Mexican PoA Release Press Conference Transcript


Jul 12, 2004

Posted by KristinTLC

Fran from Totally Harry Potter and The Magical World of Harry
Potter (Fan-Club México) had the chance to attend to attend the June 5th Mexican press conference for PoA’s release, which included director Alfonso Cuarón, producer David Heyman and executive producer Tanya Seghathcian. Click below to read their transcription of that event, click here for photos of the press conference, and much thanks to Fran for sending us her report!
Press Conference with Alfonso Cuarón, David Heyman and Tanya Seghatchian
Mexico City – Four Seasons Hotel – June 5th, 2004
By: Jimena and Fran, The Magical World of Harry Potter [Fan-Club México]
Translation by: Fran,

Miguel Mallet [Warner Bros]: Hello, good morning. Once again thank you for
being here with us. I want to introduce our guests again, which we’re very
proud to have here. We have Tanya Seghatchian, she is the executive producer of the film. We have David Heyman, who is also producer of the Harry Potter series, and Alfonso Cuarón, who is going to chat with us about this great production. Thank you.

Alfonso Cuarón: First of all I want to apologize for our delay, the thing is
this morning we were bombarded with phone calls with really good news,
because yesterday, Friday, was the first day in which the movie was released
in USA, and it was also the best.

David Heyman: the biggest day in Warner Brothers’ history, the second
biggest Friday in history.

AC: Also it’s the second biggest Friday in cinema history and the number one
for Warner Brothers, so we’re really happy. [applause]

Press: If this was the second one, which movie was the first one?

AC: The biggest day of all times? That was Spider Man… But that one’s not
from Warner. [laughs]

Press: Hello, good morning Cuarón. In the first place: wow, what a challenge
I want to know something that is a little bit more personal, because I
think we were all incredibly delighted with the movie, right? What I want to
know is: you, as a Mexican, well you know everything was all set up already
like Chris Columbus, and everybody is British, all the cast and crew…, and
suddenly you get there and give the movie a different flavour: how is it,
as a Mexican, to arrive there at first? Did they project something they had
as a reference from you? I mean, we suddenly see you putting sugar skulls in
the candy store… Did they comment anything about you being Mexican? Was it
weird to them that you were different, perhaps warmer, because well, British
people are a lot colder? How was the experience?

AC: They spoke really slowly, they told me: “DO – YOU – UN – DER – STAND?”
[laughs]… and I said: “LITTLE”. [laughs]
No, actually I don’t think that you arrive there as a Mexican, you arrive
there as a filmmaker. I don’t think as well that they hired a Mexican, I
think they hired a director. The thing is, that the director turns out to be
Mexican… he turns out to be, well, who he is. In this movie the only thing I
tried to do was to remain faithful to the spirit of J.K. Rowling’s book.
When I had doubts about taking this project or not, Guillermo del Toro was
the one pushing me towards doing it. He told me I had to, and that if I did,
I shouldn’t try to mess anything up with my stuff, that I should just try to
be faithful to the book’s spirit, and that if I did, if I just served and
didn’t mess things up with my staff, I could end up doing a more personal
movie. And he said this to me honestly. So what happened is that I was just
serving the material and that was what connected us. The thing is, even
though I was just doing things to serve the material, as I was the director,
everything is filtered through you, so those elements that you’re talking
about are the ones that are of oneself… and they really loved those ideas,
especially these guys. [points out Tanya and David]

Press: Hello Alfonso, good morning. [AC: Hey] First of all I’d like to
congratulate you because I think this is the best of the three Harry Potters
and it’s all thanks to the direction, we Mexicans are all very proud, and
thanks a lot for this movie. My question is: how much details did you put
into the story that weren’t in the books, because there are some things that
aren’t, and I want to assume they’re yours, or perhaps from the screen
player. And my second question is: there are three times in which Harry has a very clear reflection of himself, in the lake, the glass, and the mirror. I was
wondering if this had any special meaning.

AC: Wow. [laughs] The first part was.

Press: How many of your own stuff did you put into the film?

AC: The truth is I just tried to serve the material, to subordinate myself
to the story, to the material. Once again the things that started coming out
come out because one turns out to be who one is, and therefore the vision
adopts new virtues or is corrupted from the point in which it passes through
my perception, so many details are due to that. But, again, what was the
question? I’m confusing myself…

Press: Yeah, how much of it was your vision, or the screen player’s vision?

