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Romance rocks wizard world in new Potter movie

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Fans in costumes pose as they enter the movie theatre for the world’s first premiere of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” in Tokyo July 6, 2009.


Romance rocks wizard world in new Potter movie

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LONDON (Reuters) – Romantic comedy meets the wizarding world in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, the sixth instalment in the hit movie franchise in which hormones, as well as hexes, are on the loose at Hogwarts school.

And with filming on the final two pictures due to wrap up in 2010, the young actors who spent much of their teen years on set and coping with the superstardom their success has brought are finally looking ahead to life after Potter.

“It was nice to be back and to know that this film is, to me, more of a romantic comedy than ever before and that we would have a chance to focus more on that side of things,” said Emma Watson, who plays the feisty bookworm Hermione in the films.

“Sometimes I have to bring myself back with Hermione, because she is so innocent and so naive and she really is very vulnerable in this film,” the 19-year-old actress told reporters on Monday at a press conference to publicise the movie.

“She really does get her heart broken by Ron and Lavender and that whole situation.”

Director David Yates, who also made the fifth movie “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”, added: “Our cast are just getting that little bit older now and the hormones are starting to fly and for me it marks a real transition point between our cast as children and our cast as adults.”

In Half-Blood Prince, out in theatres on July 15, Hogwarts is increasingly vulnerable to attack from Lord Voldemort, wizard Potter’s nemesis.

Professor Slughorn, played by Jim Broadbent, joins the cast, and Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore places more and more trust in his star pupil Potter, determined to prepare him for his inevitable showdown with Voldemort.

Meanwhile, love blossoms, with Harry drawn to Ginny and Ron attracting the attention of Lavender Brown as a heartbroken Hermione looks on jealously.

The first reviews of the movie have been positive.

Variety magazine described it as “dazzlingly well made and perhaps deliberately less fanciful than the previous entries” while The Hollywood Reporter said “a jerky start of exposition and backstory gives way to vigorous storytelling.”

END IN SIGHT

The films, the first five of which have earned an impressive $4.5 billion at the box office, are based on British author J.K. Rowling’s seven-book Harry Potter series, which has sold an estimated 400 million copies worldwide.

There will be eight films in all, with the final volume, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, divided into two.

“We’re working at the moment on Deathly Hallows, and I think we’re all aware that this great juggernaut is reaching the end of its journey in a way,” said Yates, who is also directing Deathly Hallows Parts One and Two.

“We finish shooting next spring and everybody comes to work … with that knowledge in the back of their mind.”

According to Hollywood studio Warner Bros., the seventh film is scheduled to hit cinemas in November, 2010 and the eighth in the summer of 2011.

“I’d like to continue acting, really, if I can,” said Rupert Grint, who plays Ron.

“It’s kind of all coming to an end now and I suppose you’ve got to start thinking about that kind of thing.”

Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry and has starred on the Broadway stage, also plans to go on acting.

“Hopefully just keep acting is the plan. I just want to keep going for as long as I can and I’ve had a fantastic time with Potter. I will be very sad to leave it.”

Watson is going to university in the United States.

“I’m very excited and looking forward to a bit of normality for a while, it would be nice,” she said. “But that by no means means that by going to university I’m never going to act again.”

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“Harry Potter” director says finale to be best yet

in.reuters.com

“Harry Potter” director says finale to be best yet

NEW YORK – july 14 – The sixth “Harry Potter” film opens on Wednesday and is likely to be another hit for the boy wizard series, but with filming started on the finale, British director David Yates says “you haven’t seen anything yet.”

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” in which romance, magic and comedy collide as teenage hormones rage at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, has received rave reviews and already sold out hundreds of theaters for its opening day.

Based on author British author J.K. Rowling’s seven novels, which have sold more than 400 million copies, the film franchise has so far raked $4.5 billion worldwide for Warner Bros. studio, which is owned by Time Warner Inc.

The series finale is being split into two movies for which filming began five months ago and is due to finish in about a year. Part one of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” is due out in late 2010 and part two is planned for release in 2011.

