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Christopher Columbus on directing Harry Potter

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With Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince opening on July 15th, I had the opportunity to speak with Christopher Columbus, who produced the first three and directed the first two films. Although he was at the Casa del Mar Hotel to talk about his new movie I Love You, Beth Cooper, he is obviously still fond of the Harry Potter film franchise that he helped to create.

Are you surprised that Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson played Harry, Ron and Hermione all the way through to the end, because I know in the very beginning you were going to replace them after two or three films.

Well, we always secretly hoped that they would stay there, and I think that by the time I left, after the third movie, they had been cast in the fourth, so at that point we sort of knew they were going to stick around. What’s fantastic is that they’ve grown into such great actors. Each movie is 150 days, so by the time we’d finished the first movie they were able to get through a few lines and do almost an entire take, and by the time we got through the third movie they were able to do an entire scene on camera.

Are you sorry that you never went back and directed another Harry Potter, do you regret that decision?

No, I don’t have any regrets, the only regret I have is mostly emotional. I see those kids on screen and it’s like seeing part of your family on screen, they’re aging before my eyes. You see all the sets we built and all the actors that we cast, it’s very surreal, because it’s an entire world that I put together, yet I’m not a part of anymore. So that bit is a little melancholy, but in the sense that I want to go back, I don’t think so, not now. I look back on those movies, and it’s just odd to go see them, it’s a very odd separation anxiety, it’s a surrealistic experience because at times I wish I were there, but then I feel, ‘No, I’ve done it, it’s time to have fun doing other things.’ But I do miss them terribly.

What do you think of the movies?

I like them all, I really liked Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I haven’t seen the new one.

Anything you would have done differently with the films?

It’s weird; it was like we had set into pattern how those seven movies were going to be made, with the exception of the seventh book being split into two movies. The fourth book we originally talked about splitting it into two movies, because if you remember the fourth book was huge in length. But no, I don’t look at [the movies] in those terms, I would probably have to watch them a couple of times to think about that because my initial shock was, ‘Oh my God, Tom Feldman (who plays Draco Malfoy) looks so old.’

You’re still a producer on it though aren’t you?

No, because I felt that I really had to come back to the States in terms of my family and living here, and I felt that I couldn’t really call myself a producer. Only David Heyman has stayed on as producer.