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
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.
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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.