The Harry Potter Interviews
Source Popcorn, June 2007
With fifth Potter movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix about to hit UK cinema screens, David Savage went to the press conference in London, then chatted to Daniel Radcliffe about art and theatre, and Rupert Grint about golf and ice cream! Here’s our report…
On the morning of Monday 25 June 2007, the day that Britain will have its worst storms in decades and Sheffield will be submerged underwater, a large group of international journalist types – and me – are sat in a big room in County Hall by the Thames in London. It looks like the House of Commons, but the witchy broomsticks scattered about make it clear that it’s not boring old politicians we’re waiting for. Nope, this is the press conference for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, hosted by That Ben Shepherd Off TV, and there’s a buzz in the air because all the major young cast members are about to arrive, along with the director, producer and writer.
When they do, it’s interesting to note the differences between Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint who sit together. Daniel’s smart with suit and tie, buzzes with nervous energy, talks lots and isn’t just make-you-smirk-from-time-to-time funny but actually spit-out-your-crisps laugh-out-loud funny, and could easily have a career as a stand-up comic. Whereas Rupert is casual, laid back, a teen of few words, and has a quieter sense of humour, a deep grin often creasing his face as he happily watches Daniel get tangled up in his rapid-fire monologues.
Later, I’ll natter to Daniel and Rupert individually, but now they’re taking questions from all the press. Most questions are for Daniel and many of the journalists just want to talk about how he appeared naked on stage in the play Equus recently in the West End – and that kiss with Katie (Leung who plays Cho) in the new film.
One journo even asks him about both in the same question:”Which was more complicated or difficult – being naked in front of a thousand people onstage or kissing Katy in the new movie?”
Daniel: “Being naked was possibly not as complicated. Though, you know, belt buckles can give everybody a bit of trouble at times! But, no, kissing Katy was a very comfortable experience. Especially compared to being naked on stage and blinding horses. I’m sure Katy will be relieved to hear that…”
A bloke from a news channel shouts out a question he’s obviously spent all month thinking of, and which he probably thinks’ll make him sound smart:”Which was easier – working with animals in Equus or with your cast mates here in Potter?”.Unfortunately it has the opposite effect because it reveals that he knows nothing about the play!
Daniel: “Well, I didn’t actually work with animals. We didn’t have real horses in Equus. We’d have gone through six a show!”
Daniel also compares movie acting with stage acting: “A lot of people think you can just saunter onstage after doing film and TV, but you can’t. Stage is far more technically demanding than doing film. Vocally, especially. I did a lot of training to go on stage. It’s a much tougher discipline.”
The teens are asked if there were any moments filming the movies where they’d worry that the other cast members were better than them.
Emma admits “I’d never done any professional acting when I started the Harry Potter films. Both my parents are lawyers! This world was beyond anything I’d dreamt of. I was out of my depth. I can still remember Dan’s face when I told him I didn’t know who Gary Oldman was. He looked at me like I had three heads or worse!”(Daniel titters at the memory.) “I was extremely naive.”
The world also wants to know why Emma took so long to sign up for the final two Potter movies (which are yet to be made.)
Emma: “I had so much to work out. I wanted to do A Levels, AS Levels, and apply for university. Doing two more films is not a joke. You’ve really got to think it through, and it takes some time. So the media decided that I’d given a definite no – or that I was holding out for money or whatever, just because I had to think about it a little bit. I had to think ‘what do I want to do for the next two years? Who do I want to be? What do I want to achieve?’ In the end, I decided I could do the films and achieve everything I wanted to as well, and I’m so glad I’m doing the last two.”
Daniel quickly supports her here, saying that they all thought long and hard about continuing because it’s two years of your life. It must be said, though – it’s hard to see how Emma could balance a university course with shooting Potter movies for ten months of the year!
Someone mentions that the young stars have been treated well by the press so far – but might that be because they’re young – and will that change now that they’ve passed or are soon to pass 18 years old.
Daniel hopes not: “The press on the whole have been really nice and supportive to us, but you do get the feeling that half of them are hoping for a ‘kid stars go off the rails’ type story. But that makes me more determined not to give it to them. I like wrong footing people generally in life!”
