Producers David Heyman and David Barron Interview HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 1

     November 19, 2010

With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 getting released today, Warner Bros. held a big press junket last weekend in London and I got to fly across the pond to attend.  I’ve already posted my interviews with Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and director David Yates, and for today’s installment, I’ve got producers David Heyman and David Barron.

During the intimate roundtable interview, Heyman and Barron talked about their history with the project, why the 3D post conversion was scrapped at the last minute, how Part 2 will definitely be in 3D, the final battle at Hogwarts in the next installment, how they asked John Williams to score the final two movies but his schedule was too full, how do they feel about Harry Potter overtaking Star Wars for highest worldwide box office, and so much more.  If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter movies you’ll like this interview, as these are two of the people who make key decisions about the franchise.

Finally, due to Warner Bros. allowing us to use flip cams, after the jump you can either read the transcript or watch the interview.  What are you waiting for:

And one last thing…for more coverage on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, click here.  The link includes trailers, on set interviews, set reports, posters and more.  Look for more Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows interviews everyday this week.

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Question: David Heyman, when you started this and you, you’re the one that saw Daniel Radcliffe in the theater and said “this is the guy that should be trying out for Harry Potter”, did you have any idea, I mean I remember talking with Richard Harris (who played Dumbledore in films 1 and 2) who was saying “I didn’t really wanna sign up for these things, it was my grandchild who was such a fan of it”, did you know that you were gonna be doing all seven books and that the series would go on?

Heyman: In a word, no. (laughs) Not a clue. I mean I knew Jo (Rowling) was gonna write seven books. I read the first book, loved it, and found out she was writing seven books. You’ve gotta realize when I optioned the book it was an unpublished manuscript so I didn’t have a clue, it was just something that I liked. Had no idea that it would become what it’s become. You make the first film, by that point it’s number 1, 2 or 3 on the New York Times Bestseller list, you have a sense that there’s a big audience out there. But there’ve been plenty of bestseller books that have not become bestseller films, or big films. So it was with great relief on that opening weekend that it did as well as it did and the film was as popular as it was. But even then, when we were making the first we knew we were gonna make the second, when we were making the second we knew we were gonna make the third; had no idea, and I think it really wasn’t until the fourth film, after the fourth film when the box office dipped a little bit on the second and third and then came up on the fourth, that I had a sense that in some form, maybe not on the scale that we were making them at that time, but in some way we were gonna go to the end.

Barron: It was the beginning of the fifth really, where we renegotiated all the cast deals, because they had originally been signed for two films and two options. Because the books hadn’t been published, the full range of books hadn’t been published, nobody knew whether the later books would be as successful as the earlier ones, let alone the films. So it was a wait and see process really

And what would you have done, I remember Emma was, it took her like 8 or 9 months before she actually signed the contract.

Heyman: Emma was always the one who took the longest

In the back of your mind, you had to have a stand-by strategy. What could you have done?

Heyman: Recast. I don’t know what other back-up strategies—it wasn’t like we were looking for someone, it wasn’t like we had done the casting

Barron: We were very hopeful. We had an underlying confidence that eventually she would say yes. It was really a question of rationalizing her work on the film with her education because from a very early age, she’d always said if she really had to make an absolute choice, if someone said “If you continue with these films you cannot continue your education past the elementary stage” she would’ve taken education really rather than film, because it was always a very strong commitment of hers.

Heyman: I think if you look at her today, I’ve never seen Emma happier. I think she’s loving being at school, she is really proud of the film and her work in the film and the film as a whole, and I think the world is opening up for her and I think it’s really exciting. I think she’s really happy—each time it was a challenger for her to commit, often for a lot of people to commit, but she did each time.

Barron: But it was primarily, it was a question of the film not stopping her education. And that was complicated for us to work out

Cause you had to let her go to school

Barron: We did, in the sixth film we didn’t have her for the first half of the schedule because the first semester back at school was the most important in terms of that year’s work. And this time, we started filming February of last year—we finished shooting in June of this year—but the end of August (last year) she disappeared to America to University and we carried on without her, she came back for some time at Christmas and a very short time at Easter and then again some time at the end of her final semester.

