Kloves on Adapting Harry Potter: “Books Are Difficult to Wrestle to the Screen”


Apr 30, 2009

Posted by SueTLC

The Baltimore Sun is running a new article today, featuring an interview with Harry Potter film director David Yates, and also contains new comments from screenwriter Steve Kloves. Mr. Kloves is very complimentary of working with David Yates, and also speaks to the task of transforming the beloved Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling to the big screen. Of interest are the following comments: “Kindness, decency and patience are the personal qualities that draw the
loyalty of Yates’ collaborators. Screenwriter Steve Kloves, a
distinguished director himself (The Fabulous Baker Boys), has been working with Yates back-to-back-to-back on Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows I and II. He says Yates’ “vast resources of patience” are good to have on Potter films, “since the books are difficult to wrestle to the screen.” Kloves, the adapter of all but one Potter novel (Phoenix),
writes first drafts that tend “to be both wishful and practical” in his
desire to retain Rowling’s details and plot twists. “Wishful in the
sense that I want to get the entire book on the page and practical in
the sense that I know the wishful side of me is insane.”

The article also contains more from Steve Kloves on the decisions he and director David Yates made regarding which and how many Pensieve scenes to include for Half-Blood Prince.

Prince presented challenges because of “a series of memories that inform the
past and the present.” While Yates “enjoyed the flashbacks enormously
as separate incidents, he didn’t feel they were satisfying within the
whole. In other words, they diluted the dramatic experience from his
point of view and he felt we needed to concentrate exclusively on those
memories that informed one particular thread of the story – the story I
was, by and large, telling.”

Yates says, “We often have
conversations which go along the lines of ‘Will the fans really like it
if we lose that?’ Some choices may be right for the framework of the
film but will put the fans out.” Yates wants “to make sure the fans are
happy” and says he always lets pieces of the book go “regretfully,” but
his goal is to make “the best adaptation that will warrant spending
two-and-a-half hours in the dark.”

Finally of note are high praises from director David Yates regarding the performance of actor Rupert Grint in Half-Blood Prince.”He’s always been the funny one, but he has so much more as an actor than that. In Prince, he has lovely stuff that’s funny and true, but in Deathly Hallows,
he must be defensive and haunted, and Rupert took to that like a duck
to water. I’m always thankful that Jo Rowling gave us a world that
allowed us to turn corners with the actors.”

75 Responses to Kloves on Adapting Harry Potter: “Books Are Difficult to Wrestle to the Screen”

Avatar ImageSnapesSilverDoe says: I am so nervous at a return to Kloves as screen adapter...Avatar ImageDanielaNC says: First! Nice interview, but nothing really too new imo. I agree with Yates, I really look forward to seeing Rupert on DH, if he can pull it off, he'll be great. Avatar ImageDanielaNC says: Argh, I hate mi connection! Every time I feel like I'm gonna be first, it freezes and I can't post!Avatar Imagethe_spectacle says: Yeah, it would be hard to turn a book into a movie. I wrote a short PoA screenplay for one of my classes. Was way too true to the book. I wasn't creative enough. LOL @ a third person talking about Rupert's performance. He must be good. I can't wait to see HBP now.Avatar Imageele0206 says: Am I the only one who has noticed that almost anyone mentions Dan's performances in HBP or DH???? that's weird FIRST??Avatar Imageele0206 says: *?I really really really hope it will be good as PoA has been?*Avatar Imagebudgie says: I hope someone is saving those first drafts. In a few years, There might be an opportunity to do the series as a television or DVD series, or even a new movie series.Avatar Imageele0206 says: @ budgie: gosh, that would be awful!! Harry Potter-----tv series. Absolutely NOT!!!!!!!Avatar Imagehbp will be betterthan tdk says: it seems ron is hero of this movieAvatar ImageSmitch says: As long as they honour the book as much as possible in the film, fans will be happy. Avatar Imagekiwimci says: Could have just used some of that, I finished a dissertation on the Harry Potter screen adaptations last weekAvatar Imagehbp will be betterthan tdk says: well i was shocked to hear yates want ootp movie to be as close to book......since he has totally messed up ootp movie ........i cant find worst adaptionAvatar ImageMatea says: I don't know why so many people don't like Kloves. I adore him.and thank God he's back. because I didn't like OOTP like first 4,and I think its because of the screenwriter. and I am so happy that we'll see much more of Ron (and also Hermione) in