LA Times Interview with Screenwriter Steve Kloves on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
June 17, 2009, 01:33 PM
The Hero blog for the LA Times is launching a Harry Potter countdown with a series of new articles, the first being a new and rare interview with screenwriter Steve Kloves. In this interview, Mr. Kloves speaks about some canon tidbits he learned while working with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, some of the pivotal moments in his adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, including the decision to cut out some scenes, as well as the final dramatic moments of the story, with the screenwriter giving high praise to actor Alan Rickman as Snape.While the entire interview is quite fascinating and well worth reading, here are some particular quotes of interest:
What, if anything, can you say about the climactic moment between Snape and Dumbledore? In the book, it’s a short but intense scene.
It is informed by everything [Potter readers] have come to know is true. So if you watch the film carefully, there are performance moments that are quite extraordinary, Alan Rickman [who plays Snape] especially. There is something we added that you can look forward to, a short scene between Harry and Snape prior to the big event. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays to the audience. It should be a haunting moment for Harry. While I was writing, I just had a notion about a moment between him and Snape, something Harry could look back on and question as to why he didn’t act differently.
I’ve also read that most of Dumbledore's pensieve memories of young Voldemort, then Tom Riddle, have been cut from the film. (Not to mention: Dumbledore's funeral!)
In my original draft, I had every single memory but one, I believe. I even dramatized a couple of things that weren’t in the book in terms of Voldemort, like the death of Tom’s parents, things like that. I'm a Harry Potter fan, so my first drafts tend to reflect that, in that they tend to be long and all-inclusive. When [director] David Yates came in, he had a very specific point of view, which was that he wanted to showcase Voldemort’s rise without getting overly involved with his past as Riddle. He didn’t think that most of the memories would be as compelling on-screen as they are on the page. He liked them in the script, but he really felt that in the movie experience Voldemort’s story was more important than young Riddle‘s. We went back and forth on that for quite a bit. But he was very convincing, and I think it wound up working out well.
Are there any other changes or additions that you can talk about?
I know one thing David is very proud of is getting Quidditch right. I do think it’s the first time that it feels like a sport. And it’s comic, which is fun. Rupert Grint [who plays Ron] is great. We also do a lot with the kids coming of age, navigating sexual politics and all that. It’s pretty interesting to see these characters doing that because the movies have always been a bit chaste, and they continue to be on some level, but there’s more happening in this one. You realize how complicated it is between boys and girls. It’s a lot of fun seeing Ron navigate his first girlfriend
What kind of things do you run by Rowling?
A range of things, even something really simple. I once asked about the 12 uses of dragon’s blood, which is referenced in the books. There are writers who would write “12 uses of dragon’s blood” and not have a clue what they are; it just sounds cool. But I emailed her to ask (and this was 10 years ago), and 25 seconds later I get an email back with a list.
Do tell. She's only mentioned "oven cleaner" in interviews.
One is an oven cleaner, yes. Another is a spot remover. . . . It was really amazing. Really, the books are only the thinnest surface of what she knows about the series. Where Jo is helpful in a more serious way for me is when I want to know more about motivation or background, when Harry realized certain things, when characters understood things. There was one case where I was violating a plot thing -- it had something to do with Dobby, I think -- and she said, "No, you don’t want to do that," as she knew what was to come. She’s a great resource for problem solving and she has such a facile mind, she can help with complicated things. Though her plots are so fiendish that they’re really difficult for cinema.
I always knew that final scene of COS was Columbus’ stupid idea.
“So it was Yates’s decision to cut out all the memories! I’m really worried about Deathly Hallows now.”
Why? Because Yates knows how to navigate the differences between a book and a film? As Kloves himself explains, Yates didn’t randomly cut out the memories to tick off pedantic book fans. He did it to service the film and how Voldemort’s life and story would play out ON FILM.
Guys, you really need to start understanding that there is a difference to how something plays out in a book and on film. It’s not that Yates thought he was better than Jo, or didn’t like the memories, Kloves said he did, but he HAS to work out what will play best on film.
The memories had the potential to really stall the pacing of the film and one of the major components of getting a film right is getting the pacing right, something I have to say that Columbus didn’t always get right with the first two films when he tried to shove absolutely everything in (while still leaving out some of the things in Kloves COS script that were important).
There are parts of PS/SS and COS that drag every single time I watch those films and those scenes crush the momentum of the film.
Now those of you who are happy to sit and watch a moving storyboard may be ok with that, but I would rather have a director who loves the books but who also has a good director’s instincts for what does and doesn’t work ON FILM rather than being slavishly devoted to every single little bit of the book.
I always find it ironic that Jo understands the adaptation process so much better than her fans and is happy to work with the filmmakers to come up with some changes and new ideas (ie The burrow attack) because she knows that different things work on film than in a book.