Heyman: But on a 263 day schedule there’s always stuff you can fill in (laughs).

Barron: Yeah we had some room for maneuver (laughs). It was complicated actually.

Heyman: David (Yates, director) did a brilliant job with that.

With Jo saying, you know opening the door on Oprah that there might be more books down the road, do you consider it one of those things that, you know she said she (Emma) wants to sort of retire and possibly not act again, that maybe will be one of those things that she might reconsider?

Heyman: I don’t know that she’s gonna retire

Barron: I don’t think she’s actually ever said that

Heyman: Emma’s just done another film. So, I think that what you have is a young lady with so many possibilities. She is fiercely intelligent, she’s modeling, she can act, she’s designing clothes, she’s going to University. The world is at her feet, you know, she’s a formidable young lady. I’m really excited to see what she does. You know, she’s been acting, she’s done field hockey, she’s done two productions at college, so I don’t know what she’ll do. And vis-à-vis Jo writing new books, you know she will write new books, rather they’re Harry Potter books or not. I have no idea, if she does write Harry Potter books, what they will be. I suspect initially they would be expanding the universe, you know things along the lines of the Monster Book of Monsters or Quidditch. Because she has such a deep knowledge of this world and what we read in the books is really just the surface. There’s so much more. Whether we actually see Harry and the bureaucrats, I don’t know.

Have you talked to her, if she’s possibly going forward with these books, have you talked about doing movies about those?

Heyman: No

Barron: No

Have you talked to her about spin-offs?

Heyman: No

Barron: No

Heyman: I would not be so presumptuous. Jo is an author, she’s not a screenwriter. She’s an author. She’s not writing things for films, she’s writing things for books. She’s a writer. And I know that she writes every day, or you know pretty much every day, that’s what she is. I would not try and say “Please will you do this, or please will you do that?”

Barron: If she has something that she would like us to look at, or David to look at, then it’ll turn up eventually.

I meant more the idea of, would you guys want to take something and make your own movie?

Heyman: Absolutely not. The films are born out of Jo’s fiction. And however brilliant Steve Kloves (screenwriter) is and, there are scenes that Steve has written that Jo has gone, “Gosh, I wish I had written that, I wish I’d done that.” He’s incredible, Steve. Even with that, I think that there is only one Jo Rowling and we could not make a film without her source material.

Barron: I mean Harry Potter was seven books but it was a singular story, and the seventh book was the end of that story. And it’s hard to imagine how she would re-enter that story. I mean she could take a character I guess and take it in a completely different direction, but we’ve certainly no indication that that’s what she might intend.

A lot of people, myself included, are looking forward to the Battle of Hogwarts in Part 2, could you sort of talk about how much the Battle of Hogwarts—is it 10 minutes of the movie, is it 30 minutes?

Barron: We don’t know yet, we’re just starting cutting the movie

Heyman: When you make a visual effects film you turn over sequences early so they can begin to work on the visual effects. We’ve seen quite a few sequences on their own, but we haven’t seen a cut of the film yet, so we have no idea

Barron: No idea quite what the final balance will be. I mean the essential—this sort of emotional and physical jaunt to the death between Harry and Voldemort.

There was a lot of talk about how you were gonna do 3D on Part 1, and then you pulled it. How close were you on the 3D process when you guys decided to pull it?

Barron: Not close enough (laughs). Otherwise we wouldn’t have pulled it.

Heyman: Clearly there was a desire to do it in 3D, especially on the part of Warner Bros. because not doing it affects their bottom line and all that. But we began working on it—we had some fantastic shots but we didn’t have any sequences we were happy with. And we had done probably around 250 out of 1800 shots.

Barron: If we could have delivered the 1800 shots to the standard of the 250 we would have lovingly embraced the 3D, but it just was not possible and we were not prepared to undermine the integrity of the film.

Heyman: So Part 2, we’ve begun working on already.

Barron: Earlier and in a slightly different way, so we’re confident we can achieve it this time.

July 15th is frozen in stone? That is the date it’s going to open?

Heyman: Unless you know something I don’t (laughs).