AC: Oh! That’s really interesting because it’s a bit of the work with Steve
Kloves, the screenplay writer, and with Tanya, who is here. What we tried to do
was to tighten up the film as much as we could. These books have so many
plots and narrative lines, that you have to do a lot of discriminative
labour. There is so much information, that we decided that instead of having
scenes of 5 minutes of “blah blah blah”, unless it was a conflict and
dramatic shock scene such as The Shrieking Shack when all the characters are
gathered, that we would try to remove as possible “blah blah blah” scenes in
which stuff is explained. In fact those scenes are very limited in the film,
and we tried to find visual equivalents to explain the same information.
This was due to a petition from J.K. Rowling, who asked us not to be literal
but faithful to the spirit of the book. Because she understands the
creative process, and she knows that films and literature are different
environments and that they have to be adapted a little bit. There are
examples, such as when Harry is searching for Peter Pettigrew with the map
that’s not mentioned in the book, but is was a nucleus of the story in which
we knew that we had to give away a lot of information: first of all that
Peter Pettigrew is alive; then: how the map exactly works, and everything
had to end in a conflictive scene with Snape in which he takes the map and
Lupin gets mad with Harry. All these elements were in the book, but
scattered through many scenes, and if we had been literal and made all these
scenes we would’ve taken perhaps half an hour. And what we did was, we made
up a scene in which Harry is in bed, sees Pettigrew on the map, and goes
after him. We condensed all these elements in a mere visual scene. There are
hardly any dialog. We also defined a thematic line which was Harry’s search
for his identity as a kid moving on to adolescence. Whatever was in the book
relevant to this theme was left in. And some other stuff, however funny and
entertaining it was, that didn’t stick up to this theme had to be left out.
And about the reflections – wow, you alone counted them. [laughs] There’s a
lot going on in the movie, and it’s obvious in the first reflection in the
window, about this kind of mirror games in which you don’t know anymore
where the reality is and where it’s not. In the boggart scene the camera
enters a mirror and passes through it, and you stop knowing if you’re seeing
things through the mirror or from the outside. And there’s also this thing
in the movie about Harry not searching on the outside, but inside. So as a
part of this, he gets scared of his own reflection.

Press: Thanks.

AC: Thanks to you.

Press: I wanted to say first of all that you did an excellent job in the
movie and also by leaving your Mexican trails on the movie like in Hogsmeade
in Hagrid’s cabin, and those details. I wanted to ask you: if you had a
boggart in front of you right now what shape would it take?

AC: Um… it’s over there in Iraq! [laughs] And the Riddikulus would be Bush
dressed as Santa Claus or something… [laughs and applause]

Press: First of all, congratulations, what a great movie. I wanted to know:
what does this movie mean to you, in both your career and your life? And
what would you like to leave the audience as an artist? What would you like
to project, what would you like people to do after seeing your movie?

AC: I only tried to follow good Guillermo del Toro’s advice. And it was such
a special experience because this creative process infects all the creative
process I’ve known. In the first place: when you’re making a movie, part of
the creative process is that after finishing it you expect it to have an
audience, you hope people will go see it and it is different here. Here you
know that millions of people are going to watch the movie. So you have the
responsibility of “what am I going to do that is going to make this movie
worth seeing for all these people”. And to make it even better, not just a
cynic product. And the most important thing was, as Guillermo said, to put
myself in the service of. When you do that, you have to move your ego aside,
because the process isn’t about “what would I do”, but about “what is what
this material is asking me”. Once again, everything passes through your
perception so I had my own interpretations. It’s two different ways of
making the same thing. So by doing this I wasn’t trying to do anything but
to serve the material. And when you close your ego and do it many creative
doors open to you… things from which I learned a lot in this movie. In some
way I didn’t try to put in anything mine at all, I wanted this movie to do
justice to J.K. Rowling’s book, which I also really like. The rest is not up
to me, it’s up to you.

MM: Well I think that here in Warner we’re really proud to have here David
and Tanya as well, and I’d like them to share with us a little bit of your
experience with Alfonso during this film.

