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Madame Maxime Speaks!
Exclusive: Frances de la Tour talks Potter

17 August 2005  |  Written by   

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Whilst on a visit to the set of the forthcoming, destined-to-be-classic film The History Boys, we had a lovely chat with the delightful Frances de la Tour. We'll be presenting the bulk of the fruits of that particular venture a little later on, but this part just wouldn't wait.

We know that the billions of Harry Potter fans out there like their news immediately, so we thought it only fitting that when Ms de la Tour, who will be playing the woman-mountain Madame Maxime, spoke about her part in The Goblet Of Fire, we should get it to you quick smart. So without further ado, etc.

Firstly, for those out there not familiar with the character, we should point out that Madame Maxime (first name Olympe) is the headmistress of Beauxbatons Academy, just one of the schools competing in the Tri-Wizard Cup. She's also really, really tall – you can see her for the briefest of moments in the film's trailer, leading her girls into the main hall of Hogwarts. "She's a French giantess – or half giantess, so of course when she meets Hagrid, they are both half giants, so there's a frisson" the actress explains. "There's a lot of romance (in the film). They fall in love, and then, it's really lovely. Hagrid is… again you see a tenderness in him… it's lovely, really lovely to do." Awww, and we thought the big softie couldn't get any softer.

But what of the work behind the scenes. Given that The History Boys is being made on a budget of £2 million and with a cast of twelve, the difference couldn't really be greater to the Potter juggernaut. " That was amazing, because it wasn't anything like the concentrated stuff that was going on here - because of the nature of it. I had to play a giant, and I'm not allowed to tell you how they do that. So the whole technical process is completely different; you'd walk on set, and there'd be five hundred people on set, or at least three hundred; it's a world of its own."

But isn't it frustrating for a classically trained, critically lauded actor to be hamstrung by a big, special effects laden movie? "You'd think it would be – that was my fear, but there are moments of deep parallel [to History Boys], where Mike would just say "now let's just do that bit with you and Hagrid", and then it's just the two of you, and that could be a scene from here. So suddenly you get that lovely focus." There are, however, always tough nuts to crack: "The difficult thing was the green screen acting, which I know nobody, no actor likes doing, because you haven't got the other actor to even act with, and that I found really hard. I mean, you don't know if you're doing too much or too little, or… it really is a stick with a ping pong ball."

And for those looking for book-to-film comparison scenes, Frances did let slip on what is potentially her first moment in the series. "In the book, and I think they've got it in the film - although it's nothing to do with me really, but what an entrance! They all look up to the sky, and a powder blue carriage is flying, being driven by four white stallions – that is an entrance into a film! And then she steps out."

Judging by the glimpse we've seen in the most recent trailer footage online, that entrance is all present and correct. The good news is of course, that there's not long to wait, and the final stages of production are ongoing. "I saw Mike (Newell) the other day, we did some ADR, and he said he was really pleased. I said "Well obviously you'd say that", because he directed it, and he said "but I am… I am pleased!", and that the preview was well received in Chicago." Yes Potterphiles, some lucky folks out there have seen a rough cut of the film. Stop drooling.

And of course, the inevitable question. "Is she coming back? Well in the books she does, and they can't cut me out – I've got to come back! That would be lovely." It certainly sounds like it.

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