LA Times Interview with Screenwriter Steve Kloves on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Jun 17, 2009

Posted by SueTLC

The Hero blog for the LA Times is launching a Harry Potter countdown with a series of new articles, the first being a new and rare interview with screenwriter Steve Kloves. In this interview, Mr. Kloves speaks about some canon tidbits he learned while working with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, some of the pivotal moments in his adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, including the decision to cut out some scenes, as well as the final dramatic moments of the story, with the screenwriter giving high praise to actor Alan Rickman as Snape.While the entire interview is quite fascinating and well worth reading, here are some particular quotes of interest:

What, if anything, can you say about the climactic moment between Snape and Dumbledore? In the book, it’s a short but intense scene.

It is informed by everything [Potter readers] have come to know is true. So if you watch the film carefully, there are performance moments that are quite extraordinary, Alan Rickman [who plays Snape] especially. There is something we added that you can look forward to, a short scene between Harry and Snape prior to the big event. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays to the audience. It should be a haunting moment for Harry. While I was writing, I just had a notion about a moment between him and Snape, something Harry could look back on and question as to why he didn’t act differently.


I’ve also read that most of Dumbledore’s pensieve memories of young Voldemort, then Tom Riddle, have been cut from the film. (Not to mention: Dumbledore’s funeral!)

In my original draft, I had every single memory but one, I believe. I even dramatized a couple of things that weren’t in the book in terms of Voldemort, like the death of Tom’s parents, things like that. I’m a Harry Potter fan, so my first drafts tend to reflect that, in that they tend to be long and all-inclusive. When [director] David Yates came in, he had a very specific point of view, which was that he wanted to showcase Voldemort’s rise without getting overly involved with his past as Riddle. He didn’t think that most of the memories would be as compelling on-screen as they are on the page. He liked them in the script, but he really felt that in the movie experience Voldemort’s story was more important than young Riddle˜s. We went back and forth on that for quite a bit. But he was very convincing, and I think it wound up working out well.

Are there any other changes or additions that you can talk about?

I know one thing David is very proud of is getting Quidditch right. I do think it’s the first time that it feels like a sport. And it’s comic, which is fun. Rupert Grint [who plays Ron] is great. We also do a lot with the kids coming of age, navigating sexual politics and all that. It’s pretty interesting to see these characters doing that because the movies have always been a bit chaste, and they continue to be on some level, but there’s more happening in this one. You realize how complicated it is between boys and girls. It’s a lot of fun seeing Ron navigate his first girlfriend


What kind of things do you run by Rowling?


A range of things, even something really simple. I once asked about the 12 uses of dragon’s blood, which is referenced in the books. There are writers who would write “12 uses of dragon’s blood” and not have a clue what they are; it just sounds cool. But I emailed her to ask (and this was 10 years ago), and 25 seconds later I get an email back with a list.


Do tell. She’s only mentioned “oven cleaner” in interviews.

One is an oven cleaner, yes. Another is a spot remover. . . . It was really amazing. Really, the books are only the thinnest surface of what she knows about the series. Where Jo is helpful in a more serious way for me is when I want to know more about motivation or background, when Harry realized certain things, when characters understood things. There was one case where I was violating a plot thing — it had something to do with Dobby, I think — and she said, “No, you don’t want to do that,” as she knew what was to come. She’s a great resource for problem solving and she has such a facile mind, she can help with complicated things. Though her plots are so fiendish that they’re really difficult for cinema.