Mouse, dontcha just love it when we find agreement in these discussions? and you and i will be enjoying the next two years tremendously, i’m sure! until next…enjoyed your contributions to this thread!
So Jk agrees with all the mess they do with her story? Burn the Burrow, put Cho to be the traitor of DA,Ginny kissing Harry,no quidditch in OOTP, no Sirius´ mirror,no Aberforth…? Oh for Godness´s sake! Jo should be the screenwriter of the films.Not that I don´t like Steve, he is pretty good. But imagine if it was Jo? She would be brilliant.
“Speaking of . . . how does the coming together of Ginny and Harry play out when we’ve all fallen for Cho Chang in the previous films?”
Er… who exactly has fallen for Cho? I certainly haven’t.
mouse, we’ve gone through similar discussions about each of the films, before and after. those of us that do have substantial knowledge of film making and adaptions between literature, theater and screen have always suffered a mixture of frustration and enjoyment each time during these conversations.
for me, the bottom line will be as the credits roll at the end of DH2: “how well did the entire story hold together, within each film and across all 7 (8)”. and we just won’t know until 2011….
so far, however, I have found Yates the most disappointing of the directors, and OotP the most unsatisfying of the films, mostly because of omissions, not because of what was included. Can those plot gaps be plugged? Sure…so I’m curious how it will be done.
However, we already know of two major gaps in HBP ….the Gaunts and Trelawney’s prediction. Burning of the Barrow makes sense (as Yates described it in an interview), but the scene does raise questions about how the opening chapters/scenes of DH will be done…
so, we’ll wait until 2011 and see, right? and then we’ll buy the extended versions of the dvds when those come out….
What mouse68 said – every word!
I like the respectful discourse on this website. So thanks mouse for your comments. I wish I could say I agree with you on Yates’ TV work, but I just don’t. I have never liked it, and dismay replaced excitement for the last HP films when I heard Warner Bros. had hired him.
As far as his film work goes, we have only OOTP to judge from and it was a poorly made film. Bad performances, bad editing, bad script, so many bad choices. The set design and art direction were its strongest elements. Yates’ additions and substitutions did nothing to illuminate the core themes of the book, the series or the characters. And with an example of how his directorial vision interprets the books, I have little reason to have faith in his future work with them.
I have also watched and written about movies for many years, and even devoted my college studies to them in addition to visual anthropology. I do know a thing or two about the effects of media and about filmmaking. And having read HBP
several times, I still feel that it should have been the easiest of all the books in the series to adapt to the screen without drastically altering it’s structure or it’s content. I just don’t see limp dialogue, awkward continuity and some extra misplaced explosions, (the result of excessive tampering as opposed to necessary trimming), as a fair trade-off for the book’s many treasures.
Also, as many might recall, there were rumors that the rewritten final scenes of the movie version of OOTP would move us tremendously, just like the rumors of the new film’s whole-cloth creations in lieu of the book’s actual events, and they were a pitiful embarrassment. POA still holds the candle as far as the movies are concerned; proof that one needn’t slavishly pillage the entirety of a book’s pages to make a great film of it. I wish WB had brought Cuaron back for the final films, even though he did not agree with splitting the book into two movies. The lesson here- no one ever gets everything they want. I’m still not paying to see the new movie though, or the following ones (it pays to have friends who work at the theatre).
I am upset to hear that David Yates was responsible for the decision to remove the additional memory scenes. Although I am inclined to somewhat agree with him that they might have amounted to a distraction, I do think these scenes play a critical role in the overall scheme of the series. Without them, we would not have appreciated the circumstances that facilitated Voldemort’s descent into evil during his childhood. Instead, Yates has opted to keep him as a flat character, with no complexity, one merely born evil instead developing in that direction due to the circumstances that arose in his life. I will refrain from judging the adaptation until I see the final movie, but I know one area in which the movie will disappoint already. However, other than that, I am highly optimistic about the quality of the adaptation.
That said, the footage in which Snape gestures to Harry to be quiet is explained at last! I certainly look forward to seeing this scene.
Moonyloony, thanks for the collective compliment! overall, yes, the folks that contribute here are fairly kewl to have a conversation with!
Alas, in the past there were a fair number of very very nasty, even downright vile, discussions, usually about things that JKR said in interviews, or the RDR case, etc. The shift to My Leaky most probably discouraged the trolls. Also, long-awaited publication of DH itself put an end to some of the discussions (leaving aside the immediate aftermath, where JKR comments triggered discussions about “is Rowling really Christian” and “Dumbledore is gay”…)
Let me add a bewildered (or should i write “Bemused”?) note: for some reason my posting are not showing up in the order in which I submitted them…my laptop’s clock is correct, so the cause bemuses me ;-)
I really want to know the other uses of dragon’s blood.
“addition of a Harry-Snape moment right before Snape’s showdown with Dumbledore” i guess that’s where the shush snape does to harry comes from. not sure if this’ll give too much away as far as snape’s side…