Since you didn’t do the first one in 3D, is it a mistake to go ahead and do Part 2 in 3D?

Heyman: I haven’t thought of it as such, so I hope not. We’re endeavoring to do so. And if we can deliver it in the quality that we believe is possible then it won’t be a mistake. If we deliver it in a quality that isn’t good then it will have been, but I don’t think we will cause if it’s not good quality we’ll do a 2D version, but we have no intention of doing so. We have the time, we have more knowledge, and we will do it right.

We’ve heard that they’re gonna go back and turn some of the older films into 3D for Blu-ray and such, I was wondering, Chris Columbus and a few of the other directors have talked about the CG early on that they wish they could’ve gotten as good as you’re getting it now, I was wondering, is there any chance that you guys are going back?

Heyman: You know Chris has talked about that, funnily enough, he’s talked about sequences he’d like to go back and do again. In terms of 3D-ing the past, I know we will do a 3D version of Part 1, and we’ve begun work on [film] 6. Actually we’re gonna have conversations about it in the next couple of weeks, about the 3D journey as it were. So I don’t know. In terms of visual effects, I have to say I look at the first couple of movies and cringe.

Barron: But the truth is that very many of the visual effects involve the cast as very young people. So it’s very hard to imagine how they would go back.

Heyman: But you can integrate the backgrounds maybe a little better.

Barron: Ehh it’s different I think because even if you went and reshot certain elements, actually then matching issues with other elements I’m sure would surface

Daniel pretend you’re eleven again

Barron: (laughs) Exactly. “Bend down”

One of the main things talk about after seeing this movie is what terrific actors these three kids have turned into. Can you talk about that from your point of view?

Heyman: I mean from my point of view, they’ve had the benefit of—they’ve gone to a great school, not just Hogwarts but, to work with four directors, to work with the likes of Gary Oldman and Bill Nighy and Michael Gambon.

Barron: Yeah they have been mentored by some of the best actors on the planet.

Heyman: And also they are now older, they have more experience to bring to the table not just as actors but as individuals, both on set and away from set they’ve experienced a much wider range of emotions.

Barron: And actually one’s always been able to see the difference. When they go away to do something else whether it’s another acting job or Emma’s at college or whatever it might be, they come back and there’s a tangible difference in the way they approach their work, which is always refreshing and rewarding isn’t it?

So the castmemembers who you’ve sort of mentioned, like Gary Oldman, whom you saw take the time out of their schedule to teach them acting

Heyman: I don’t think it was necessarily teaching acting, but it’s discussing approach. I know for Daniel, Gary was sort of a hero

Barron: A god (laughs)

Heyman: So I think just to spend time with him and sort of talk through the process.

Barron: What was marvelous was, the older actors were never condescending towards the young ones, even when they were very young, they always were very father-like in many aspects.

Heyman: It was kind of amazing actually, you know there was no ego. I think the older actors appreciated the weight of the burden of responsibility and what these young children at the time were having to deal with, and they were incredibly supportive. You know, Michael Gambon for example constantly telling that Daniel loves a story, loves telling a story and loves hearing a story, and Michael is

Barron: He’s one the world’s greatest raconteurs (laughs).

Heyman: So you know, it’s like “come on, come to set!”

Barron: The three of them are such smart human beings, and just watching the way Maggie Smith or Alan Rickman or Michael Gambon or Gary would approach a particular scene and watching how they dealt with the different emotions that were required of them, I don’t think they could help it because they were so inquisitive and so interested in what was going on.

Heyman: Emma was funny the other day, we did a little Q&A at BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) and people were talking about acting against a green screen with a tennis ball, and she said “That’s the one thing we have on Maggie Smith” (laughs), it’s a foreign language to her and it’s the only language they know.

Dan and Rupert have both talked about crying on the final day of shooting, and this was your baby from the beginning, did you shed a tear?

Barron: Yeah.

Heyman: We were talking about—it’s something you prepare for and through the 263 days, it seems like a long way when you’re on day 1, it seems like a long way when you’re on day 113, and it still seems like a long way when you’re three quarters of the way through, but you know it’s coming. When it finally does come, and the last shot we shot was typically a green screen shot of the three of them

Barron: Planned, so that the emotion they might feel on the day wouldn’t interfere with the emotion they were supposed to be feeling on screen.

