Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix director David Yates does double duty as he prepares the wizard-in-training for an all-out war, then gets a head-start on the next movie
By Zach Oat
Posted July 11, 2007 5:20 PM
WIZARD: At the end of the fourth movie, Voldemort returned. How does this affect the atmosphere of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” out tonight?
YATES: It’s pretty threatening. Tonally, it re-gears the world for our characters and, I think, for the audience. You’re never quite sure when and where he’s going to come back. And we play that in our story. You know he’s always out there, you know he’s on the warpath, but you’re never quite sure when he’s going to arrive. It’s quite an ominous feeling to know that he’s out there, and that kind of tinges through our film. It’s got a kind of wartime feel to some of it. And this is, in a way, a precursor to war.
The first battle of that war, the movie’s grand finale, takes place inside the Ministry of Magic. What was it like creating the center of the magical world?
It was so cool! Hogwarts has become a fairly familiar environment, so to have to realize the center of the wizarding world—something the audience hasn’t experienced before—was both a challenge and a real opportunity for us. [Author J.K. Rowling, aka] Jo’s created a very bureaucratic, British environment in the Ministry of Magic, so we took some of our inspiration from the London Underground. The Underground is the most peculiar place in the entire world. When you go down these mad escalators and if you look at the details of the tiling, the crazy kind of speakers, the clocks, everything’s a bit odd and heightened.
What kind of dialogue did you have with J.K. Rowling during the making of the film?
Jo was quite busy with the seventh book while we were shooting our film, but she was incredibly supportive and helpful and kind. She read the script several times. She came to set twice. On every occasion and on every reading of the script she offered positive, constructive notes. She was a morale booster for us, because she really appreciated the work we’d done in adapting the book. We showed her a 20-minute reel, and she was just thrilled with what she saw. So we feel good.
In exchange for a peek at the movie, did she give you a peek at the seventh book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”?
No, no, no. She’s keeping that very close to her chest. So we’ll all get a chance to read it in July.
Do you have a favorite scene in the film?
I’ve got lots of favorite scenes. I love the wizard battle, because just seeing Dumbledore and Voldemort go for each other in this big fight is quite cool and exciting and visceral. There’s a very tender, lovely scene between Rupert [Grint], Emma [Watson] and Dan [Radcliffe] just after Harry has kissed Cho Chang. There’s a moment where they sit together and Harry talks about what the kiss felt like. And for me that’s a real favorite scene because you really feel their relationships, not just as actors and characters, but the experience that they shared together as children growing up in the middle of this extraordinary cultural event is present.
What was it like being the new person on a set where nearly everyone had worked together before?
We had new people. I brought in a brand-new second unit director, who’s quite important on a film of this scale because he helps you with all your action sequences. I kept [production designer] Stuart Craig, because he’s a genius and a delightful human being. So we had a mix of quite new people and then the cream of the people who had worked on the films previously. I felt right at home the minute we started, frankly.
You’re directing the next film as well. Have you begun work yet?
We’ve already started developing the script, and we’ve started preproduction as well. So I do “H.P. Five” in the mornings and “[Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince]” in the afternoons at the moment. The next one’s going to be thrilling. The sixth book ends with a death again, which is very moving—but the actual story itself is very entertaining and fun. It’s very different than the fifth film, much more of a romantic comedy in many ways, which for me—and I think for Dan, Rupert, Emma, for all the young cast—it’s going to be a really cool gear change to make.
You worked with Bill Nighy in “Girl in the Café.” Don’t you think he’d make a great addition to the Potter films?
Oh man, I’m already there. The only problem is, we’re looking at the next adaptation and Rufus Scrimgeour, who takes over the Ministry of Magic from Fudge, we’re not sure if he’s going to be in the finished screenplay yet. We’re struggling with it at the moment, and he’s in one moment and he’s out the next. But if he stays in, I’m going to be on the phone quick as a shot to Bill and say, “Bill, come on, you’ve got to do this, man.”