56 Responses to LA Times Interview with Screenwriter Steve Kloves on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Avatar ImageHPNAIV says: "He liked them in the script, but he really felt that in the movie experience Voldemort’s story was more important than young Riddle‘s." Wait, aren't those the same things though? "Voldemort' story" "Riddle's story"? I wish they kept in all the memories. I would love to see the Gaunt House. =(Avatar ImageScottMan says: I agree there should be a moment between Snape and Harry before it happens, but I don't think Snape going "Shh" is the right kind of moment. It's like he's winking at him almost. I'd be more happy if Snape was the one who froze Harry in place.Avatar ImageHPNAIV says: Oh, and I just HAVE to say this: why isn't Dumbledore's funeral in? Okay, I know that they have that raising wands part but ... Dumbledore's funeral! I mean, come on. They had a ceremony for Cedric - and he's not as important as Dumbledore.Avatar ImageHagrid 713 says: I think for us die hard fans we wouldn't mind 4-5 hour movies if they got every little detail in - at least I wouldn't - but that isn't reality and many wouldn't watch the movies and then they'd flop and they wouldn't make any movies at all - and then I'd have nothing to look forward to!!! OMG, no. So, as much as I don't like them messing with things, guess it's the lesser of evils.Avatar ImageMatea says: amazing interview. I was always really happy with Kloves as scriptwriter. and you see? its not screenwriters fault for everything! and so many people were against him.thank God we have him. because script for OOTP - ew.Avatar ImageGarden State Geek says: This interview doesn't exactly make me happy, but what are you going to do? Avatar ImageGarden State Geek says: This interview doesn't exactly make me happy, but what are you going to do? Avatar ImageLilleby says: "There’s one moment in "The Chamber of Secrets" that I don’t like, where Hagrid enters Hogwarts at the end of the movie and the whole group of assembled students applaud him. That would not happen. And it really upset me. I felt it was a real violation of character." He's SO right (:Avatar ImageLivelaughlovepotter says: I really wish they would've included more memories...Avatar ImageWingardium Leviosa says: I used to dislike Kloves because his scripts for HP were just... not true to the books. But now I know that's the director's fault. Now I dislike Yates. Dumbledore's funeral is not in the movie?! This is terrible, I think it's really important. :-(Avatar Imagespicefan1978 says: Why is the funeral not in the movie? I was so looking forward to seeing Ron comforting Hermione! Agghhhhh!Avatar ImageWON_TWO says: I think Lord Of The Rings proved that the public WILL go to long serialized movies, IF, they are worth seeing... HP done "right" would be more than worth seeing, IMHO...Avatar Imagekrystle says: I can't belive they haven't put Dumbledore’s funeral in!!!! They put in a wholenew fight but can't out Dumbledore’s funeral in near the end! I think he should have gotten a good send off from the flims! But other than that (lol) really glad he's back!Avatar ImageGoury says: So it was Yates's decision to cut out all the memories! I'm really worried about Deathly Hallows now.Avatar ImageErinM says: Wouldn't you just love to sit with JKR and ask her all of those questions like he did? I can only imagine how much of the stories she still has left unknown to the rest of us...COULD YOU JUST IMAGINE NEW INFO FROM JKR??? I would die on the spot!! :)Avatar Imagerealspace says: I am sorry that there will be no Gaunts... I had Michael Caine as Marvolo in my mind and Jude Law as Morphin. I am REALLY sorry that there will be no Dursleys as one of my favorite parts from HBP is Kreatcher yelling "Won't! Won't! Won't!" - classic.Avatar Imagehewy says: Why did no one ask him about burning down the Burrow? What was that all about? Did not happen! And no Dumbledore funeral OMG that was a tear jerking moment in the book! Yes, I realize that the movies are "based on" the books but can we keep the defining moments PLEASE!Avatar ImageOld_gnarled_woman says: Speaking of . . . how does the coming together of Ginny and Harry play out when we’ve all fallen for Cho Chang in the previous films? It’s interesting in the way it’s played out. I’m very happy with the moment they consummate their feelings. It was a nice scene and David did it really well. It’s sweet." Sweet. In other words, it’s probably going to be less than Cho. Not the passionate "sunlit days" from the book. I agree that Kloves comments makes the Harry/Ginny "sweet" relationship sound throughly underwhelming, even dissapointing... I guess the film makers are far more interested in the the Hermione/Ron/Lavender love triangle Avatar Imagehermyone08 says: I was very nervous reading this interview.Avatar ImageNinnyTreetops says: "The only thing that matters to me is that you stay true to the characters." So that’s always been the