Harry Potter's New Direction
Alfonso Cuaron Takes On 'The Prisoner of Azkaban'
Wednesday, May 12, 2004; Page C16
Everything's new about the new Harry Potter movie, or so it seems.
Think about these new elements of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban":
New Dumbledore -- Richard Harris, who played Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the first two flicks, died in 2002. Michael Gambon takes over the part in this movie.
New Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher -- Of course, Harry fans know there's always a new Dark Arts teacher. This time, students get Professor Remus Lupin, played by David Thewlis.
New Director -- The first two movies were directed by Chris Columbus, but now Alfonso Cuaron of Mexico gets to create the world of the boy wizard. He has some experience: Cuaron, 42, directed "A Little Princess," based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's story about a boarding school where surprising things happen.
Bridget Byrne spoke with Cuaron about his movie (the shortest yet at about 2 hours 15 minutes), being true to J.K. Rowling's books and working with Daniel Radcliffe.
What's different about the look and feel of this movie compared with the previous two?
Here Harry is more introspective. He's making his first steps into teenage years. Harry realizes that these monsters . . . don't live in the closets or under his bed, they live inside himself. And what he realizes now is the way to fight these monsters lies inside himself as well.
How closely can you, and must you, stick to the book?
I was very happy that very early on I had great advice from J.K. Rowling: "Be faithful to the spirit of the book, don't be literal." . . . There are a lot of things we lose because we do not have the time. So . . . we decide to stick to this theme of this rite of passage. Whatever sticks into that theme we keep it in, and leave out whatever not. [Some things got kept in the movie because Rowling said they will have an important part in a future book.]
What was the hardest part of directing HP3?
My challenge was not to disappoint the fans, but on the other hand, to make a movie that if you haven't seen the other Harry Potter movies, or read the books, you can watch it and understand.
Why is Daniel Radcliffe so good as Harry Potter?
He's amazing. He's really a very special human being. . . . On one hand he's absolutely smart, like a sponge in that he wants to learn everything and devour everything; but also he is absolutely generous and gentle. He has an amazing sense of humor.
How does having a new actor change Dumbledore?
I see Dumbledore as kind of a hippie-chic kind of guy. I think what Michael [Gambon] brings to the whole thing is a sense of mischievousness.
The movie is rated PG-13. How scary is it?
The books are quite scary, but at the same time you are in a universe of make-believe that in a way is a gentle scary, it's not really trying to test your limits. . . . Ultimately there is a light through the darkness. I think to honor the spirit of the books we cannot say, 'We have young kids [watching] so even though the book has a werewolf, let's skip the werewolf.' . . . It's scary but it's not violent. Also, the movies have to grow along with the books. The readers are getting older.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company