the movies. again,in OOTP it was all about Harry, but I think its important to show the rest of the Trio as much as possible. Avatar Imagemoglet says: I really liked how OOTP was brought to the screen, I felt the overall feel was right, it is such a long book it must have been a real challenge. I am interested to see how Steve Kloves has adapted HBP as the trailers have looked really good. I am glad that Rupert is now getting a chance to be the real Ron, this was one of the things I liked about OOTP so have hoped that Kloves would take up this idea of a proper Ron and run with it, I think the character has been ill served by some of the writing in the past.Avatar Imagevandy says: Well, I'm glad that steve kloves has returned...and yay rupert!Avatar Imagebudb says: Kloves is fine by me, but the issue that worries me is that there are huge omissions in the overall story line across the movies that need to be addressed so that the entire set of films will ultimately make sense. The fewest omissions are in the first two films directed by Columbus --and frankly the scenes were deleted rather than not shot --and the most gaps happened in OotP, with several important ones in GoF. So, what concerns me is the lack of mention of how the entire set of films will hold together as one single story rather than as seven (eight) separate stories strung together. @bBudgie, my thought has always been that in 25 or 30 years the BBC might be able do the stories as only the BBC can.....imagine today's young actors playing the more mature roles? Radcliff as Snape (which we now know is the real juicy role!)? Watson as Trelawney? Felton as...well, as Lucius? For those who will still be around, I envy you! Cheers!Avatar ImageNoxNiveus says: Oh please! Kloves thinks its hard because hes a moron! I mean half the books are already written like a screenplay. Jo did 90% percent of the work for him, and he goes and completely ruins it. Honestly, i am a huge fan of the harry potter books, read every one over 10 times, but the movies are pathetic. Not even comparing them to the books, just as movies in general they're awful. At least LOTR won some awards, they maybe didn't follow the books but the movies were good. Harry Potter movies: script, acting, direction all 100% lame. Half of the movies don't even make sense to people who haven't read the books!! Seriously they're just trying to make a buck any way they can. Its sick!!!Avatar Imagemewthree says: the comments about adapting a book to a film seem silly as a hard core harry potter fan. i understand that something do not translate well, but do not know why. i would love to see an animated series that follows the books to the letter. they would proberly be very long. has any one made a film that has been slated by the fans of a book that was true to the books story line?Avatar Imagejeannemcl says: And yet, NoxNiveus, you continue to see the movies. Interesting.Avatar Imageskiving snackboxes says: I'm excited for this one. Based on what I've seen from the trailers I'm giving Kloves the benefit of the doubt. I personally thought the first 2 movies were crap, but I think that was more Columbus's direction than the adapation of the books, but that's just me. Avatar Imagemugglemom4 says: Yay Rupert! I am looking forward to this movie for so many reasons. I think the acting is going to be the best yet. Avatar ImageCool Grandma2 says: This all sounds good but I will wait until I see HBP. I still have trouble watching OOTP. It was so choppy.Avatar Imagemouse68 says: Those who say adapting a book to film is easy fail to understand the fundemental differences between a book and a film. What works in a book doesn't always work when transferred to film, hence the word "adaptation". It's one of the reasons they invented the Burrow scene - with Jo's full co-operation - because the little hints of what is going on in the outside world that are dropped in at various times in the book, wouldn't work very well on the screen. Unlike many of her fans, Jo understands the difference between a book and a film. If you want a moving storyboard, that's fine, but a lot of us who are fans of the medium of film, as well as of the HP books, want to see a living breathing film that works on it's own terms, not just a moving storyboard that ticks off the checklist of everybody's favourite part of the books. I have been disappointed that sometimes my favourite scenes from the books have been left out, but overall happy with the results of the films (with some criticisms - they aren't perfect) in comparisons to many other adaptations. There are some changes in HBP that I questioned at first (particularly one of my favourite scenes from the book), and some inventions for the screen, but I am actually excited for some of the "new" scenes in the film, as I see them as being done in the spirit of the books, with a slightly different interpretation to take into account