one thing I feel very much in charge of, protecting the characters, and it’s the thing that upsets me the most when I feel the characters are being violated. That’s when I push back hard." You kill me, Kloves. You kill me ded. Could one engrave these wise words into a big ol' stone and slap you across the head with it every time one of Ron's important moments goes to another character? Or ANY important moment goes to Hermione? Just wondering....Avatar ImageScottMan says: Agreed, NinnyTreetops. :)Avatar ImageLauraBC says: Well, I am certainly intrigued by this new scene with Snape and Harry -- anything to get Alan more screentime, it's more than fine by me. If I wasn't already looking forward to this movie... Avatar Imageiheartpink says: you know , it kinda gets on my nerves when they say they have to take out scenes for length reasons, but then they add other scenes that were not in the book (like the attack on the burrow).Avatar ImageHarryLoony says: Guys chill out...the movies are ALWAYS different from the books and don't turn LOTR into this idealistic thing...Don't get me wrong I am a fan of the movies but they were soooooooo long and it was kinda boring at some moments so we have no guarantee that the HP movies, if matching the books 100%, will be as excellent as they are right now!Avatar ImageHarryLoony says: Just watch the movie then judge afterward!Avatar ImageDolemite says: Too bad Jo hasn't decided to become a film director yet :DAvatar ImageFereverto says: "Speaking of . . . how does the coming together of Ginny and Harry play out when we've all fallen for Cho Chang in the previous films? It’s interesting in the way it’s played out. I’m very happy with the moment they consummate their feelings. It was a nice scene and David did it really well. It’s sweet." Sweet. In other words, it's probably going to be less than Cho. Not the passionate "sunlit days" from the book.Avatar Imagemoonyloony says: No one is arguing that a film version of the book can include everything. Fans take issue with the manner of adaptation, and the disconnected hodgepodge of money scenes from the book of OOTP that made up the film does not inspire much hope for David Yates as head of the helm here. HBP is structured around the memory scenes, and act as a springboard into the final book's journey. There is no viable movie without them. The filmmakers have to rewrite around their absence to include the information they possess, when a straightforward approach would have sufficed so much better. The main complaints are: the director makes decisions to eliminate pertinent scenes, because they would be difficult to recreate on film, and producers want to fit in more screenings per day to increase box office revenue. Thus they would never argue with the resultant, decreased, running time. So the desire to shorten the movies is often a combination of corporate profiteering and directorial ignorance (OOTP was Yates first film, and failed to provide even a passable simulacrum of the book's power, all the while cutting away, and horribly maneuvering through the remains of, the thematic and emotional landscape of Rowling's world). What really irks about this is that the studios' coffers would not suffer from a better, slightly richer adaptation, (fans would see a great adaptation many times, "ok" adaptations not as repeatedly) and the creative tailoring of the story often creates more logistic problems than it solves, making everyone wonder why the film could not have followed the book a little more. If the deleted scenes' information proved so pivotal that it necessitated inclusion in the film, then why could the director not have found a balance between honoring his own desires and the demands of the source material? So far, Yates' approach has yielded awkward slivers of the original scenes crudely jerry-rigged into the film, disrupting the tone and continuity of the story. How is this approach better? It is always difficult to bring an accurate and autonomous vision of a book to the screen. Many of the elements of great literature always resist easy translation. Great directors somehow manage to accomplish this, retaining their own voice while honoring that of another artist's at the same time. It is a very difficult, and rarely well-executed, task and Yates has not met the challenge thus far. Lovers of the books who want a great film recognize the incumbent failure of his approach when they hear that he considered 1) the linch pin of HBP and the series' end (Riddle's past), and 2) the send-off of a most significant character, the hero's paternal mentor throughout, unimportant because of the difficulty inherent in bringing them to the screen without sacrificing his vision. His vision is incumbent upon that of Rowling so that is not an argument. It's a cop-out. He couldn't figure out how to balance the two, so he gave up and mangled the story. Those are the words of a hack, not a great artist. And he has yet to produce anything, including