GROW­ING PAINS

Bat­tling Volde­mort is one thing but, as Em­pire found in 2005, by film four our heroes were faced with some­thing far more dif­fi­cult — be­com­ing teenagers

Empire (UK) - - HARRY POTTER: AN EMPIRE HISTORY - WORDS IAN NATHAN

Goblet Of Fire pro­vided a new chal­lenge for an­other new di­rec­tor: how to adapt J.K. Rowl­ing’s long­est book to date.

LIFE AT HOG­WARTS is chang­ing. Once a place we vis­ited to see in­no­cent young whelps learn about fight­ing the Dark Arts and dis­cover deadly con­spir­a­cies lurk­ing in the girls’ toi­lets, this school year has more go­ing on. The Great Hall is abuzz with a magic of a more tra­di­tional variety.

Harry Pot­ter and Ron Weasley — or should that be Daniel Rad­cliffe and Ru­pert Grint? — are el­bow­ing each other in the ribs and grin­ning like fools, be­fore muf­fling their gig­gles in the cuffs of their cloaks. Hermione Granger — or should that be Emma Wat­son? — has a look of frosty dis­dain that would put Judi Dench to shame. All about them the rank and file of the Hog­warts school-body bears closer re­sem­blance to a war­ren of rab­bits frozen in gi­ant head­lights.

The sight, busily be­ing mar­shalled by the stri­dent fig­ure of Mike Newell — the first Brit to pick up the di­rec­to­rial ba­ton on the Pot­ter fran­chise — is a Harry Pot­ter first. The pupils from the all-girls Beaux­ba­tons Academy have ar­rived, and the boys of Hog­warts are very taken by their new guests.

Harry Pot­ter has hit ado­les­cence.

“IT’S MUCH MORE about be­ing a teenager,” grins the now 16-year-old Daniel Rad­cliffe, his hair longer and trendier, his smile way more con­fi­dent — only the geeky specs still chan­nel the de­ter­mined titch of yes­ter­year. “I mean, this year he has to ask a girl to the Yule Ball!”

Rad­cliffe vis­i­bly shud­ders at the thought. It’s been a mark of Rowl­ing’s tal­ent to in­ter­pret the far-fetched and the emo­tion­ally true, es­pe­cially when it comes to grow­ing up. Frodo may have strug­gled to cast the One Ring into the flames of Mount Doom, but he never had to land a date.

“I just think it’s some­thing ev­ery­one can re­late to — ask­ing peo­ple out,” of­fers Emma Wat­son, who up un­til now has been con­tent with a Brad Pitt poster. “It’s the same for me. It’s no eas­ier be­ing Hermione.”

Wasn’t it only yes­ter­day that three scamps were vol­un­teer­ing for this great ad­ven­ture that could last up to seven films (they will all be back for the fifth at the very least)? Now Grint is mess­ing about on his quad bike, Rad­cliffe is tak­ing in rock fes­ti­vals and Wat­son shrugs off ru­mours that she and Rad­cliffe are ro­man­ti­cally linked. “We just laugh it off,” she groans.

“The thing about the fourth story is that they are teenagers,” says pro­ducer David Hey­man, guardian, men­tor and sur­ro­gate Dum­ble­dore. “It’s the first time they be­come aware of the op­po­site sex. There is such an awk­ward­ness with that.”

Be­fore true blue fans get all hot un­der their woolly scarves at this new twist to the fran­chise, this par­tic­u­lar Harry Pot­ter of­fers a lot more than sauce. In­deed, those Pot­terites in the know con­sider it the ne plus ultra of Rowl­ing’s books.

“I know we say ev­ery film that comes out gets darker, but it’s true,” con­tends Rad­cliffe. “It is a lot darker, a lot scarier. That’s shown by the fact it has got a PG-13 rat­ing in Amer­ica.”

To be frank, Goblet Of Fire is not a kids’ movie at all. It’s a re­la­tion­ship movie,

a hor­ror movie, a rites-of-pas­sage story, a psy­cho­log­i­cal drama and, as far as Mike Newell is con­cerned, “a crack­ing thriller”.