DH: Alfonso makes everybody around him better. It’s not really easy because
he pushes, he pushes, he pushes… [laughs] he pushes. Everybody, I think,
from my experience, from the people doing small jobs, to the biggest jobs,
really feel I think, at the end of the experience, that they are better at
their jobs, thanks to having worked with Alfonso.
What I think about Alfonso is that he is interested in every aspect of the
filmmaking process, and he wants to do every aspect of the filming he’s got.
And he is tremendously collaborative and really brings the best of everybody
as I said before. If he could he’d saw the buttons on the costumes of the
actors. Such is the attention he has. So it is this attention’s details that
make the film what it is. I think the film is richer in details. The only
thing I think is extraordinary about the experience is… Alfonso had a vision
of the film as a whole; and it is not about a series of episodes. Alfonso
has a very clear idea about the story he wants to tell, of the central theme
ideas, and anything that was strange to that, he cast aside. But he had an
overall view of the film. So I think the film works partly because of that
overall view. My only sadness is: it’s over.

Tanya Seghatchian: Well I felt the same way David felt. Alfonso is an
inspiration and he sticks to the filmmaker so extraordinary that when you
work with him you feel inspired to try to help him, to do everything you
possibly can to make things easy and better. And he fools you to think that
you’re teaching him things but everything you do is about him teaching you.
_ _ _ _ _

AC: In this movie what happened is that I had the same freedom as when I was
doing “Y Tu Mamá También”, and I owe a great deal of it or all of it to
these guys [Tanya and David]. On one side there was a studio that supported
the vision we had of this film 100%, and once I started directing, I was
just creating. Every single punch was received by them and held up by them.
I heard afterwards that there had been wars inside the production. I heard
afterwards that there had been a strike; that half Scotland had burnt, I
heard lots of things after they had happened. And when journalists asked me
about it I told them that actually I was the last one to be informed. So
they kept all the “bad vibe” outside the set and outside my life. It’s
really easy to create when you’re given a creative space so wide and
respectful, and I owe a great deal to these guys [Tanya and David].

Press: Why hadn’t you read the Harry Potter books before you started with
this project? Did you have any prejudices?

AC: What happened is that I was making “Y Tu Mamá También”. The huge
difference between that kind of movies and these movies is that: you film “Y
Tu Mamá También” in, let’s say, ten weeks; you edit it and the total process
might take you eight months and you’re done. Movies like this take you two
years. The huge difference is the following: you finish the movie in two
years, then you make three weeks of press, and then the huge publicity
machinery, as huge as everything in this movie, just keeps going and you
don’t have to do anything. In movies like “Y Tu Mamá También”, you work
eight months, then a couple of months in which you’re doing distribution
deals and such, and once your movie starts to be released in each country
you have to actually go there and push the movie, just as we did in
Argentina. You can’t just send these kinds of movies, because you don’t have
the budget to make TV and radio spots and billboards and such. So you have
to actually go and sell and push your movie. The deal is, and this is
really funny, that you have to make it in every single country in which
it’s going to be released. So that turns out to be one year and a half of
your life dedicated to pushing the movie. So I was deeply involved with
pushing my movie when the first Harry Potter was released, and that’s how it
happened. I knew that the books existed, I was aware of the Harry Potter
phenomenon, who isn’t, but I didn’t know quite well what it was about. I
suspected, after the success of the first movie, that it was just an
exploitation product to take money from parents, right? [laughs] Because I
hadn’t read the material, I wasn’t familiar with any of these things. And
also, with everything going on about “Y Tu Mamá También”, I was reading some
kind of more porno lectures. [laughs]
But the truth is, when I read the books I understood how bad it is to be
narrow-minded, isn’t it?

Press: Mr. Cuarón, to talk about Mexican cinema has become a very annoying
subject. When we ask for example the titular of the IMCINE how the Mexican
cinema is, he gets angry. I was wondering, apart from the cases of Fernando
Eimbcke and Carlos Reygadas, who appear as very interesting cases of the
latest local filmography, I was wondering if you’re planning to incorporate
to the system of the Mexican cinema? And why do you think all these
arguments are produced when people talk about this?

