that by the focus group.
Eric: I think it’s with the battle scenes, that run for ninety minutes in the film; it’s pleasing everybody. You’re pleasing the action-lovers, but the little moments, too, that are in there. You’re pleasing everyone.
David: That’s good. The irony is that the battle sequences don’t really go on for that long. We kind of figured it out. We sort of… it’s more your perception of… pursuit.
Eric: Speaking of the battle, and the character moments… were there any that were lost in the final film?
David: We kept most of them. We did keep most of them. We actually thought we might need more at one point… there was a point when I was editing and I said to Mark [Day], the editor, “I think we might need… maybe we need more blowing up of stuff. Maybe we need a few more…” We did talk about whether or not we wanted to see Tonks and Lupin fight to the death. Which would’ve been great. Absolutely great. And then we actually thought, “Okay. How do we pick it up? We can get David [Thewlis] back, we can get Nat [Tena] back. We can build a bit of battlement.” And at one point that was on the cards. But then, because of this 3-D conversion, we suddenly realized that we were actually not going to have the time to do it. Because we could shoot it, but we couldn’t have the visual effects and the 3-D conversion done in time. But we had serious conversations about it.
Eric: That makes sense, that everything is on a schedule… I can only imagine how intense and perplexing the schedule must be for ANY of these films. Not even with the dual shoot happening… any of these films.
David: I had a wonderful team. I had a wonderful team, though and they were fantastic. Jamie Christopher, my first assistant. And Tim Lewis, there’s a whole bunch of people. And in my house I’ve got this wonderful picture of Jamie and he’s standing there, scratching his head with this huge mountain of schedules next to him and books. And it was very, very complicated. But we were very lucky with Potter because of the support of the fans and the fact that the films are so successful. We have generous budgets and generous schedules. So we were able to take the time that we needed to make the movies.
Eric: Finally, this is one home video release that we are here to celebrate…
Eric: There apparently will be another. On this home video release, there’s an advertisement for “Harry Potter: The Definitive Collection.”
David: Aha. Yes…
Eric: 2012 release date… ish… very vague details. Can you share any details about that release?
David: Not much, other than that everything that the Warner back-catalogue has in terms of extras and documentaries… will go into it… It will be full-on.
Eric: Including bloopers?
David: We’ve got some great bloopers. They’ve got some great bloopers. I can’t wait for [fans] to see some bloopers, they’re terrific. We’ve got a really good bloopers real, actually, which I was hoping would make it into this home video release, but clearly it hasn’t.
Eric: There are still some good features on this video release. And the film looks fantastic in 1080p definition…
David: It’s good, isn’t it? I love that picture quality and the sound is amazing.