“This is very dif­fer­ent,” he ex­plains, hav­ing only stepped into the fran­chise on the ba­sis of film­ing “a great story to tell” in the ram­bling 636-page book. “It’s a sort of clas­sic thriller where the hero finds him­self at the cen­tre of the bad man’s machi­na­tions. How­ever, you can’t just give them story, you have to give them dec­o­ra­tion as well. While there is this iron bar that runs through the mid­dle of it that is the thriller, you have to be care­ful to hang on bas­kets of girls, bas­kets of flow­ers, bas­kets of sweet­ies and bas­kets of funny stuff.”

For those who aren’t neck-deep in the mid­dle­brow mythos, Goblet Of Fire is a big deal. Hor­mones are ping­ing about like cue balls: Ron fancies Hermione, Hermione fancies Vik­tor (we’ll get to him shortly), Harry fancies Cho (and her), but she’s go­ing out with Cedric (him too). Of course, no-one’s telling. As if that weren’t enough to con­tend with, Lord You-know-who is up to some­thing, and Harry’s been mys­te­ri­ously cho­sen to take part in the re­ally rather deadly Tri­wiz­ard Tour­na­ment (a sort of in­ter-school mag­i­cal sports day that re­places the egg-and­spoon race with dragon fight­ing).

We are also in­tro­duced to fel­low in­sti­tutes of witch­craft and wiz­ardry: from France, the all-girl Beaux­ba­tons (who make a striking ar­rival) and, from Bul­garia, the all-boy Durm­strangs. Each with their elected cham­pion: the sturdy Vik­tor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski) rep­re­sent­ing Durm­strang and Fleur Dela­cour (Clé­mence Poésy) lead­ing the charge for Beaux­ba­tons. Cedric Dig­gory (Robert Pat­tin­son) rep­re­sents Hog­warts. Harry shouldn’t be play­ing. As for Cho? She’s the ob­ject of Harry’s soon-to-be-re­buffed af­fec­tions. New­comer Katie Leung was picked from 3,000 hope­fuls, even though

— or maybe quite be­cause of the fact — she’s never had an act­ing les­son. Up to speed? We’ll con­tinue...

“The way Jo Rowl­ing solved sto­ry­telling prob­lems was that she didn’t care about space,” com­plains Newell, who has only got two-and-a-half-hours be­fore ju­nior blad­ders give out. They had con­tem­plated mak­ing two films from the one book: “There’s not enough story,” Newell as­serts. “In a sense, the prac­ti­cal­i­ties eat away at the stuff you can do.”

Gone, for the time be­ing, are the aw­ful Durs­leys and gone too is Hermione’s cam­paign on be­half of the house elves. And if Jo Rowl­ing is happy with that (she is), so should you be. Af­ter all, you still get the Quid­ditch World Cup, a 40-foot Horn­tail dragon, a maze that stretches on for­ever and an un­der­wa­ter mis­sion at the bot­tom of a lake that re­quired the teenage cast to learn to scuba dive. A huge tank was pur­pose-built at Leaves­den, and in they went.

“Ac­tu­ally, I loved it,” boasts Wat­son in a de­cid­edly Hermione tone of voice. “I love scuba div­ing any­way. I’ve been to Mau­ri­tius a cou­ple of times.”

The oth­ers, to a wiz­ard, found it “ter­ri­fy­ing” and then “re­ally fun”, and “would like to try it in the sea”.

Newell, mean­while, faced his own chal­lenges. A CGI novice, he now faced mak­ing a film with roughly 1,500 FX shots. “I didn’t know how to do it,” he ad­mits. “Peo­ple didn’t cal­cu­late on the depth of my ig­no­rance, but you get dragged up re­ally fast.”