AC: Integrating to the system of the Mexican cinema is like joining a system
in which you’re going to pull the trigger of a gun pointed to your head. I
lost the faith in what you call the system of Mexican cinema. I lost my
faith tremendously. You know what’s the sad thing about all these? That
you’re talking about the “system” of the Mexican cinema, because you can’t
talk about an industry. In past tense we would’ve spoken about an industry
of the Mexican cinema but now it doesn’t exist. Now there’s a system as you
call it, a filmic community maybe. I stopped having faith completely and I
lost it. Now I’ve gained a huge faith in individuals. In individuals who
make a difference, who go beyond the margins of the system of the Mexican
cinema. We’re talking about people like Reygadas, Eimbcke and Alejandro
González Iñarritu, he was never part of the so called Mexican cinema
community or system. And I know what I’m about to say isn’t very popular,
but I do believe that a great deal of what’s wrong with this system is
because of the filmmakers and the creators. I hope they forgive me… blaming
others all the time defines very well what kind of person someone is, I
think. The real filmmakers forge their ways. And by saying this I’m not
taking away the responsibility from the Mexican government, which hasn’t
assumed the cultural responsibility that is to support the Mexican cinema.
I’m talking about support systems as there are in Argentina or Brazil, in
which there are fiscal encouragements. And these people’s word is laziness.
They’re lazy because it’s easier not to move anything at all. Before, at
least, within all the robbery of the PRIist administrations, we had this
demagogic populist stuff about internationalism and patriotism in which the
defense of a culture was a part of. Many times handled in a kind of almost
realist-socialist way, but in the end there was a support to a certain
culture. But I’m not defending in any way the past administration. The only
thing is that there was an understanding that it was important to support
the culture at least at a populist level. Now suddenly culture is not a
distant priority but a no-priority. And culture goes hand in hand with
education. Last year, which has a lot to do with Mexico entering democracy,
and it did so to play it in a gabacho way, which is the democracy of
destruction, the democracy of the culture of what people call the spin, the
twist of information. As you see it with Kerry and Bush, their campaigns are
about “let’s see who attacks the other one the most” and “who discredits the
other one the most”, “who destroys the other one the most”. It’s not about
“what are we going to build”, “my construction proposal”. And Mexican
politics entered precisely that, and to spin as well. The spin is to handle
these informations, to uninform them, and suddenly to give them a twist and
they’ve become something entirely different. Suddenly tortures aren’t
tortures anymore, they’re called courses. And so it’s not wrong, because
before people tortured, now they just give courses. And the Mexican state in
some way adopted this so called spin… It’s a very long explanation for one
concrete example: last year, ¾and I don’t have anything left to do but to
admire these guys, these politics¾, last year there was an announcement that
some institutions were going to be closed. The Cinema Institute, the CCC,
the School of Cinema, a whole load of cultural institutions. What happens?
Everyone protested. They had a debate that lasted a couple of months, and in
the end: “no, no, no, nothing’s changing; they won’t close any of these
institutions”. Suddenly all the people complaining were triumphant: “we
didn’t let them, we defeated them”. Defeated what? Nothng changed!! They
just fooled around with them; I think they really made it on purpose!!
They’re geniuses. It’s: “let’s destroys this, so everybody will defend it,
and everybody wins and they feel that they made something and something
happened” ¾ no, nothing happened. The only thing they did was to leave
things the exact same way they were before, and for a while people stopped
complaining about the lack of money. It was more like “don’t close what is
already constructed”. So that’s the lack of responsibility¾ in this culture,
in this new democracy no one assumes responsibilities. Just as “el macho
Jorge” finds it hard to apologize, tons of people here have a hard work
admitting that they screwed it. So that definitely affects the future of the
creation of an industry. But that doesn’t take the responsibility away from
filmmakers at the same time, because as I said, I believe in individuals;
that would be to be able to generate an industry. Now, filmmakers are going
to keep coming out of Mexico, because those who are really talented and want
to make it will continue doing their movies. It’s the same as with the guys
we were talking about. And there are other guys who follow their own paths,
Arturo Ripstein keeps doing one movie a year and he doesn’t ask anyone for
permission, he keeps doing his own stuff.

