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Potter Producer Talks Deathly Hallows
Exclusive: David Heyman on book 7 split

17 March 2008  |  Written by Olly Richards  

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When it was announced earlier this week that the final book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was going to become two films, it raised a lot of questions. Did the book really need two films, when all the others have managed with one? Was this an artistic or business decision? How on earth would director David Yates make it through another two without keeling over from exhaustion? How will fans cope with two years without a Potter fix?

In a world exclusive, we put those questions and more to producer David Heyman, who's been with the series since the beginning and will see it all the way through to the end in 2011.

Empire: When was the decision made to split the book into two films?

Heyman: We’ve been talking about it for – actually, right after the writers’ strike was when a definitive decision was made. We’d been talking about it for a while and we’d been mulling it and we thought that was the direction we’d go in after discussing it with Jo (Rowling). But a definitive decision was made once we were able to speak to (screenwriter) Steve Kloves after the strike. But we were angling toward that before the writers’ strike. Initially we thought we’d do it in one film, how we’d done it every time. But then when we began to really analyse it, we realised it was just impossible to fit everything in. Unlike previous films where you could drop certain things, like Hermione and SPEW or Ron’s quidditch, this one you can’t. There’s so much resolution and so much to resolve that you can’t drop it in the same way. Each of those incidences has a place and we didn’t want to compromise.

Did you get as far as trying to put a script together that would get everything in to one film, or did it become obvious in discussions that it would work?

No, it all came down to discussions. We just thought how are we going to approach this? Is this going to be a four and a half hour film? That’s probably what it would have been. Would our audience really embrace that? In some way, I think they might. But I think the younger ones would have drifted. There’s always been difficulty making sure that the ones that are two hours, two and a half hours long – making sure that those are the right length. I think by having two films that are two and a half hours – although we’re not sure of the length – then it will be a richer experience. One of the challenges that faces us, which we’ve been discussing, is how to give each film its own identity. We want them to feel like one film, but they’ve got to be self-contained too. We feel now that we’ve got a really good angle on that. But we haven’t got a script yet on either part, so I don’t want to say too much.

So these films will be the same length as the ones that came before? We won’t see two films that clock in under two hours?

No. The idea is to get everything people want in there. I’m sure there’ll be parts that don’t make it, which we won’t know until the script is written. But that is the idea.

What do you think is the natural separation point in the books? Where can you end the first film in a satisfying way?

It depends what feeling you want [to end on]. I don’t want to answer that just yet because we don’t have the first script. We do have a point roughly where we want to end, but we haven’t got a draft to know if that works yet.

Obviously, there are people who will think that the decision to make two films is driven by a desire to make twice as much money. What do you say to that?

The process went like this: the studio said to us, the filmmakers, “You decide what is best for the story”. Alan Horn (President of Warner Bros) and Jeff Robinov (Warner Bros Head of Production), particularly Alan Horn, are complete Potter fans. He loves the franchise, loves the books, loves the films and appreciates their importance to Warner Bros on many levels. But above all else he is a fan. And he said he did not want to compromise the creative integrity of the films. He wanted to end the series in the right way. He’s been very generous in the resources they’ve given us, but also in the freedom they’ve given us on each of the films. He very clearly said that Steve Kloves, myself, David Yates should make the decision and he would support that.

You mention earlier that you consulted Jo Rowling. What was her input?

We came to her and said that this was what we were thinking. She said, “You know what? I think that’s the right decision and whole-heartedly support you”.

Do you expect to shoot both films together?

It’s one film in two parts and it’ll be shot all as one film.

How long do you expect that to take?

I would think approximately a year’s shooting.

Could that cause any issues with cast, asking them to be available for a whole year?

No. As ever, you have to work around schedules, but the cast will work with us.

This will be David Yates' third, and arguably fourth, film. Did he immediately jump at the chance to take on book seven?

There was not a moment’s hesitation. Actually, I said to him that he should take a moment. He said yes, but I thought he needed to take a moment to think about it and make sure. It’s very flattering and very exciting, but can you push the world, push the characters and make the films that are a development of what you’ve already done? That are pushing the story further. He came back and said, “Please, I would treasure the opportunity and think I could bring this series to the end it deserves”.

