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 Interviews - JK Rowling : 
 

CoS DVD Interview with Steve Kloves too , 11 avril 2003

 

Now, to bring a story like Harry Potter from the page to the screen, the starting point is your original novel, written by you of course, J.K. Rowling. And the script is based on that novel but is written by the screenwriter, of course you, Steve Kloves. Can you explain both how you worked together to produce the final script because it must be very very different writing a book as compared to writing a film.

Steve: Yeah, I mean, I just... steal her best stuff, for the most part...

JKR: *laughs* Yeah, and, I don't sue!

Steve: *laughs* I think the thing is, what's always been great about Jo is that...from the beginning she gave me tremendous elbow room, but when you're in the middle of a series like this it's important that I talk to Jo along the way and ask her beyond simple advice and certain sequences and things, but "Am I on the right path?" and Jo's always been good about it. She's made clear she will not tell me what's going to happen but she will tell me if I'm going down the wrong path...

JKR: I think I've given Steve alot more information than... probably anyone else, which I shouldn't probably say...on screen, so a kid won't torture him for it! We need him, bad. Yeah, I've told Steve probably more than I would because see he needs to know. And it's been incredibly annoying because he says "Well shall we cut that off", or "I wanted to do this" and I say, "Well no... Because... you know in Book Six... something will happen and you'll need that in" or "that'll contradict something that happens" and I can feel him on the end of the emails, you know, just screaming "er...you...won't...telll...meee...wwhhyy.." So I have told him things! But he's very good at guessing, too. He's guessed more straightly than anyone else, I think.

 

How frustrating is it, to be working slightly in the dark on this, Steve?

Steve: Well it's frustrating because, you'd like to know... when you're writing a character, you want to know where they are going...

JKR: I'd tell you if you were dying!

Steve: *laughs* That's... that's nice to know.

JKR: But you don't need to at the moment!

Steve: Well... I am... dying... Y'know just... hopefully it's gonna take a while! But I think that it's frustrating just to... It comes down to the details and the magic of those details and I think just reading the books is just quite a wonderful experience.

 

And there are so many rich details in the books. Could you tell us how you decide what goes in and what stays out?

Steve: Well, I will suggest to Jo... "You do seem to shine a bit more light on this one than the other details..." and sometimes I'm wrong but often she'll nod and say "Yes, that is going to play out." and there's one thing in Chamber that Jo indicated will play later in the series. The hardest thing for me is that I'm writing a story to which I do NOT know the end. I'm not going to lie to you, I spend some times in my own originals but I assume I will find an end! With this it's just I'm writing a story over a decade, and I keep waiting, you know, keep hoping that Jo will really slip-up and actually tell me something.

 

In this movie we've seen the kids develop from the first film, could you tell us about the relationship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione and how that is developing film by film?

JKR: Well I think it is developing in the films as it does in the books, which is to say that they are much stronger together than apart. They're much more aware, in the second film, of their particular strengths. So they're more effective and are able to do more complex things like, for example, the Polyjuice Potion. And Steve has done a sort of foreshadowing, that I don't do until the fourth book, which is, you kind of get hints of certain feelings between the three of them. They belong to a slightly more mature person then as well.

Steve: Yeah, I think you're seeing in Chamber the magic's becoming a bit second nature to them. And that basically it's that with a little bit of knowledge they can get into a lot of trouble. And I think that's what we're seeing: they're getting more mature but, it's a dangerous kind of knowledge.

 

How do you feel about what the kids were like in this movie ?

Steve: Well the first thing that you notice when you see the movie is that Harry and Ron's voice dropped a good two octaves. That's just really... bizarre... because you realize they're not these cute little... moppetheads just running around! Of course, children will grow.

 

Steve, Hermione is a character that you have said is one of your favorites. Has that made her easier to write?

Steve: Well, I like writing all three, but I've always loved writing Hermione. Because, she's just one... she's a tremendous character for a lot of reasons to a writer, one being she can carry exposition in a wonderful way because you just assume she read it in a book.

JKR: Very true, I find that all the time in the books, if you need to tell the readers something just put it in her. There's really only two characters that you can put it convincingly into their dialogue: One is Hermione, the other one is Dumbledore. In both cases you accept, it's plausible that they have, well Dumbledore knows pretty much everything that's going on anyway... but with Hermione that she read it in a book. She's really handy that way.