“People are being very kind about what they’re seeing in ‘Half-Blood Prince’ and I just think you haven’t seen anything yet,” Yates, who directed “Harry Potter” five and six and is helming the final two, said in a recent interview.

“(Part one) is like a road movie, refugees being chased by all these people who want to kill them. It’s quite intense,” he said. “Then the final film is like this big opera, big epic, it’s got more set pieces than any of the others.”

“It’s fights and dragons and battles,” he said. “It’s a real rollercoaster, but with a really oddly uplifting end.”

Website Rottentomatoes.com, which collates movies reviews, said 96 percent of critics liked “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Variety magazine said the movie is set to become “one of the year’s two or three top-earning films.”

ROWLING TO “POP IN” MORE OFTEN

The three key cast members who have played their characters throughout the series — Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) — said they were excited about the final films.

“I feel like I’m on this totally different film,” Watson, 19, told a news conference. “All of us are now finished with school and we’re just totally focused on this finale.”

Radcliffe said he didn’t want to start contemplating the end of the film yet, which he likened to his “dream coming to an end,” while Tom Felton, who plays Potter enemy Draco Malfoy, said he would “cry my eyes out” when it’s finished.

Author Rowling has said she was devastated after finishing the final “Harry Potter” book, which was published in July 2007 by Scholastic Corp in the United States and Bloomsbury Publishing elsewhere in the world.

The books, which she spent 17 years working on, have made the mother-of-three one of the world’s wealthiest writers.

Rowling has also remained involved throughout the making of the films, reading scripts before shooting begins and offering suggestions, Yates said.

“She’s really gracious, she’s not territorial,” he said. “She kind of recognizes the challenges of adapting (a book for a film) and she’s really sympathetic to that.”

“She said now that the shooting part is coming to an end she might just pop in more often, which we would love,” Yates said. “She was so busy with all the other books she couldn’t (visit much more than once a year).”

Chris Columbus directed the first two “Harry Potter” films, Alfonso Cuaron took on the third and Mike Newell directed the fourth before Yates took control of the final four movies.

“I wake up in the morning I think Potter, I got to bed I think Potter. By the time I finish I probably will have spent seven years doing Potter,” Yates said.

“It’s a challenge to bring this huge thing to a conclusion and I couldn’t bear letting that go and seeing someone else doing it,” he said. “I couldn’t let it go, it was too addictive, too compulsive, too much fun.”

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‘Harry Potter’ countdown: Michael Gambon sees ‘no point’ in reading Rowling’s books

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‘Harry Potter’ countdown: Michael Gambon sees ‘no point’ in reading Rowling’s books

Michael Gambon has played Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore for five years but he hasn’t been setting a good example for his students when it comes to finishing their homework: The beloved old wizard hasn’t cracked a single one of J.K. Rowling’sHarry Potter” novels.

The choice not to read Rowling’s book series, he explains, is deliberate and he points out that costars Ralph Fiennes and Alan Rickman haven’t taken up the books either.

“You’d get upset about all the scenes it’s missing from the book, wouldn‘t you?” Gambon said via phone from New York, where he was promoting the opening this Wednesday of the sixth “Potter” film. “No point in reading the books because you’re playing with [screenwriter] Steve Kloves’ words.”

And Kloves, along with director David Yates, have demanded an intense Dumbledore, who in the fourth film physically shook Harry when the boy wizard’s name wound up in the Goblet of Fire. It’s a characterization that isn’t as pronounced in the book — Dumbledore doesn’t yank and jostle his star student, for starters — and it upset many “Potter” fans.

In fact, many riled-up muggles also took to the Internet after the third film to complain that Gambon didn’t have the same kindly grandfather aura that they came to expect in the books and in the first two films when the role was portrayed by the late Richard Harris.

Since joining the Potter cast in the third movie, “Harry Potter  and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” Gambon has fashioned Dumbledore into an tougher patriarch, an urgent and mysterious force in the midst of impending  war. Less cuddly, this Dumbledore is clearly presented as a formidable opponent to Potter’s snake-faced nemesis, Voldemort.