his TV work, to disavow his detractors of their reticence to trust his creative instincts.Avatar ImageRavenclaw98 says: I wouldnt mind a 6 hour movie. i have been following Harry potter for almost 9 years and will keep going even though the series is over. Its hard to believe but some people havent read it yet.Avatar Imagepotterrock says: great...interview....i cannot wait for the scence.... i hate yates x3.....Avatar ImageLeo_Lovegood says: Kloves is the best.Avatar Imagesaffran says: Part of me thinks it´s good Dumbledores funeral is left out.Had it been in the movie they probably would have had to carry me and "Mrs Fred Weasely" out of the cinema on stretchersAvatar Imageele0206 says: How interesting is this man??!! I think I love him. lol Can you imagine asking Jo the 10 uses of dragon's blood? *freezes* I think it'd be the best day in my life. I hope she'll write sooooo much informations in the Scottish Book.... *dreams* Avatar Imagececmal says: Saffran, I think you are right ;). Would be difficult to watch, we will cry enough as it is! It's best to wait until I have watched the film before I say much, I mean I see pieces of the film here and read an interview there, when it all comes together it will probably be great. No film is perfect and no-one can make a film that everybody loves. But if they could get every detail in the film I would watch it, no matter how long it would be!Avatar ImageGoury says: @mouse68 I understand that the movies are different from the books. However I feel that both Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell had the ability to create adaptations which were much more engaging and interesting than OotP . I have a feeling that Cuaron would have found an amazing way of incorporating the other memories into the story. I just don't like Yates's creative ideas and his way of directing. Avatar Imagemouse68 says: moonyloony, I have heard from some who were test screeners that the scene they created to replace the funeral was extremely moving, some said more moving than the book funeral. As for calling Yates a hack, sorry I disagree. I, and many others, loved his "State of Play" mini-series for which he won numerous awards, and I am very much looking forward to what he brings to HBP. I'm not going to argue the toss with you about the relative merits of the choices made with regard to what is kept/changed/cut because we would be here forever. I have found from many years of film viewing that how we view the success or failure of a film is a very individual thing and we are all never going to agree on everything. We all view the books/films through a different prism, we all see diffferent elements as important, I just happen to think that Yates can get the story that they are telling in the film across without showing every single memory. Putting aside the memories, my main issue is with those fans who don't want anything at all changed. To be honest, there are several parts of this film that have been changed from the book that I am really looking forward to seeing, which probably makes me a heretic in the eyes of some but I can live with some changes as long as, as Kloves quoted Jo as saying, it remains true to the characters. These scenes I am referring to appear to remain true to the characters while putting a slightly different spin on the progression of their story. Avatar Imagebudb says: No Gaunts, no Trelawney...so, we not only learn nothing about Riddle's family, but nothing about the Ring as well? Or that Trelawney made a prediction that Snape overheard, setting in motion the events that form the basis for the entire series? Sorry folks, I like my story lines to come together coherently, and with the omissions from OotP and what appears to be missing from HBP, I'm really uncertain how everything can be brought together in DH... (will we get lame lines such as: Dumbledore tells Harry, as they sit in Kings Cross Station, "Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you..."). I must wonder if Yates himself has ever bothered to read the books thoroughly. Please, put Evanna Lynch in charge of all plot decisions!!! Only four more weeks!!! Then we can start counting down to DH 1. And we can then patiently await whatever JKR decides to write next....Avatar ImageSmitch says: Steve is an honest guy. He makes me curious about the behind the scenes making of the films! Avatar Imagekingdom says: how lucky of him to have the access to Ms. Rowling like that! i'm hoping she continues to write of Harry Potter, not so much as another book to the series, but more of a little biography on each character, for example, what they did after Voldemort is defeated, what they became and what they're currently doing. they weren't just characters, at least not to me... just something simple for us to know that of how they're doing in life...Avatar ImageB.J. says: "Speaking of . . . how does the coming together of Ginny and Harry play out when we’ve all fallen for Cho Chang