Press: Okay Alfonso, back to Harry Potter. There is

AC: yeah, back to it, right? [laughs]

Press: ¾Well I wanted to ask you something. There’s an obvious difference
between the two movies Chris Columbus made and yours. The first two were a
lot colorful, very illuminated, with a lot of light. I don’t know if this
was an advice from Del Toro, but unlike the first two movies yours is very
dark, with black tones, a lot more gloomy, with rain and clouded; even the
most colorful scenes of the other movies such as the Hogwarts Express and
Quidditch scenes are very gloomy here, more like Tim Burton’s way, if I may
say so. I don’t know if this was an advice from Guillermo del Toro, or why
this change in the tonality?

AC: Everything goes back to being faithful to the spirit of the book. And
first of all you have to understand that we are two different directors,
with very different virtues and flaws. I have great gratitude towards Chris
because he did the hard work. I came here when everything was already tested
and that was the plan. I got here to have fun; he came here to try to build
something that had to have a positive reaction in the audience. When I got
here everything was a win-win situation, I didn’t have to look for Harry
Potter. Chris Columbus and these guys’ [Tanya and David] work must have been
horrible. I came here and it existed, and it was proved that it worked as
well. But… the books evolve as well, and the tone of them does too. The tone
starts to grow darker each time. Here I tried to do what I felt was the
right thing, uh, someone’s cassette has ended [the cassette from a recorder
stopped], and that was once again to remain faithful to the material and to
the book; the book is darker, more atmospheric, it almost has a convention
of dark cinema included. So we compared it to “The Third Man”, which has a
lot of these elements, including a character that doesn’t appear until the
end. And the mythology of this un-appearing third man is created, just as in
Tim Burton’s. So they’re really different tones… But I didn’t call – maybe
that was the thing I asked Guillermo del Toro about the most. [laughs]

Press: Alfonso, a couple of questions: the success that is just getting to
you with Harry Potter, and there’s more yet to come because it has been
released only for one day and it’s going to be huger, do you think, in a
matter of egos, that is going to be like a shock for those who closed doors
to “Y Tu Mamá” for the Oscar, for the teacher who drew you out of the
classroom, um…

AC: “Ya lo pasado…” [laughs] [mexican song = "the past is past..."]

Press: …I say this because now the Academy will look at you and say: “the
director of Harry Potter 3 is Mexican”. That’s the first part. Now, how are
you going to deal with all the machinery that comes along with Harry Potter
in future projects, so the author cinema process is not lost, because I
think you’re interested in making your own movies, which smell like you, not
like Hollywood.

AC: First of all I think that the Academy doesn’t worry at all, as it should
about a Mexican making films in Hollywood. And let’s clear things up here;
because I’m concerned about what you’re saying… just as the DEA certifies
countries, you’re talking about something like I’m now a Mexican certified
by Hollywood. And that is scary, I mean, because it’s as offensive as the
DEA certifying which countries fight against drugs when they’re the number
one drug producer in the world. Here we’re talking about huge machinery, but
machinery whose 90% of their product is rubbish, and you’re giving a really
high level to something certified by that machinery. And in some way you’re
approving Hollywood’s certification.

Press: I was talking about the publicity…

AC: Yeah, but at first you mentioned the Academy and if someone drew me out
of the classroom and the shock because now I’m certified by Hollywood… and
that’s not right. If you were telling me this because it was a good move, I
might believe you, but when you involve Hollywood as “he did it” that’s
awful cause filmmakers don’t have to go to Hollywood.

Press: I meant that it’s a movie that tons of people have liked and tons of
others will like soon…