And though Harris (who died in London at age 72 in 2002) had a twinkling gentleness, Gambon’s Dumbledore is a wry observer with crackling wit when it comes to the misadventures of his pupils.

In “Half-Blood Prince,” for instance, Ron Weasley’s girlfriend Lavender Brown goes wailing past the headmaster after she loses her red-headed beau to Hermione Granger. The old wizard, with a smirking tone, muses, “Oh, to be young and to feel love’s keen sting.”

The 68-year-old Irish actor, with an illustrious 40-year stage career, is deeply respected by the young cast members. The franchise’s title star, Daniel Radcliffe, for instance, said he was bringing his full powers to an especially emotional moment in the film. (WARNING: If you haven’t read the books, you’ll be wanting to skip this next paragraph due to a key revelation.)

“Dumbledore dies and I had to do a scene lamenting over his body,” Radcliffe explained to U.K. tabloid The Daily Mirror. “Michael is the most respected actor I have ever worked with so I had to really pull out the stops to convey the emotion.But after the fourth take, I looked down and saw that he had dozed off. I had to prod him to wake up. So much for impressing someone with your skills!”

The teacher may doze, but the students dare not drift off. That’s the message both on-camera and off-camera, according to Gambon, who has made more than five dozen films, among them “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover,” “Gosford Park” and “Sleepy Hollow.”

“He’s got to be a bit scary,” Gambon said of his Dumbledore. “All headmasters should be a bit scary, shouldn’t they? A top wizard like him would be intimidating. And ultimately, he’s protecting Harry. Essentially, I play myself. A little Irish, a little scary. That’s what I’m like in real life.”

(WARNING: Here comes that same spoiler again, if you haven’t read the books, skip the next three paragraphs.)

Gambon said he wasn’t terribly emotional upon learning of Dumbledore’s death, and he viewed it a bit as an Obi-Wan Kenobi sorta-kinda death. “Wizards can’t die, can they? They’re always a bit there.”

Still, he said his demise is the film’s most powerful scene. Atop Hogwarts’ Astronomy Tower, Dumbledore is confronted by a determined Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), the Voldemort disciple who has been tasked with killing the headmaster. The youngster’s confidence is shaken when it’s time to do the dark deed. “He goads Draco,” Gambon said of his character. “He knows he isn‘t going to do it.”

The faithfully rendered moment will be more potent to fans of the books who know that Dumbledore is, in fact, aware of the plot. Disarmed but calm, his beseeching eyes plead with his torn collaborator Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) not to save his life but to end it, unbeknownst to Harry. Says Gambon: “He knows what’s what. He invites it. It’s quite good how he dies. I’ve died in quite a few plays and films, I’m always dying, and this one is good.” (In the film, there is one MAJOR departure from the book concerning the orchestration of this climatic scene, but we’ll leave that surprise alone.)

The actor says the enormity of the “Potter” phenomenon hit him again recently at the London premiere of “Half-Blood Prince,” where more than 4,000 kids turned up to get a glimpse of the magical cast. Gambon called it both heartwarming and bittersweet.

“I was really moved by the number of children there. It was raining and everyone was drenched, some of them had been there for hours. You feel responsible for them in a way. All their books and pieces of paper for autographs were all wet, the pens wouldn’t work. It was so sad. It makes you realize how big this thing is.”

The filming of the final Harry Potter movies, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” is underway but Gamon’s contributions aren’t schedule until February. He says that makes it feel as if the end is still far away for him, but he has already begun to reflect on the experience.

“It’s been,” he said, “a real privilege.”

Watching stars Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grow up has been especially fun. “They’ve become worldly, wise and strong actors. That’s been nice to see. You can say things to them now that you couldn’t say to them then.”

Like what? “Oh I don’t know. I dare not say,” he said, chuckling. Should we assume the worst? “Yes,” he answered with a cryptic bit of sass. How very Dumbledore.

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