the fact that they cannot make a 10 hour film. I suggest that you go into the cinema looking forward to seeing a film that is enjoyable and portrays the spirit of the books, with the major themes and moments important to the overall story in place, and don't go in with a 100 point checklist of what is in the books, you are bound to come out disappointed. Avatar Imagesupergirlinfrance says: More for rupert ! he's awesomeAvatar Imagemindakay09 says: Darn, I was hoping for a hint about where they split the movies. I hope he does a good job! So far the dialog from the trailers has been pretty great!!Avatar Imagesunshine123 says: yayaya more love for Rupert and for anyone that critizies the way the films are adapted, all i have to say is , u try it , it must be bloody hard to know exactly what to leave in and take out. i'm upset when they leave out some things but i think that the films would be stupid and too long if they leave in everything. they are called adaptations for a reason.I just try to enjoy the films for what the are. ooo and yaya the film is coming closer Avatar Imagezoltan42 says: mouse68, well put. I felt as I was reading HBP they would have problems with adapting the book because so much of it -- the memories -- basically made the main character a passive observer. Because movies are so visual in nature, especially for films such as these, keeping the action going with only breaks for pacing is essential. Having every single memory scene would have pretty much brought the narrative flow to a halt. People moan how this or that isn't in the movies, so they are therefore awful. I wonder what they think about the Bourne movies. Except for the most basic plot points, almost everything is different from the books. For example, they changed Marie's nationality -- not to mention her outcome in the second movie. Look at Jaws. In the book Hooper dies.Avatar Imagebuthagrid says: Some people are really harsh towards the movies, and especially to Kloves. I love the books. I love the movies. Avatar Imagephantomdave79 says: I don't completely understand why people hate on Kloves so much. I got into the series throught the movies first so i don't have any issue with him. With a book to movie translation it is impossible to please everybody all the time. Especially with a book like GOF because it is so long and a lot will have to be cut out. I have enjoyed his adaptations. After all the movies are just interpretations of the books. Plus J.K. Rowling has given her blessing so that is good enough for me. Avatar Imagekbicprez says: I can’t be angry with Kloves. Although I hated GOF, POA is my favorite HP film and Kloves adapted both for the screen. I agree wth Kloves – he does have a very difficult job. But sometimes I think we forget that the screenwriter doesn’t work in a vacuum. If we’re unhappy with a film, at least some of the blame should go to the director. I accept the films for what I think they are – action adventure stories with a moral. I LOVE the books and I think the films are fun to watch. I don’t expect any more than that.Avatar Imagephantomdave79 says: "Half of the movies don’t even make sense to people who haven’t read the books!" - NoxNiveus Wow, you are not even in the vicinity of the ball park with this statement. Seeing as I saw the first five movies prior to reading the books and I was able to follow the story just fine. Avatar Imagesgt_majorette says: Rupert Grint was always my favorite of the movie kids, a natural actor. He's the one I'd be looking for after the Potter thing is over.Avatar Imagex_Potter_Lover_Forever_x says: Everything is looking really good. I cannot wait for the movie to be released. :)Avatar ImageOld_gnarled_woman says: Those who complain about the HP movies as "unfaithful" to the books must not have read & seen many book-to-film adaptions. I think Kloves & the filmakers have done a good job. Avatar Imagemaimiaa says: cannot wait for this film. seriously! so exciting!Avatar Imageavrenim says: i'm really excited to see rupert play more than just the comic relief sort of ron in DH.. he's such a great actor, i know he'll do wonderfully.Avatar Imageavrenim says: i'm really excited to see rupert play more than just the comic relief sort of ron in DH.. he's such a great actor, i know he'll do wonderfully.Avatar ImageLibby says: If Evanna said it was good, then I trust her judgement. But I cannot wait, I've grown to LOVE Rupert's acting, I think he has the most potential of the main trio (he can interpret lines and acts so wonderfully, and always has been able to, but his only problem is he clams up at big-scale interviews I think - it's admirable for him to be so shy, but he needs to expand his vocabulary when talking to interviewers so he can promote his movies well! But then again, I think if he's good enough he won't even have to say much about them to get more film roles). ;) Yayy!Avatar ImageBewareoftheNargles says: Hahaha, well I just can't wait (as I say in most of my posts!) to actually see the movies. It sounds like Ron has a bigger part now. Avatar ImageLeo_Lovegood says: I am beyond sick of these Kloves haters. He has done so much for thr series and dedicated so much time and won Jo's apporval yet you people continue to hate im just cause he cut out your favorite scene. Please. Give me a break. He has written very good and solid screenplays. Miles better than OotP's awful screenplays anyway. At least Kloves understands pacing and how a movie should be structured. Avatar ImageTamyris says: Yay Go Rupes! Everybody is talking about his performance, I am sure its gonna be a standout! Rupert is the best actor of the trio, not that Dan and Emma are bad, they are really good as well. I am glad bc of Steve´s return, he always considers what JK says. He did an awesome work in SS and COS, for me they were the best screenplays. And it must be really hard to adapt the books indeed. there are so many things that I ask" How the heel are they gonna put that in the film?" In the books is easy to let imaginationn flies, everything is possible in literature, but in cinema is much harder. Avatar ImageLemonFaerie says: This makes me even happier to have Kloves back. Of course the adaptations are never going to be perfect, since I would love the entire book to come alive on screen with zero changes. I know that can't happen. Of the two screenwriters we've had I think Kloves has done a better job by miles, as I still can hardly bear to watch OoTP. Whether the bulk of the blame for that lies with the screenwriter or the director remains to be seen, though. Or maybe it was a combo of the two, in which case hopefully Kloves will help Yates fill in any holes he might have left on his own. If HBP is as choppy and disjointed as OoTP, then that will be a shame. I am glad they cut a lot of the Pensieve scenes as they get a bit tedious even in the book, but I hope if nothing else that Yates learned from OoTP not to shortcut the emotions of the scenes. He needed to hold ten more seconds on Sirius' death scene before cutting to Harry chasing after Bellatrix. If they'd held there, the entire audience would have been on the floor bawling their heads off over Harry's grief. Instead, he cut right at the moment when the emotion was about to boil over and shortchanged the whole thing. That is my biggest complaint with that film. All the emotion was cut short or eliminated. The big lesson my group of HP fans and I have learned is not to read the books right before seeing the films. We're going to have a movie marathon instead, so that we are firmly back in "movie mode" before the release and hope that that will blunt our natural tendency to compare the movie to the book and find it wanting. Having said all that, though, based on the trailers, pictures and interviews, I am pretty darn excited for this movie. If it holds up to the hype it may become my favorite of the six so far. I hope!! And Deathly Hallows is already looking and sounding amazing, it is going to be a loooooong wait for that one. *sigh*Avatar Imagelevi-OH-sa not levio-SA says: i don't mind kloves either...we really can't be spoiled...i can't imagine what these movies would be like in another universe with out the same people behind them. i know there are things we would have preferred differently but i don't think the grass is greener with these things. and please, don't talk about a tv show...please ---noAvatar Imagesachem says: Well, obviously it would be more interesting for most of the fans to have the entire books directly transferred to images down to last word. A 1-hour episode for each chapter or something of that sort. I can understand those who don't appreciate the work of Steve Kloves in that respect. However, the fundamental difference between words and images will always be there to create conflicts in these situations. No decent filmmaker in the world would be willing to transfer an entire work of literature into images. There would be no artistry in that. What can be achieved through a book adaptation at best is that it captures the essence, the core, of the work of literature in question and still maintains its unique qualities as a work of moving images. None of the Harry Potter films so far have achieved that in my opinion, and nor can you expect it (commercialism). One of them gets close however, and that is Prisoner of Azkaban. For that, Steve Kloves, but in front of all Alfonso Cuarón - I believe - ought to be praised. I don't expect these remaining films to please me, but I am fairly certain most Potter fans will enjoy them, which would mean Steve Kloves has done his job quite well. NoxNiveus: I agree with some of what you say, but if you truly think "half the books are already written like a screenplay" then you have obviously never read a screenplay.Avatar Imagedariansdad says: I disagree with you moglet. Phoenix was all