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Feature: Harry Potter 3

Alfonso Cuarón: A Darker Path…

Bright outlook, at the moment…

Eyebrows were raised when the announcement came that the director of the acclaimed but risqué Mexican movie Y Tu Mama Tambien would helm the third chapter in the Harry Potter series, The Prisoner of Azkaban. But with JK Rowling’s stories taking on more than a hint of horror, we argue that Alfonso Cuarón is perfect for the job…

At first glance, the notion of Mexican film-maker Alfonso Cuarón directing the latest adventure for JK Rowling’s heroic boy wizard seems a little incongruous. This is, after all, the man who made the acclaimed, touching and simultaneously highly sexed rite-of-passage tale Y Tu Mama Tambien (And Your Mother Too).

But the decision to hire him was a shrewd choice on the part of Harry Potter producer David Heyman, whose rationale was simple: “Y Tu Mama Tambien is very much about being a teenager,” he explained while promoting Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is about the beginning of being a teenager. Alfonso is a director who has great compassion, boundless imagination and a real sense of magic. All of these things are really important.” Having been a creative executive at Warner Bros at the time when Cuarón made his charming family film A Little Princess, producer David Heyman knew what to expect from the Mexican director.

“We talked about working together back then,” Cuarón explains. “The funny thing is that this film would have made sense after A Little Princess, it was a little strange that it came after Y Tu Mamá También. But it’s good. It means that the producer and the studio were willing to take a risk. They were willing to try and explore a new territory. I admire that and I think it’s the smart way of keeping a franchise alive, by refreshing it.”

Despite his obvious enthusiasm for his new film, Cuarón admits he was a reluctant convert to the blockbuster franchise, unwilling to cede the power he is typically able to wield over films he makes in his native country.

“When the project was offered to me originally I was ignorant of Harry Potter,” he adds. “In fact, when I first received the script I dismissed it. I hadn’t read the books or seen the films. Weeks passed and David called and asked whether I liked the script. I said that I hadn’t read it, and he asked that I read it because then I could tell him I didn’t want to do it. He’s a smart man, Mr Heyman. I read it and I was really surprised about the whole thing. It was a very early draft by Steve Kloves, but that triggered a desire to read the book which I thought was amazing.”

Cuarón’s initial resistance to handling material that came from someone else’s imagination was soon overtaken by thoughts of what he could bring to the film series. With the story established, the script written, the sets built and the casting done, he was able to concentrate on the important business of bringing Rowling’s third book to life on screen.

by Anwar Brett

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Film Review (Sum)
#645, Summer 2004
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