Heyman: So it was an action moment, them diving into the fireplace with Peter Mullen (who plays Yaxley) chasing them. So we shot that, and then we all blubbered.

Barron: We put together a reel of the history of what had happened, like a ten minute reel of footage of the films and behind the scenes and it was very affecting for everybody. There were many crew who had been in the business even longer than me

Heyman: Oh come on (laughs)

Barron: Well I think maybe one, and they were all in tears. It was incredible.

Heyman: Jamie Christopher, who’s our First Assistant Director, had this idea where every day he had this thing called the Golden Wand

Barron: It was a countdown.

Heyman: It was a countdown. So you would have Dan, Rupert and Emma, you would have someone whose birthday it was, you would have Jo visiting the set, Alan Horn from Warner Bros., the third AD whose birthday, just different people and each day you would film them holding [the wand]. And then you put that together with Robbie Coltrane (who plays Hagrid) playing air guitar on a green screen, and playing that all the way through, and then it ended with a shot going through the studio with everybody waving goodbye and the last shot was David Yates getting into his car and driving off. At the end of that we were all a mess.

Barron: No John thought because we had a year of post-production that we would die a death of a thousand cuts literally in the editing room and we would be absolutely fine, but it was a hugely emotional experience.

I wanted to ask you about the music. I know Alexandre’s (Desplat) is confirmed to score the music for Part 2. Was John Williams ever asked, did he decline?

Heyman: Yes, he was. We wanted to work with John but his schedule didn’t permit it.

Barron: He was just unavailable unfortunately.

He wanted to do it?

Barron: He did, very much so.

Heyman: Yeah very much so. We asked him around the time of [film] 6, actually we talked to him all along [about coming back] for the end. But his schedule didn’t permit.

Barron: I mean it’s incredible, for a man of advancing years who you think might be taking it easy, we [approached] him almost 2 before the scoring sessions for these films and already then he had schedule issues.

Heyman: And then he tried to work his schedule to try and accommodate us, but it just wasn’t possible.

I think it was for the best (everyone laughs). Speaking of Star Wars, it’s being predicted that with this movie you’re going to overtake the domestic box office gross as the most successful financial series in the US, not just globally. How do you feel about that? Did that become a goal?

Barron: No.

Heyman: No. The only thing that we have any control over is making the best films that we can. That’s all. Throughout this process, and again I think Chris Columbus deserves a huge amount of credit for this, it was a family. We’re a family and what we’re trying to do is make the best films that we can. We can’t have any control over whether you liked it, whether the audience [liked it], we as fans wanted to make films that pleased us. And the idea of trying to make this much money or that much money, that wasn’t the [goal].

Barron: People will ask us, “Well what is it like to be towards the center of this great cinema phenomena”, we never even imagined it as that. Every day we’re busy trying to do the best we can with what we have to do, and it’s very hard to step back and try and think of it as something that huge.

Heyman: And you know, you say how it’s gonna be the most [successful series financially], and that’s wonderful but you know that, ticket prices are different, you know that something else is gonna come on a week or two later or a year or two and overtake it. So I don’t view it as a competition, it’s about the work and that’s all that we’ve ever [cared about]. And I think that the environment at Leavesden [Studios] is all about the work.

I know you have to go, but just real quick, have you noticed an increase in quality in post-conversion for 3D over the last six months?

Heyman: Yes.

Barron: Yes, it’s like anything. It’s a journey, it’s a technological journey. People develop new techniques and there are skills that they learn from a film that they take on and develop to another one. So yeah, it will continue to advance in the way that visual effects have advanced.

Heyman: It’s funny because we were looking at, you know, who’s gonna be our 3D supervisor and you look at the list of credits and there are very few people who have more than one or two films. So it’s a frontier and hopefully it’ll improve in the next few months, and I think it will continue to improve.

Do you have a favorite among the films?

Heyman: They’re all babies. You know it’s hard to say I love this child more than the other.

Barron: And they’re so different. I’m very proud of all of them actually.

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