Will he get any break between finishing six and starting seven? The poor man must be tired.

No. He’ll get a couple of weeks off at Christmas and somewhere in the shooting of seven we’ll have a break. But otherwise, he'll just soldier through (laughs). He's got so much energy.

The extended shooting time means there’ll be nearly two years between the release of Half-Blood Prince and the first part of Deathly Hallows in 2010. Are there any concerns about that?

Actually, we would have been in a very similar place if we’d done one film, because it would have been four and a half hours long. The shoot would not have been considerably shorter, so it would have been on similar lines.

And when do you expect to start shooting Deathly Hallows?

Early next year. Most of 2009 will be filming. We’ll be anticipating shooting in February. We’re all really excited about the possibilities and the challenges of seven. It’s going to be a cracker.

Have you got anything you’re most looking forward to putting on film? The final battle, maybe?

Well, the final battle, but there’s so much. I love the character stuff. I love the resolution of Dumbledore and Snape. I love the multiple Harries at the beginning. I love the scene of Hermione trapped at the Malfoys’. I love Harry and Hermione in the forest. I think there’s so much, it’s such a rich fabric. What we’ve done now, which I think is really exciting, is that we’ve found thematic centres for each of the films. That gives the film heart. I think it’s pretty great that David Yates has crystalised it and…it’s early days still, so I’m not going to say too much. But I’m just thrilled that David Yates decided to come back, because he’s really found a new spirit for the sixth film and as we talk about seven, it’s very different as well. I think it’s going to be good.

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Your Comments

RE: Ron's return
I do hope they leave out the utterly ridiculous last was terrible enough to read. More

Posted by mins at 02:54 on 29 March 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Ron's return
I do hope they leave out the utterly ridiculous last was terrible enough to read. More

Posted by mins at 02:53 on 29 March 2008 | Report This Post

Ron's return
I think when Ron returned to the forest and when they were able to destroy the first horcrux that they've got, will be a good point to end the first part of the film. I disagree with one reader here that said the last book is boring. I think this is the most interesting of all seven books and I would be really, really disappointed if it will not be broken into two parts to accomodate scenes that are very important. If it will be too much compressed like I think is what happened to OOTP, it would More

Posted by Ving85 at 17:31 on 26 March 2008 | Report This Post

Rik Mayall talks about his appearance as Peeves... More

Posted by Caster at 22:52 on 24 March 2008 | Report This Post

You should really retitle your message to show it contains SPOLIERS - not everybody has read the book and might go into the film not knowing who dies!!Clearly marking Messages that contain spoliers is part of the forum rules - don't take this badly, I just know I'd be very pissed off if I'd seen that title and hadn't read the book! More

Posted by Mooncalf at 09:34 on 22 March 2008 | Report This Post

Woo Hoo!...
... Pretty much sums up how I'm feeling about the split. I think it's a fantastic idea and now means they can stick almost 100% to the book. And if J.K likes it, who are we to argue? I also don't mind waiting two years, as it means with the elongated time, waiting for the 7th to come out wont feel so rushed. And because it's going to be the last ever HP movie, when watching Part 1 we can then look forward to part 2... Just gives us an extra film to look forward to really... Yay! Well done David More

Posted by aly at 13:57 on 21 March 2008 | Report This Post

I like a lot of people have been a big Potter fan, enjoying both the books and the movies, however. I don't see how they can make two movies from the last book. I got half way through Hollows and lost the will to live, it was that boring I had to stop and still don't know how it ends. By the end of Half Blood Prince I though, this is it, now the action really starts, instead it was all about aimless wanderings and falling out with each other. Of all the books, surely the last one is the easier More

Posted by samedizombie at 12:24 on 21 March 2008 | Report This Post

So Happy About the DH Split
I have been a Harry Potter fan ever since the first film and was prompted to buy the books. Soon as I have read the last book the split in the film Is what I have been wishing for. I know that it won't do justice to the book if you try to compress it into one film. So many important facts would most likely be lost and everything in the last book is important, especially for those who have not read the book. Congratulations on this decision, I think the people will rather have it than a consolid More