wrong. Everything was bassackwards, not to mention that Ron and Hermione looked like they were mad at Harry for the entire film. I can list at least 20 things that were wrong from book to film, but I won't go into it here. I think the first four movies were as close to the books as possible considering the movies had to be 2.5 hrs or less. OotP was the longest book of the series and the shortest movie. (HUH! Why?) The writing was all wrong. The sequence of events were all wrong. I think it should have been called "HP and Prof. Umbridge". I, myself am glad Kloves is back. At least he seems like he studied the books before writing the script.Avatar Imagesessionka says: I have to say I'm not too happy with Steven Kloves' adaptations in general. My biggest disappointment was POA. I know it wasn't entirely his fault, but I felt POA was butchered. It's been a dream of mine that Peter Jackson direct with Fran Walsh doing the screenplay. They did an EXCELLENT job with the "Lord of the Rings" movies. EXCELLENT!!!!Avatar Imagesessionka says: I'm happy Rupert is getting compliments on his work. Ron is one of my favorite characters.Avatar ImageHarryLight says: Nice to see that both director and screenwriter are keen to make sure us fans are happy - and that they are genuinely pained to have to leave stuff out. And I'm really glad that Rupert finally gets to show his stuff! Can't wait for July!!Avatar ImageEruditeWitch says: I wonder if Kloves is ever going explain why he felt the need to ruin Ron as a character in POA and GOF. I mean, why give Hermione that line in the Shreiking Shack? Why make him shrug off Oppugno? Why give Hermione the "We're With You" line? What good did that do for anyone? OotP was the only script well written when it came to proper characterization. I'm sure with Kloves back we'll get plenty of Super! Hermione, Dunce! Ron, and Wimpy! Harry. I just hope Yates can keep him in check.Avatar ImageDilltheMuggle says: I like how they are starting to keep more from the book in the movie. It seems that HBP and DH is going to be a nice adaption. Yates is my fav director of the series (HBP looks amazing and what i/ve been hearing about DH...he/s the man).Avatar ImageEruditeWitch says: I forgot to say, Rupert is the man! Things Rupert fans have known for years: There's more to him than comedy, he's very skilled, and he's the BEST actor of the trio, and the best young one on set. Avatar ImageFereverto says: I did not like the way Ron's character was treated in the past so I am looking forward to these next two movies to see if they have improved on that score. I am extrememly weary of waiting for HBP to be released. It had better be good after all these years waiting!Avatar Imagedcrazmo says: I too, think that Kloves has done an exemplary job as an adaptor. There's no way everything could have been gotten into every movie. (Come on, does anyone really miss the whole SPEW nonsense?) Part of me thinks that if Kloves had adapted OOTP, we would have had more of the prophecy and Snape's role in it. I'm still hoping some of that gets put back into HBP.Avatar Imagedcrazmo says: Oh, yeah, forgot to say how really lovely it is to see Grint get the recognition he deserves. Kind of like Ron finally getting it as well!Avatar Imagehermyone08 says: Rupert is getting so much praise from everyone! I love it! :)Avatar Imagecheeserpleaser says: As pleased as I am that they did consider the reaction of the fans in formulating which Pensieve scenes to retain, I do not think they even needed to resort to placating us in order to realize that they should have kept certain scenes. In particular, the one in which we encounter the Gaunt family. Without being exposed to that particular memory, Voldemort's character loses its rich complexity and he becomes just a typical flat villian. It is truly a pity that they did not understand this as they undertook the process of adapting the novel to the screen. That said, I am still optimistic that they have done a wonderful job in transferring the book to the screen.Avatar ImageweB3now says: I'm also glad Kloves returned--I thought OOTP was the worst waste of time and money. In my opinion it was awful. I'm more scared of Yates directing again that Kloves returning. In regard to Rupert--IT'S ABOUT TIME!!! That man needs some screen time and great lines because so much has been taken from him!! He's been completely overlooked. I think it's because he has finally proven himself in other work that they have given him what he deserves. It's time to push for Rupert a bit!!!Avatar ImageDragomir Despard says: good articleAvatar ImageJohn-Robert says: i think... as long as a good story was presented, great. i dont think any of the movies have been horrible yet, but i still have to look at goblet of fire and raise my eyebrows...Avatar Imagemouse68 says: "Those who complain about the HP movies as "unfaithful" to the books must not have read & seen many