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Feature: Harry Potter

Sirius Business

Harry's back Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the best of the series yet. We meet the stars and director, as Harry steps into a darker world of adulthood and sorcery

Harry Potter is growing up. As the young wizard steps into his teenage years, so the movie franchise takes on a darker, less cosy and more dangerous quality. For those of us still reeling from the end of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s a welcome evolution indeed, as incoming director Alfonso Cuarón invests JK Rowling’s literary fantasy with a tone that should enthral children, while giving their parents nightmares.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban presents a new threat, as the wizard Sirius Black, who betrayed Harry’s parents to Lord Voldemort, has escaped his magical prison. The wraith-like Dementor guards are on his trail, and they have turned Hogwarts School into a fortress, but Black is determined to find Harry, whose experiences will unlock his burgeoning powers…

The choice of the Mexican director may have surprised many, particularly given the fact that Cuarón’s previous movie was Y tu mama también, the sexually explicit road trip story of two teenagers and an older woman. However, those with longer memories will recall Cuarón’s A Little Princess, the acclaimed adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s novel.

“I was amused to be asked to do it, coming after Y tu mama también,” admits Cuarón, who had never read any of the Harry Potter novels. “But from the moment I read the material it was something that I connected with. This is a film about a kid who is seeking his identity as a teenager, and I just felt I knew how to make it.”

Producer David Heyman had no doubts about Cuarón’s suitability.

Y tu mama también is a story about the rights of passage from teenager to manhood,” he says, “and the third Harry Potter story is about the journey from childhood to teenager. The themes are quite similar. Alfonso has a keen understanding of the nuances of teenage life – he is a teenager at heart. You need only to watch A Little Princess to see that he has magic in his soul. He is a deeply compassionate man with a great sense of humour.”

“My biggest concern in hiring a director was deciding who would bond with the kids,” adds former Potter director Chris Columbus, who now contributes as a producer. “This was a very special relationship we had over these past four years, and I wanted to make absolutely certain that they would be in good hands. When I met Alfonso and saw how he was interacting with the kids from the very first moment, I knew they were in great hands.”

This changing of the guard must have been quite daunting to the young principal cast, which came to the series with little prior screen experience, and were nurtured in their roles by Columbus. However in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Daniel Radcliffe (who plays Harry), Emma Watson (the bookish Hermione) and Rupert Grint (downtrodden Ron) give their most assured performances yet.

by Harry Thompson

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Feature © Visual Imagination 2004. Not for reproduction

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December 2004
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