The Harry Potter books have finished, but that is not the end of his adventures, as they continue to transmute into a new form, as films. It is perhaps remarkable that such widely-read books, with plots dissected, explored and revisited, continue to draw the audiences in.
This is perhaps one of those few occasions where Art imitates Art; the Harry Potter books gave rise to the films, and those interpretations then influenced writer J K Rowling following books. But Rowling was so involved in the films themselves that this influence was knowing and accepted.
Now with the lengthy last Harry Potter book being split into two movies, filmed at the same time, audiences are just as eager as ever to see how it will all look on screen, but for the cast this is the end of a 10-year journey of film production. And for the lead actors this has taken them from child actors to young adults, at a time in their lives when 10 years is a very, very long time.
For the actor playing Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe, this growing up process has included a growing critical awareness of his own work…
You’ve said that you weren’t happy with your performance in The Half-Blood Prince, the previous, sixth, film. So, going into these last two movies, how did you get past those insecurities?
I think, [for] most actors, it’s part of your job to be highly critical of your own performance, and I always have been. I have never been entirely thrilled with my performances and I never like watching myself, but it was in the sixth one that I just felt there was a lack of variety.
So I think in the seventh film I have made an effort to be more expressive and have more of that variety. Not over the top and hammy, obviously. In a way, I was fortunate to have that experience of not being entirely thrilled with my performance in number six because it sort of gave me the kick in the pants that I needed in order to psyche myself up and get ready for the journey of the seventh film.
In terms of my preparation, I was probably just a lot more thorough when it came to each scene. Not that I was ever complacent. I’d hate to give that impression because that’s not really in me or in my makeup. I was just slightly more obsessive about my preparation and all the various scenes. What works for me in terms of those big scenes was to take myself off to a corner of the set and almost work myself into a little bit of a frenzy, where I stop being aware particularly of what I’m doing. The times you do the best work are when you’re not really thinking about it. Or I think so anyway.
If you do all the preparation you know the thoughts of the character, why he’s there, what he wants in that scene, and what he wants at that particular moment… If you’re aware of all that you just put all that to the back of your mind, so it’s in-built, and you let whatever happens, happen.
[Also], a difference between [films] number five and number six is that I didn’t realize how much better I became when I worked with Gary [Oldman]. He brought something else out in me certainly, and I think in the sixth film I just expected that to continue. In the seventh I worked harder to maintain some of that, and the feeling that I had [when] working with Gary.
Looking back on the arc of this journey, knowing what you know now, is there one particular thing would you would like to re-do?
Oh. Well, if I was young enough I’d like to go back and do the first two [movies] again, because I do still find those ones kind of very embarrassing to watch. But to be honest, I don’t really look back on the films too much, because I probably would be sitting there going, ‘Oh God there’s so much I would want to change about what I’ve done.’ I genuinely think you’d struggle to find an actor who’s truly happy with what he’s done.
How would you describe Harry’s emotional journey in The Deathly Hallows, and how about your own as well, considering it’s all coming to an end?
For Harry, one of the major themes of The Deathly Hallows, Part I and Part II – but particularly Part I – is the theme of faith, and his faith in Dumbledore being tested.
Dumbledore dies in the sixth film and leaves Harry with almost no information in his will, apart from three rather cryptic bequests, which were to Harry, Ron and Hermione. They make no sense at the time, but gradually, as the films carry on, [they] make more and more sense.
And hearing all this stuff about Dumbledore – constantly – stuff Harry didn’t know before, makes him doubt the man’s integrity. It’s always dangerous drawing religious comparisons, but it is sort of a Job-type test of faith. It’s how far can that faith be pushed before Harry gives up?
Ultimately, every time Harry finds himself in that dark moment where he thinks it’s a worthless quest and he doesn’t even know why he’s doing it, something happens which just allows him to continue on. As far as his relationship with Ron and Hermione goes, it’s one of them gradually realizing that Harry has no idea what to do. He has no plan. He’s just winging it.
So as they lose faith in him, he starts to become more paranoid and isolated and, I suppose, angrier. But it doesn’t ever display itself that much. It just comes across as more of desperation I suppose.
You can read more from Daniel Radcliffe tomorrow…