in the previous films?" Speak for yourself ! I have never liked Cho. Pointless character in my oppinion. Avatar ImageMidnightSun321 says: AWESUM!!Avatar Imagehermyone08 says: So, he never answered the question of why Dumbledore's funeral was cut from the film!Avatar ImageCurandera says: I'm glad Kloves said what he said about Hagrid at the end of COS. It almost made the movie unwatchable. It was not only terribly saccharin, but completely out of character. Nobody "loves" Hagrid, even some Gryffindors. That's why Harry is so great. He relates to the misfits and outcasts which is most of us.Avatar Imagemouse68 says: budb, to be honest I agree with you about waiting until 2011. I don't think we can totally judge the films until all the films are out. There are clearly parts of the storyline that will play out slightly differently over the final three films due to choices made by all the directors going right back to the first film because of time restraints, artistic choice, and lack of knowledge at the time how the books would finish. Jo may have given them guidance early on, but she didn't share all of her secrets. There are certain aspects of the story and some character arcs (Draco, Ginny and Snape spring immediately to mind) that might have played out differently in the earlier films if they knew what was coming but they now have three films to make some adjustments and give these story elements and characters their due so that the main story elements play out by the end of the series. Let's reconvene and discuss in two years time, lol.Avatar ImageMidnightSun321 says: i didnt read the whole interview (internet isnt working v well) but it was interesting. saaad about the memories!! and ive always wondered about the 12 uses of dragon blood!!Avatar Imagemouse68 says: I always knew that final scene of COS was Columbus' stupid idea. "So it was Yates’s decision to cut out all the memories! I’m really worried about Deathly Hallows now." Why? Because Yates knows how to navigate the differences between a book and a film? As Kloves himself explains, Yates didn't randomly cut out the memories to tick off pedantic book fans. He did it to service the film and how Voldemort's life and story would play out ON FILM. Guys, you really need to start understanding that there is a difference to how something plays out in a book and on film. It's not that Yates thought he was better than Jo, or didn't like the memories, Kloves said he did, but he HAS to work out what will play best on film. The memories had the potential to really stall the pacing of the film and one of the major components of getting a film right is getting the pacing right, something I have to say that Columbus didn't always get right with the first two films when he tried to shove absolutely everything in (while still leaving out some of the things in Kloves COS script that were important). There are parts of PS/SS and COS that drag every single time I watch those films and those scenes crush the momentum of the film. Now those of you who are happy to sit and watch a moving storyboard may be ok with that, but I would rather have a director who loves the books but who also has a good director's instincts for what does and doesn't work ON FILM rather than being slavishly devoted to every single little bit of the book. I always find it ironic that Jo understands the adaptation process so much better than her fans and is happy to work with the filmmakers to come up with some changes and new ideas (ie The burrow attack) because she knows that different things work on film than in a book.Avatar Imagebudb says: Mouse, dontcha just love it when we find agreement in these discussions? and you and i will be enjoying the next two years tremendously, i'm sure! until next...enjoyed your contributions to this thread!Avatar ImageTamyris says: So Jk agrees with all the mess they do with her story? Burn the Burrow, put Cho to be the traitor of DA,Ginny kissing Harry,no quidditch in OOTP, no Sirius´ mirror,no Aberforth...? Oh for Godness´s sake! Jo should be the screenwriter of the films.Not that I don´t like Steve, he is pretty good. But imagine if it was Jo? She would be brilliant.Avatar ImageWingardium Leviosa says: "Speaking of . . . how does the coming together of Ginny and Harry play out when we've all fallen for Cho Chang in the previous films?" Er... who exactly has fallen for Cho? I certainly haven't.Avatar Imagebudb says: mouse, we've gone through similar discussions about each of the films, before and after. those of us that do have substantial knowledge of film making and adaptions between literature, theater and screen have always suffered a mixture of frustration and enjoyment each time during these conversations. for me, the bottom line will be as the credits roll at the end of DH2: "how well did the entire story hold together, within each film and across all 7 (8)". and we just won't know until 2011.... so far, however, I have found Yates the most disappointing