Steve: Yeah, she's really handy. And she's also, I think, just tremendously entertaining. There's something about her fierce intellect coupled with her complete lack of understanding of how she affects the other people sometimes that I just find charming and irresistable to write.

 

Does Dumbledore speak for you?

JKR:OH yes, very much so. Dumbledore often speaks for me.

 

How do you see Dumbledore, Steve ?

Steve: I think Dumbledore's a fascinating character because I think he obviously serves parts, that with great wisdom comes great experience and I've always felt that Dumbledore bears so much of a tremendous Dark burden. That he knows secrets and that in many ways he bears the way to the future of the Wizarding World which is being challenged and the only way that he can keep that at bay, the darkness, is to be mysterious and humerous. And I think that's just perfect, he's a character of many layers and I think he does know something, with our abilities. And I think it's just, coming from him it dosn't seem like a serman, it doesn't feel like a message, it's just sort of absolute truth and it goes down easy. And I like that about him. That's what I like about the books; I've thought that Jo's writing is deceptively profound which is that you never feel there are messages in there but there are many things being delt with in a very sort of clever way and they're never pretentious, the books. I also think that's why kids love reading them.

 

You say that you don't set out to put particular messages in your books, they grow organically. But do you think that it's important to have the right messages there when they do emerge?

JKR: Well obviously in the movie the Wizarding World passes for racism. And that's deeply intrenched in the whole plot, there's this issue going on about the bad side sort of really advocating a kind of genocide, to what they feel are these sort of, half blood people. So that was obviously very conscious, but the other messages do grow organically, I've never set out to teach anyone anything. It's been more of an expression of my views, never about sitting down and deciding "Well, what is today's message?" And I do think that judging people, even my daughter, the children do respond to that much better than those who fought for the day.

 

What was the most important difference in doing the story for Chamber of Secrets as opposed to the first film?

JKR: Well we probably had a bit more contact on the first film, but we also needed more contact with the first film because we were establishing a relationship, that has lasted two years now, hopefully it will last for hopefully longer. So that was all about getting what we needed from each other. So it's probably a good sign that we had less contact with two because there was then trust involved. I was very prickly when I first met Steve. I knew that they'd chosen this American, and even though he wrote and directed one of my favorite films, The Fabulous Baker Boys, he's... Well... American! Not to be... I don't know... He was just... I was most worried about meeting Steve because he was the writer, he was going to be ripping... ripping apart my baby. And it turns out I really like him, so that worked!

 

How do you communicate, really, and how often?

JKR: Uh, it... it varies to what we're doing at the time.

Steve: OWLS.

JKR: Owls, mainly, obviously, and Floo Powder. *nods*

 

How does this film differ from the first ?

JKR: It's easier I think... We were both faced with... an easier book to transfer into a film, isn't it? I think the first one is episodic, you have individual adventures and it chops and changes. I remember when we were working on the script of Philosopher's Stone that was something that came up continuously, wasn't it, that you would have these sort of discreet adventures. And Chamber is a more linear structure so it was easier to translate to screen, I think, wasn't it?

Steve: Yeah, though I thought it was going to be easier than the first...

JKR:
Oh, but it actually turned out reverse then ?

Steve: Well with Chamber there's the sort of whole Tom Riddle moment where Tom explains it all. And that's always challenging in a movie. Also what's interesting about Chamber is that things are occuring that you don't really quite understand until Tom explains them at the end. So you've got to work towards that moment and hope you can hold the audience during that moment. But there's no question, it had more of a sort of... just more of a...tight plot to play out.

 

What were the biggest challenges for you in this film ?

Steve: The challenge for me always is to keep it from being four hours! What I honestly think is magical about what Jo does is the details. And so my first drafts are always chopped full of details. I think for me, the things I respond to sometimes are hard to put in proportion. I was really interested in the whole Mudblood threat so that became somewhat of an interesting emotional thing for me in the script. I don't know that it's still there in the way that I saw it entirely. But you want to give some of those things weight, so that's more of a challenge but it's mainly compression.

 

Jo, were there any bits of Chamber of Secrets that didn't reflect the way that you originally saw it in your mind?