Posted by Ving85 at 20:37 on 20 March 2008 | Report This Post

dobby's funeral
dobbys funeral would in my opinion be the best time to seperate the two films, you will get the small battle at the malfoy mantion, and then the funeral, tho please reaally give effort into this scene especially with harry digging the little hero's grave, you cant get more emotionally charged, please dont mess this up More

Posted by yorkypud at 16:39 on 19 March 2008 | Report This Post

Yeah, Warners didn't do it for the money. Riiiiiiiiiight... Pull the other one, Heyman! More

Posted by lisamoorish at 15:40 on 19 March 2008 | Report This Post

RE: 3 strikes and your over and out!
I felt Goblet of Fire was a step in the wrong direction. It continued a fair bit of the darkness especially with Voldemort's entrance, but it was going back to the 'full of stuff but nothing actually happens' approach of the Columbus era. Whereas I thought Phoenix had a great energy and pace to it and a much more mature score, though the condensing of the book does muddle the storytelling a bit in the last act. I have no problem with Yates doing Half-Blood Prince but I would have preferre More

Posted by Concise_Statement at 15:26 on 19 March 2008 | Report This Post

3 strikes and your over and out!
I have a pretty big problem with the the fact that David Yates is directing the next 3 movies as i thought that "phoenix" was far and away they least imaginative potter and lacked any real style at all. Best director at the empire film awards over Paul Greengrass....what the fuck happened there!!! I had my doubts about Mike newell pulling off number 4 but he did a really fantastic job but alas my doubts towards Yates were all confirmed when i saw the last one .....shame he gets to in More

Posted by noseybonk at 14:51 on 19 March 2008 | Report This Post

Haven't the best Potter films been the least faithful?
It's a theory but the weakest entries in the series were Columbus's slavishly faithful, lightweight entries that made very little attempt to forshadow the darkness to come. Whereas Azkaban and Phoenix really worked towards being good films in their own right. And although Yates seemed to have done the best job yet with Phoenix )though the storytelling at the end becomes a bit confused) I'm sad to find out that no other directors will get a shot at the franchise, and I would have loved to see More

Posted by Concise_Statement at 00:03 on 19 March 2008 | Report This Post

Hallows split
This is great news, the book is so action packed it would have been a crime to cut any major scenes, all of them are vital to the plot as well. Warners and esp David Haymen have made this set of films so sucessful by constantly sticking to the books and involving JK Rowling, each one has really captured the heart of the story. Can't wait for the bank scene and Molly Weasleys `moment' and we've got `Half Blood Prince' in the meantime... fab! More

Posted by dave1159 at 22:09 on 18 March 2008 | Report This Post

Lets be honest
Lets be honest WB, this decision to spilt the final installment is driven by money, this is the last you'll get from the Potter franchise and you want to milk it for every last dime you can get, as a fan I feel like were being used and not treated with the respect we deserve, the studios greed is apparent and I hope people can see that. More

Posted by rsman26 at 17:41 on 18 March 2008 | Report This Post

As a big fan of the books, I really welcome the decision to make the film in two parts.  I enjoyed all the films so far but have always been a little disappointed at what was cut.  At least with 2 films there is every opportunity to include as much as possible from what is a very rich in plot final book.  I just hope they don't feel the need to include Jo's final "Nineteem years later" chapter! More

Posted by gemmalouise at 14:33 on 17 March 2008 | Report This Post

Urm, I don't wish to nitpick, but they made 3 LOTR films because the original book was published as 3 distinctive volumns.  Deathly Hallows is one book, and whilst being the fan of HP and book 7 that I am, I still think they could have done a 3+ hours cut (that has already been mentioned) and done the book justice.  BUT, the decision has been made, and it's all a very long way away.  And I think we ALL know where the split should be....(well, you know, those of us who have read i More