book-to-film adaptions. I think Kloves & the filmakers have done a good job." Totally agree, old-gnarled-woman. I often think that the fans who complain about how unfaithful the films are to the HP books need to be sent to a course on book to film adaptations. They would need to read a whole bunch of books and then watch their adaptations and then maybe they would realise that in comparison to 90% of book to film adaptations, these films are INCREDIBLY faithful.Avatar ImageJersey says: We shall seeAvatar Imagesidnandragin says: Ok, I guess Kloves did some "changes" again.. Personally his screenwriting is alright until he begins taking lines from the other characters and giving them to Hermione Granger character... Hooray for Ruoert. He is a natural and I think it is great we get to see this side of him. I am also glad that I see Ginny's character is going to have some more lines rather than face time. Fingers crossed for HBP! Avatar ImageMogget says: Honestly, my biggest problem with Kloves is the fact that he is biased towards certain characters. Which was disappointing because it made me dislike parts of the first four movies. I really felt that some of the parts they decided should be left out were big character development moments. However, I'm not saying that I can't respect certain decisions made. OOTP was a long book and the movie turned out fantastically. However, I have to say that I really like OOTP more than any of the previous films. (POA coming in second) So hopefully Kloves doesn't edit character lines anymore.Avatar Imagemuzic823 says: I'm so glad to hear that Kloves is back! I was slightly disappointed by OotP on film, and I've loved all the others, so this gives me great hope for HBP. Avatar ImageBoyWithALightningScar says: I'm persuaded that the DH movies are going to be the most challenging ones when it comes to acting. Mainly for the Trio. There's gonna be a lot more character exchange than in the previous movies, can't wait to see how that turns out.Avatar Imageblackhair says: Kloves back means the movie should be great :)Avatar Imageblackhair says: hope he does make DH as good as COSAvatar Imageblackhair says: Honestly, my biggest problem with Kloves is the fact that he is biased towards certain characters. Which was disappointing because it made me dislike parts of the first four movies. I really felt that some of the parts they decided should be left out were big character development moments. However, I’m not saying that I can’t respect certain decisions made. OOTP was a long book and the movie turned out fantastically. However, I have to say that I really like OOTP more than any of the previous films. (POA coming in second) So hopefully Kloves doesn’t edit character lines anymore. But the prob was the movie was too short and many things were left outAvatar ImageWickedLoz says: I used to hate Kloves.. Until my beloved OotP was butchered. He is totally right though; as much as the book purists want to whinge and cry about it, it is so difficult to adapt from novel to movie. Doesn't mean I've agreed with most of his decisions though.. Avatar ImageCellar Door says: "While Yates "enjoyed the flashbacks enormously as separate incidents, he didn't feel they were satisfying within the whole. In other words, they diluted the dramatic experience from his point of view and he felt we needed to concentrate exclusively on those memories that informed one particular thread of the story - the story I was, by and large, telling." Hell, this is not going to be good.Avatar ImageMogget says: But the prob was the movie was too short and many things were left out But the same thing could be said about the other films as well. I'm not too concerned with what was left out and what was left in. ((I was referring to OOTP, is you read my post.)) I'm more disappointed with Kloves bias towards Hermione and the fact that he often gives her lines that belong to other characters. Avatar Imageangelac123 says: It's nice to hear how they think of the fans when adapting the books :)Avatar Imagehuffledor says: Kloves did good work, It is very hard to reduce a 7hr read to a 2.5 hour movieAvatar ImageGarwen says: There's always going to be disappointment when our particular beloved parts of a book are left out in movie translations, but what's important is that the emotional impact be true. I was really disappointed in ootp in how the Weasley twins exit from the school was handled. It was like they had run out of money and someone said well...let's do some noise and fireworks and that'll take care of it. I really wanted to see that swamp and Prof. Flitwick saving a piece of it. I've enjoyed Mr. Kloves screenplays of the other books and look forward to the final 3. Can't wait to see the exchange with Snape and Dumbledore. Avatar ImageCatherine says: as long as they get most of the book in there it shouldnt be to bad!

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