JKR: It's interesting what Steve says about the Mudblood theme because I would agree that there's always the pressure of time and space in the film, but that is a stronger theme in the book and yet it is present in the film but for me I suppose when I look back in the book that is the time in the whole entire sereies that the issue of Mudblood is present, so... yeah.

 

What stands out most in this film ?

JKR: It was scary, I've always thought that with Chamber of Secrets people underestimate how scary the book actually is. In fact it's the book I've got the most complaints about. Possibly because people got upset at Chamber of Secrets and didn't carry on reading the rest of the book so, I think that's a certain trust to the screen, a couple of really frightening moments...

 

The visual effects are a huge part of bringing the magic to life. In this film we have Dobby, we have the pixies, we have Fawkes, we have the basilisk. What do you make of the effects in this movie?

JKR: Dobby's wonderful. Dobby's really really good, and the Mandrakes...superb. I really love the Mandrakes.

 

Is that a big challenge for you, Steve, getting the effects, the scenes right ?

Steve: No, no, it's easy for me because I just write it and dream it... somebody else has to actually do it! But I'm amazed to see something like the Mandrakes which is really, essentially, puppetry.

 

Which ones in Chamber of Secrets were you most excited to see?

JKR: I was most worried about the spiders. Because you see these old sci-fi movies where they have spiders and you're staring at them, they're never scary! It's easier to write a scene like that in a novel, because I make it scary. But when I started thinking about how we were going to actually see that... but in fact it was extremely frightening. It was the most frightening large spiders I've ever seen in my life.

Steve: I had the same concern I just thought... "How are we going to do this?" We have Aragog saying "Who goes there?" basically, you know, this giant spider... I said "This is just going to be hysterical"... I'm laughing as I'm writing it! I know I'm imagining it being... well one thing that you learn about movies is that the thing that you're worried about most often is not a problem. And if you don't worry about it it's a complete disaster. So I've found it's funny because you're talking about the scares in the movie. I know the thing that terrified my son the most in the first movie was opening the book, and the book screaming. And I think it was a bit of something he could identify. He could take a book off the shelf, and open it, and there might be a face in there screaming. But he wasn't scared by the other things at all.

JKR: But I think I write though that, those are the sort of details that I write because, that would scare me. I read all the time and to have to just open something and have it shriek at me... And one thing that I thought that was well done in the film, Chamber of Secrets, was the diary. The Diary to me is a very scary object. It's a really really frightening object. This manipulative little book with the temptation particularly for a young girl to poor out her heart to a diary, which is never something I was never prone to, but my sister was. The power of something that, at the time I wrote that I hadn't been in an internet chat room. But I've since thought "Well it's very similar". Just typing your deepest thoughts and getting answers back, you don't know who's answering you! And so that was always a very scary image to me, in the book, and I thought it worked well in the film. And you could understand when he started writing to see these things coming back to you, and the power of that, the secret friend.

Steve: Yeah I've always loved that in the book. I thought that was just one of the greatest... that somebody's writing back to you that you do not know who they are and there's something inherently ominous for the fact that they know the secret you want to know and they're inviting you just like a finger beckoning into the past. I always thought that was an incredibly interesting concept.

 

How different has it been working on the script for now the next movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ?

Steve: Well we've just started, honestly I think it's going as well as the others. I think personally I feel it's going to be the best movie. I think that we're at a better place than we've ever been with the script. And we're months from starting shooting so I think it's the best wish we could. I think Three could be really interesting.

 

Where does Three stand on your list of favorites ?

JKR: Oh, I know it's very corny and I'm going to say it but it's like choosing between your children... It really is. But I have a very soft spot for Three because of a couple of characters who pop up there for the first time... Lupin and Black, obviously very important characters and I'm really fond of them.

 

So far you've had two very successful collaborations on Harry Potter, what are your hopes for the future of the Harry Potter series ?

JKR: I hope Steve keeps writing the scripts, because I'm used to him by now. Just keep being faithful to the books, I suppose. From my point of view I'm bound to say that, aren't I ?

 

 

J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves, author and the script writer, I'm sure we're looking forward very much to the results of your future collaborations, thank you very much.

 

 
 

 

 

 


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