What the di­rec­tor did bring was a feel for a very Bri­tish school life. A for­mer board­ing school vic­tim him­self, he felt the “gen­uine an­ar­chy and hu­mour” of that world had been miss­ing from the pre­vi­ous films. “There is a lot of as­sault and

“I HAVE GOT TO MAKE A COM­PLETELY NEW START HERE. THEY ARE GO­ING TO HAVE TO DO STUFF THEY HAVEN’T DONE BE­FORE — LIKE RE­ALLY BLOODY ACT.” MIKE NEWELL

bat­tery that goes on,” he laughs. “Peo­ple get whacked around a lot and we did all sorts of fight­ing and stuff that I re­mem­ber from my own school.”

Michael Gam­bon, re­turn­ing as mas­ter wiz­ard Dum­ble­dore, couldn’t re­late more: “There were cer­tainly no spells at my school. More like a smack in the mouth.”

Al­though, some­thing of the seeds of dis­sent, as well as pu­berty, were sown on the set of The Pris­oner Of Azk­a­ban. When Rad­cliffe qui­etly en­quired whether a par­tic­u­larly pretty ex­tra could be next to him in the sleep­ing bag scene, di­rec­tor Al­fonso Cuarón agreed. Un­be­knownst to Harry Pot­ter, Cuarón and Dum­ble­dore had got hold of a fart ma­chine (re­put­edly from Johnny Depp). “So Al­fonso put the fart ma­chine in his sleep­ing bag,” snorts Gam­bon. “And I had the con­troller — ‘parp!’ De­stroyed his cred­i­bil­ity.”

Such a tenor of japery and jokes for the new film (now con­fined to the film it­self as renowned on-set pranksters Rad­cliffe and Grint had GCSES to re­vise for) is starkly offset by the sheer ter­ror and mis­ery of the fi­nale, when Harry is con­fronted by his mor­tal foe Lord Volde­mort (shhh!) in the guise of Ralph Fi­ennes.

“It’s in­cred­i­bly emo­tional for Harry be­cause he’s meet­ing the per­son who killed his par­ents and who he wants to kill,” says Rad­cliffe. “I’m sort of slightly wor­ried be­cause, in a way, that’s what the four films have been build­ing up to. But Ralph is fan­tas­tic, and in the event that I’m not great, he’ll dis­tract them. That’s my plan.”

RO­MANCE, IN­TRIGUE, NEW re­cruits, the pres­sures of grow­ing up, the chal­lenges of sub­mersed emot­ing and fac­ing off with the wiz­ard­ing equiv­a­lent of Mar­i­lyn Man­son: all this would count for noth­ing if we sim­ply didn’t feel it. “Hu­man truth” is what Newell has de­manded; thus, for the first time, he set up act­ing work­shops. “I thought, ‘I have got to make a com­pletely new start here,”’ he says. “They are go­ing to have to do stuff they haven’t done be­fore and one of those things is re­ally bloody act. We couldn’t rely on them be­ing cute.”

So in the face of yet more com­pe­ti­tion — from The Chron­i­cles Of Nar­nia now, rather than Peter Jack­son’s The Lord Of The Rings (what is it with these over-com­pet­i­tive wiz­ards?) — Harry Pot­ter can of­fer some­thing unique: even more so with Goblet Of Fire, this is a fan­tasy about real life. “In ev­ery way Harry is much more con­scious than be­fore,” says Newell. “You be­come more in­ter­ested in his in­te­rior pro­cesses, his emo­tions, than just what goes on. It is dif­fer­ent from the other three books.”

By the next film he even gets a snog. Now that’s magic.

THE HARRY POT­TER 8-FILM COL­LEC­TION IS AVAIL­ABLE NOW ON 4K, BLU-RAY AND DVD

Harry ges­tures to the grave of Tom Rid­dle — aka Lord Volde­mort (Ralph Fi­ennes, above).

Left: Ron en­coun­ters one of ‘Mad-eye’ Moody’s spi­ders. Above: Robert Pat­tin­son joins the cast as Cedric Dig­gory. Right: Dum­ble­dore and the tit­u­lar Goblet Of Fire. Far right, top to bot­tom: The Hun­gar­ian Horn­tail, the first crea­ture Harry faces in the Tri­wiz­ard Tour­na­ment; Next comes a Mer­per­son; The sin­gle malt-drink­ing Beaux­ba­tons horses.

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