But it’s not that they’re totally inexperienced. Rupert admits that “we’re so busy we do miss out on regular things a little bit. But things like getting drunk for the first time… we still have experiences like that.”
Emma joins in: “We just wouldn’t do it in the public eye. You can choose to have your experience in a safe environment with friends or in the middle of a nightclub and then stagger out for all the press to see you. We all lead low key, quite normal lives.”
Then That Ben Shepherd Off TV winds up the press conference, and it’s time for a few of us to wander down one of the longest, windiest corridors in all corridordom to a big room where the stars will come to mingle and chat.
Daniel Radcliffe turns up first, still smart in suit and tie. “You’ve got to make an effort,” he says, though he reveals that the bottom of his tie is rammed into the top – “it slipped out during the press conference.” He agrees that he presents a very different look to Rupert. “He’s more casual – but I like to dress up. I am a suit man – and it makes you feel slightly taller. Plus -” and he nods to his waistcoat, “if you have three buttons on your waistcoat and only tie the top one, people’s eyes go up there and it makes you look taller. But if you’re small and you wear a baseball cap, it’s actually easy to slip into a crowd and not get spotted.”
Daniel, Equus is a serious, deep, psychological play. Were you annoyed that the papers just seemed interested in you getting your kit off in it? Is that the sign of a dumbed down media?
It is. And half the people writing the articles hadn’t read the script. And so as soon as the play came out they all did a very quick U-turn. It’s actually a really serious play, and moving. And not just a moving play but very sad – and it’s also about the nature of passion and psychiatry. The impression in the press was that the nudity was gratuitous. But it wasn’t. It’s a very important scene, central to the play. And most people who came to see it were moved rather than shocked, I think.
You made December Boys last year…
Yes, and it will be coming out! It’s an indie movie so it’s harder for them to get distribution sorted out – but it should be out in September.
Can you compare working on a low budget indie film like that with working on multi-million pound special effects spectaculars like the Potters?
Both are equally chaotic to be honest. Potter’s unique in a way. Gary Oldman said that the third Potter was the most expensive art house movie ever made! And they do have that sort of feel. But December Boys was a much smaller film with a much smaller crew. And Potter’s unique because we’ve all known each other so long. But there was a sense of chaos on both, as I think there is on every film set. The main difference for me was that on Potter we’d do maybe five or six camera set-ups a day. With December Boys we did maybe five or six scenes a day. With that style of film making you have to rush. You have to get it done.
Though he’s into bands, you get the impression that Daniel’s the type who’d be happier discussing literature – producer David Heyman told me that he’s recently been reading Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, and even Marcel Proust – or art than, say, the latest Big Brother. In fact, investing in art is one of his new passions, and he plans to support his favourite artists.
Who are your favourites?
James Riley who does amazing watecolours. And Jim Hodges in New York, who does just brilliant paintings. David Hayman is very up on all that. He was taking me to galleries and showing me things, and was never patronising. If I said “I don’t really get that,” he’d just say “if you don’t get it, it’s not for you.”
Have you ever pretended that you do know how the final Potter will end – just to tease people?
Oh, yes – hundreds of times! Jo Rowling came to the set once, and I told the others “I had lunch with her and she told me how it ended.” And recently, in interviews, I’ve been so bored with people asking me about it, I’ve said “Yes, I do know how it ends,” and have been making up the most ridiculous endings for the book.
Do you reckon the press will keep on treating you well as you get older? The celebrity press can be quite mean.
There might be a slight difference when I’m 18. But I’ll just put a baseball cap on and put my head down. And when you hear about good actors punching the paparazzi – well, that’s exactly what they want. Not that I don’t smile when I hear a paparazzi has been punched in the face! But they’re trying to provoke the actors to get a story to go with the photograph. But I think the press have seen me a bit differently since doing Equus. “Oh, maybe he’s actually serious about acting.” As if doing five Harry Potter films over a period of seven years was just a joke…
Then, apologising that the day’s event is “being run with military precision” he’s off to speak to more people, though not before revealing that he hopes Harry won’t die in the final book -“maybe that’s too obvious; too easy.”