of the directors, and OotP the most unsatisfying of the films, mostly because of omissions, not because of what was included. Can those plot gaps be plugged? Sure...so I'm curious how it will be done. However, we already know of two major gaps in HBP ....the Gaunts and Trelawney's prediction. Burning of the Barrow makes sense (as Yates described it in an interview), but the scene does raise questions about how the opening chapters/scenes of DH will be done... so, we'll wait until 2011 and see, right? and then we'll buy the extended versions of the dvds when those come out.... ;-) cheers.Avatar Imageznachki says: What mouse68 said - every word!Avatar Imagemoonyloony says: I like the respectful discourse on this website. So thanks mouse for your comments. I wish I could say I agree with you on Yates' TV work, but I just don't. I have never liked it, and dismay replaced excitement for the last HP films when I heard Warner Bros. had hired him. As far as his film work goes, we have only OOTP to judge from and it was a poorly made film. Bad performances, bad editing, bad script, so many bad choices. The set design and art direction were its strongest elements. Yates' additions and substitutions did nothing to illuminate the core themes of the book, the series or the characters. And with an example of how his directorial vision interprets the books, I have little reason to have faith in his future work with them. I have also watched and written about movies for many years, and even devoted my college studies to them in addition to visual anthropology. I do know a thing or two about the effects of media and about filmmaking. And having read HBP several times, I still feel that it should have been the easiest of all the books in the series to adapt to the screen without drastically altering it's structure or it's content. I just don't see limp dialogue, awkward continuity and some extra misplaced explosions, (the result of excessive tampering as opposed to necessary trimming), as a fair trade-off for the book's many treasures. Also, as many might recall, there were rumors that the rewritten final scenes of the movie version of OOTP would move us tremendously, just like the rumors of the new film's whole-cloth creations in lieu of the book's actual events, and they were a pitiful embarrassment. POA still holds the candle as far as the movies are concerned; proof that one needn't slavishly pillage the entirety of a book's pages to make a great film of it. I wish WB had brought Cuaron back for the final films, even though he did not agree with splitting the book into two movies. The lesson here- no one ever gets everything they want. I'm still not paying to see the new movie though, or the following ones (it pays to have friends who work at the theatre). Avatar Imagecheeserpleaser says: I am upset to hear that David Yates was responsible for the decision to remove the additional memory scenes. Although I am inclined to somewhat agree with him that they might have amounted to a distraction, I do think these scenes play a critical role in the overall scheme of the series. Without them, we would not have appreciated the circumstances that facilitated Voldemort's descent into evil during his childhood. Instead, Yates has opted to keep him as a flat character, with no complexity, one merely born evil instead developing in that direction due to the circumstances that arose in his life. I will refrain from judging the adaptation until I see the final movie, but I know one area in which the movie will disappoint already. However, other than that, I am highly optimistic about the quality of the adaptation. That said, the footage in which Snape gestures to Harry to be quiet is explained at last! I certainly look forward to seeing this scene.Avatar Imagebudb says: Moonyloony, thanks for the collective compliment! overall, yes, the folks that contribute here are fairly kewl to have a conversation with! Alas, in the past there were a fair number of very very nasty, even downright vile, discussions, usually about things that JKR said in interviews, or the RDR case, etc. The shift to My Leaky most probably discouraged the trolls. Also, long-awaited publication of DH itself put an end to some of the discussions (leaving aside the immediate aftermath, where JKR comments triggered discussions about "is Rowling really Christian" and "Dumbledore is gay"...) Let me add a bewildered (or should i write "Bemused"?) note: for some reason my posting are not showing up in the order in which I submitted them...my laptop's clock is correct, so the cause bemuses me ;-)Avatar ImageHeavenly_Horcrux says: I really want to know the other uses of dragon's blood.Avatar ImageLeeann says: "addition of a Harry-Snape moment right before Snape's showdown with Dumbledore" i guess that's where the shush snape does to harry comes from. not sure if this'll give too much away as far as snape's side...

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