Posted by Halfling at 14:09 on 17 March 2008 | Report This Post

Erm... if there are so many potter fans involved in this that agree that the film should be split into two then they all should know exactly where the split will come. If i was involved in those discussions my first question would be can we make the first film a good film in its own merit and that would mean it would need a good ending and I wouldnt settle for the films being split unless that was guaranteed. It should have been scripted before the decision was made. OOTP was the longest book an More

Posted by jascott at 12:45 on 17 March 2008 | Report This Post

OMG!!!! November is only 8 months away. So when are we going to see the first HP-6 teaser trailer??!! We first got a glimpse of Cloverfield nearly a year B4 its release and we saw the Enterprise from the new Star Trek movie back in Jan. and i heard it was pushed back to 2009. I think it's time to give the people what they want......HP-6 teaser trailer already! the book was huge and i dont need to say how GIGANTIC the movie will be. So if we could have a teaser B4 summer........that would be awes More

Posted by datdudecalvin at 09:55 on 17 March 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Potter Producer Talks Deathly Hallows
When I read the book I was wondering how the studios were going to manage it all in one film.  I'm very much in favour of this decision.  There's so much for the audience to enjoy, personnally (and this is a propbably a SPOILER) I'm looking forward to Gringotts break in the most, though Hermonie's torture scene could a real highlight, in a manner of speaking. More

Posted by brokenking at 21:28 on 16 March 2008 | Report This Post

let me guess, this one is going to be 'darker' More

Posted by udjifudgi at 19:27 on 16 March 2008 | Report This Post

Really glad they did this...i was recoiling in horror at the prospect of the final book being condensed into crappy kiddie-friendly fare and all the character development being thrown aside for the more shallow and visually impressive scenes...also it gives people who like to complain something to groan about, so everyone's happy. More

Posted by imperio_girl at 18:22 on 16 March 2008 | Report This Post

Show me the money!
This frashise has already made Warners a mint! Even if i hated it like the flu and hitler id be a 'fan'! Of course if ur a fan ur going to say 'hurah' but common.... they never would have made a 4.5hr movie! I remember Warners actually could stand toe to toe with Jacksons and New Lines LOTR and got their asses wooped! However I did warm to OOTP and after learning what goes on in the last two instalments and no longer for kids, should be good! More

Posted by Funk at 16:42 on 16 March 2008 | Report This Post

Hear hear! More

Posted by mins at 17:20 on 15 March 2008 | Report This Post

le point of adapting books is so that you get a visual interpretation of the book not a complete rape like 'I am Legend' that completely went against the original. ee, this is where we disagree; I've always felt that making a film that is simply a play-by-play visual imitation of the book is an exercise in masturbatory pointlessness. Obviously in this case I'd prefer a film that's faithful to the spirit, message, story and characters of the source text, but more than anything, I would like an a More

Posted by LeChuck at 14:38 on 15 March 2008 | Report This Post

Thanks for not cutting corners, mate.
I love the Potter films and I have a huge respect for Heyman, and what Heyday films have done for Harry Potter, and I honestly say they have done the best possible adaptations of the books. The people who don't like the films, those book purists, will NEVER like the films, doesn't matter what is done with them. And I'm sure the heads of Production at warner are going to be please that revenue from an additional film is going to be breaking box office records in 2011. But Please, for any one to s More

Posted by billkiller at 10:09 on 15 March 2008 | Report This Post

L: LeChuck Well, colour me hugely sceptical. So they're aiming to do make five hours of film from this?! FFS, there is PLENTY that can be cut and streamlined in this from this meandering, leisurely story, if the scriptwriters had any discipline or courage to do so. Cut the Voldemort prologue, Scrimgeour, Dumbledore's backstory, maybe even one of the Horcrux retrievals; streamline things by swapping Tonks and Lupin into Bill and Fleur's roles, and Kreacher into Dobby's; simplify some of the More

Posted by kinge247 at 09:51 on 15 March 2008 | Report This Post

If it was just about the money, surely they would have started splitting the films into two from the Goblet of Fire?! This series is so dear to people that to make sure justice is done to the final book they can't start chopping bits out - every bit is important in Deathly Hallows. Good decision - we just have a bit of a wait on our hands!! More

