Before he was selected to write the screenplay for Harry Potter and the Socerer’s Stone, Steve Kloves had never heard of JK Rowling’s series of books. Aside from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Kloves has adapted all the Harry Potter books.
Do you think people need a primer to see this new movie, it moves so fast it doesn’t take time for introductions or back stories?
At this point there’s only so much freight these movies can carry in terms of introducing characters. We sit down and discuss it, who we needed to introduce, we had long discussions about it, but we have to make decisions, the movies are 2½ hours as it is.
What were the challenges this time around as it was the sixth film?
It’s always hard, because we are all fans of the books, so I try to do the impossible and put everything into the script, much to the annoyance of my collaborators. I think this one was challenging in terms of much of the book lived in the past, and David [Yates, the director] is very gifted at putting you in the moment, and I think it is where he wanted to put us in this movie, so a lot of our decisions really went from there. So we chose what memories to focus on, the ones that were most emotionally about Harry and Dumbledore and informed the audience about Voldermort’s past, and the mystery that lies at the core of this movie.
How do you envision yourself, are you the interpreter of the material, what do you see as your mission in the big picture?
I just try to survive. The first day I met Jo [Rowling], which was about 10 years ago, we hit it off pretty easily, and we went for a walk, and she said to me, ‘Look, I know the movies can’t be the books, I know they’ll be something different, but what’s important to me is the characters and that we stay true to the characters.’
So in a sense, I see myself as the guardian of the characters, I want to make sure that the essence of them is always maintained throughout. I try to protect the characters and capture the essence of the books, but I try not to be too slavishly connected to the books where I think it defeats the drama of cinema.
There’s a surprising amount of comedy in this movie.
As a writer you try to figure out what are [the characters] fighting for, and one of the things they are fighting for is to have that first kiss with the girl that you like and hold hands with the girl that you like, and I think all those feelings become more intense in times of war, when you’re trying to fend off the darkness and that’s why [the comedy] is there.
Dark is easier than light, at least for me as a writer, it’s much more challenging to try to make it slightly comic. One of the things I love about what Michael [Gambon] does, he finds that little twinkle and that little moment in a line and fills it with nuance and subtlety. I think another thread that is always in Jo’s work is the choices you make in life matter, and whether you drift into the darkness it’s usually a matter of choice, it’s not just the gifts you have it’s how you use those gifts.
Were you afraid that the comedic scenes might disturb the pacing of the movie?
I think what’s one of the great things about working with David Yates is David likes to do the comedy. David sees it as vital, and that’s great for me because I think it makes the darkness all that more powerful when you see it contrasted in light, and I think also Dan, Rupert and Emma now can play the nuance of the comedy in a way that they couldn’t have five, six, seven years ago, so to write for them is not that different than to write for Michael Gambon, which is quite a statement. I can give them almost anything to do, and let David play with it.
There’s a scene in the movie that’s not in the book, where the Death Eaters attack the Weasley home at Christmas.
I think we wanted to show how the Death Eaters’ operate. They instill fear in people, and not necessarily doing anything other than scaring them. And this spreads, it’s almost as Dumbledore says at one point, “Fear of pain increases fear of pain itself.” They don’t even need to hurt someone to spread fear. So you can extrapolate from the moment that they’ve done this a lot, and it’s why people are living in fear.