AC: And that’s great, it’s good that this is that kind of move; but this is
not about revenge, and I’m moving forward, as I told you I lost faith in
¾I’m living this now¾, I lost faith in the system of Mexican cinema, as good
Pedro Armendáriz says: “everyone can make a kite out of their ass” [laughs],
and I’m making my kite, let them make theirs, and we’ll be in peace. Also,
there are screens for everyone there. There’re movies for everyone
About your other question about it I wanted to make films that don’t smell
like Hollywood: I can’t make movies that aren’t of an author, all of mine
have been of author, I can’t involve two years of my life doing something
that is not personal. And I’m not saying I can’t do bad movies, I can do
crappy personal movies. And everything I do is personal… so there’s one more
term: what is the Hollywood-like smell? Do the Cohen brothers smell like
Hollywood? The work in the Hollywood system… Does J.P. Anderson smell like
Hollywood? Does Scorsese smell like Hollywood? There’s a lot of ideological
confusion around those terms. I think it’s more interesting to talk about
cinema. Or else we’re going to end up talking about festivals, for example,
I had a conversation not long ago with the Sundance festival. I asked them
to remove the Latin-American section from their festival. It might be a
little unpopular, and it might bother some people, but I think it’s
offensive that there’s a Latin-American section in the festival of Sundance.
I find it offensive that there’s a section called “worldwide cinema” and
it’s the apart-heid for the Latin-American section. I’ts an apart-heid. And
the worst part is that we’re the first ones approving that apart-heid, which
is just pushing a mediocrity. It doesn’t matter if our movies are cheap and
aren’t accepted in any festival, because in the end there’s the
Latin-American films section in Sundance. That’s enough… Let the
Latin-American cinema be a part of the world, and if there are crappy films
then don’t invite those, and if the do, make it to the world section, not
the Latin-American cinema section because if we keep going on we’re going
to have soon the “Gay Latin-American for Unprivileged Women Films”. [laughs]
And we have those festivals! [applause]

Press: I wanted to congratulate you for your excellent work in the movie;
it’s definitely the best of them all. I have a question for Mr. David or
Tanya: Why Mr. Cuarón? Wasn’t it kind of daring, the choice? Why picking
someone who might sound like trouble to parents thanks to his last film?

DH: I fell in love with Alfonso after watching his first movie, “Solo Con Tu
Pareja”. Tanya and I wanted to work with him for a while now, we had
proposed him a project that was taken from William Shakespeare, before “Y Tu
Mamá También”, called “Are You Experienced?”, and the thematic was alike “Y
Tu Mamᔑs thematic, except for the fact that here there were two nineteen
year old boys fighting for a girl in India, and well, Alfonso did “Y Tu Mamá
También”. Once Chris Columbus got off the driver seat in these movies, we
had a lot of discussions about who could work as a director, and Tanya and I
felt it would be natural to pick Alfonso. First he had done “A Little
Princess”, which is a great adaptation, and it’s a movie that worked great
with children, a movie that has a lot of magic and is very graceful. And on
the other side I think this movie needed to move forward, in the sense that
“Y Tu Mamá También” is a movie about adolescence, while this movie is a film
in which the main three characters, Ron, Hermione and Harry, start entering
adolescence, and it was time for them to look a bit older. You saw what
Harry was doing under his sheets with his… “wand”. [laughs] So in Harry
Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban they’re moving from childhood to
adolescence. Alfonso understands teenagers beautifully, and at a certain
point he is a teenager, really [AC: Yeah, right] Also, he directs with
reality, in “Y Tu Mamá” we see truth to those characters, and it was
important to us in the third Harry Potter to make the characters grow real,
you see them wearing their own clothes a little more, a little grittier, the
shirts are out, the ties run down, it’s a lot more naturalistic. And by
making it more naturalistic, it makes the magic more magical.
When we pulled out the name of Alfonso, I’ll be honest, the studio didn’t go
“OH yeah, great idea!” [laughs]… It was “Are you out of your mind?!” But
ultimately it’s not us who is paying the bills, it’s them, and they had the
courage to decide, I think we all have to thank them, for having the courage
to say “Alfonso will make this film”. And also, once that petition was made,
they gave us the freedom… they gave Alfonso the freedom to make the film
that he wanted to make, we didn’t want to make a Chris Columbus film, and
for the series to grow, for the series to continue, it has to develop, and I
think everybody realized that after the first two films, that we needed to
move on. And again, I don’t normally thank the studio, but in this case I
really have to thank the studio, they’ve been great.
_ _ _ _ _

AC: [...]I have another theory, and it’s about a kind of contemptuous term
there is in the Hollywood filmmaking industry: when they talk about filming
in England, England is a lot cheaper, the work and everything is cheaper
than Los Angeles or New York, and there’s this term for those things,
“white Mexicans”, because it is least expensive in England. They’re called
“white Mexicans” and they had a bit of trouble there with me….[Laughs]

MM: Well, thanks again for being here, I want to thank again for Alfonso
Cuarón, David Heyman and Tanya Seghatchian’s presence as well, and the press conference is over.

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