Posted by faith1 at 08:48 on 15 March 2008 | Report This Post

Well, colour me hugely sceptical. So they're aiming to do make five hours of film from this?! FFS, there is PLENTY that can be cut and streamlined in this from this meandering, leisurely story, if the scriptwriters had any discipline or courage to do so. Cut the Voldemort prologue, Scrimgeour, Dumbledore's backstory, maybe even one of the Horcrux retrievals; streamline things by swapping Tonks and Lupin into Bill and Fleur's roles, and Kreacher into Dobby's; simplify some of the convoluted lore More

Posted by LeChuck at 01:10 on 15 March 2008 | Report This Post

okay, so this ISNT a money making scheme. its like saying LOTR is only in three parts because they wanted to milk it dry. They made it into three films because the story is fucking epic. Deathly Hallows doesn't have alot of plot that can be cut out without effecting the story. More

Posted by clarkkent at 23:25 on 14 March 2008 | Report This Post

money grabbing
what a joke More

Posted by BlueDragon21120 at 22:10 on 14 March 2008 | Report This Post

I think if uv read the book u'll agree that they cnt afford to leave any details out if they want to do it justice so I think they've made the right decision. David Yates did a great job on OOTP and i'm sure he will do a fantastic job on the Hallows. It will be interesting to see where they decide to finish part 1 and start part 2. More

Posted by Gina at 21:06 on 14 March 2008 | Report This Post

Gosh, I'll probably be the oldest fan when it finishes in 2011... I can see why they made it two films, though - it's just too much as one unless you want a 3hr+ film, which alot of people with short attention spans can't cope with. Oh well, it certainly didn't ruin LoTR box office takings ... More

Posted by sunnygirly2k4 at 20:38 on 14 March 2008 | Report This Post

Hairy Patter
YAWN!!!!! More

Posted by Horrorguru at 19:42 on 14 March 2008 | Report This Post

Wow, I wonder how the people who think this is a scam would do it. A few years back people wanted Goblet of Fire to be two films. And now there's moaning. Loser cynics. More

Posted by doctorolorinbats1975 at 18:49 on 14 March 2008 | Report This Post

feeling nervous :(
well there used to be a time i was excited about the prospect of a Potter film... Then PoA happened, then GoF.... Phoenix was alright... but each time theres always Nervous tension around when it comes close to seeing the,.... And wheres the love for Ron..... Psssssshhhh some impartial Producer he is.... Ron Pwns All... Shame the films Messed with him so much More

Posted by BigDaveP at 18:28 on 14 March 2008 | Report This Post

I am really annoyed about this. It just seems to be a way of racking in extra money. It is a con. More

Posted by jared isaacs at 18:14 on 14 March 2008 | Report This Post

OMG! I love Rupert soo much. I absolutely cannot wait to see this movie. I'm also really happy with the split because that means there is the potential for a Harry Potter movie to finally be good since it hasn't been done so far. Yay! More

Posted by ChrisGold at 18:12 on 14 March 2008 | Report This Post

I think the waiting period is going to be hard, but worth it! A whole year of shooting, oh my,,,This will be exiting! I hope it wont ruin the actors motivation in the end! A whole year, that's a long time....well, well More

Posted by Albertine at 17:59 on 14 March 2008 | Report This Post

Splitting the final book in two? Right choice. Keeping Yates on for 6 AND 7? Hmmm. The versatilty in directors has always been one of the franchises strong-points, but I'll wait until we've seen what he's done with HBP before I judge. However, it's a worry about how he can keep each film feeling fresh. More

Posted by Ben Myers at 17:56 on 14 March 2008 | Report This Post

This is the edited version.
In the original interview, he involuntarily spluttered the word "ka-ching!!" every few seconds. More

Posted by Silvertouch at 17:52 on 14 March 2008 | Report This Post

Well that certainly goes a long way to easing my mind about the whole thing. I dont doubt that the whole creative team want to do whats best, its not just about making twice the money, though surely that will be the icing on the cake. More

Posted by holsy at 17:48 on 14 March 2008 | Report This Post

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