Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Interview with director David Yates

David Yates is the director of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” starring Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, which is being released by Warner July 15, 2009.

Returning to the Potter Series

Director David Yates had entered the world of Harry Potter with “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fifth film in the series. “I had such a great experience on the last film and was thrilled to be asked back,” he says. “I loved the sixth book. It is hugely entertaining, bringing more romance to Hogwarts than we've ever seen before combined with an intriguing uncovering of Voldemort's past that has huge implications for the rest of the series.

“Another year brings up another set of challenges for Harry, Ron and Hermione, and the older they get the more complex they become,” Yates continues. “I really enjoyed exploring deeper aspects of the characters further with Dan, Rupert (Grint) and Emma (Watson). They are really keen to push and be pushed in their roles because we all want these characters to grow and develop both with the unfolding stories and the audience.

“This represents a real progression for Harry as a character,” Yates observes. “Harry is fighting a war so when Dumbledore tells him that, with this memory, they could defeat Voldemort, that's all he needs to know. Killing Voldemort is what primarily drives Harry, so Slughorn becomes just a means to an end. It is a definite departure to see Harry Potter working this guy to get what he wants.”

On His Actors

“Jim (Broadbent) is a delight. He has a tremendous capacity for both comedy and pathos and I knew he would bring so much to the table. Slughorn is a very colorful character, and Jim wasn't afraid to take risks and try things that were heightened but still felt anchored in truth. Slughorn is also a real snob; he's only interested in talking to the most important person in the room and ignores everybody else. I thought Jim could have some fun with that and he did.

“Rupert (Grint) is such a natural comedian,” Yates affirms. “He was always coming up with surprising little things that made us all laugh. So it was a real thrill to direct him in the comedy scenes, which is something I didn't really have an opportunity to do on 'Order of the Phoenix.'

“Draco has always wanted to be center stage,” Yates says. “He wants to be the 'Chosen One,' the one everyone talks about, and thinks that in fulfilling the terrible mission that Voldemort has set for him, he will achieve glory. But the pressure gets to him, and we see him begin to fragment…which was fun for Tom (Felton) to play and me to direct.

“Hero (Fiennes Tiffen) is absolutely the sweetest kid you'd ever want to meet,” Yates confirms. “He took direction so well. It wasn't difficult because he's quite charismatic, so it was just a matter of switching off any emotion and letting him be very still and very calm.”

Quite the Odd Couple

One person is not amused by Lavender's overt displays of affection for Ron: Hermione, who has been holding a torch for Ron, while he remains oblivious. Yates acknowledges, “They may not seem to be a natural couple in many ways, because she is so bright and organized and serious and he appears to be none of those things. But there is something else going on that draws them together.”

The Challenges of Quidditch

In addition to the team trials, there is also an actual match between Gryffindor and Slytherin. “It was really great to work on the Quidditch scenes, which is something I didn't get to do in the last film,” Yates says. “From the start, we wanted to explore how physically demanding a sport it is, because if you're flying around on a broomstick at 60 miles-per-hour, trying to avoid Bludgers and each other, it can actually be quite dangerous. In our Quidditch, you see players colliding in mid-air and falling, so it's visceral and very fast.”