Steve Kloves: “In a Cynical World, ‘Potter’ Stands Apart”

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Nov 11, 2010

Posted by John Admin

Steve Kloves, screenwriter for seven of the eight Harry Potter films, has given a rare interview to the LA Times’ HeroComplex Blog. Kloves speaks about the difficult position of writing for the successful book series, commenting, “If people like a ˜Harry Potter’ movie, it’s because of the book [...] But if they don’t like it, then it’s my fault.”

Kloves reflected on his initial choice to adapt Harry Potter and the Philosophers’ Stone, having been sent a list of titles Warner Bros. held the rights for and were looking to make into films:

“The truth is ˜Potter’ was really strange for me, right from the beginning, it wasn’t the sort of thing I ever expected to be doing’ he said. “It was really, really nice in many ways but always a little odd¦. I always saw myself writing movies that, you know, people don’t go see.”

“At that point, this was 1998, ˜Potter’ wasn’t that big a deal here in the States, and later one of my friends said to me, ˜If it had been on the cover of Time magazine before you signed up, you never would have done it,’” Kloves said. “And that’s absolutely the case.”

The screenwriter also spoke to his friendship with Jo Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books:

“The single greatest thing I take from the experience of the past 10 years is becoming friends with Jo. That’s a separate thing from all of this now, separate from ˜Potter,’ and it’s become a very important part of my life. I used to say she’s the coolest chick on the face of the planet. You read that first book and you thought, ˜Angela Lansbury wrote this book,’ then you meet her and she knows all of your music references and she’s funny. The first thing you pick up sitting down with her though is the intelligence. We had to make movies as smart as her books and as smart as her.”

Kloves is proud of the work he’s done but he still gets spooked by its reach and ripple. “I still don’t understand the magnitude of it’ he said. “I only catch glimpses of the size in my peripheral vision. It kind of freaks me out.”

Kloves further commented on why he thinks Potter is unique:

“In a cynical world, ˜Potter’ stands apart’ Kloves said. “Look, to take a dystopian stance as a writer or a filmmaker is not that difficult. It’s much harder to be earnest about things like loyalty and courage and friendship. Jo Rowling has been able to deal with these things in her books without being saccharine.”

HeroComplex Blog also spoke to Executive Producer David Heyman about Steve Kloves. Heyman said he could think of “no other screenwriter who can capture an author’s voice” as successfully as Kloves:

“He did so in ˜The Wonder Boys’ and hehas done so in all the Harry Potter films he has written. He has the ability to get inside an author’s head and bring their voice to the script, to the screen. That is the greatest of so many gifts he has given to the Harry Potter films. There were even times when he wrote scenes that were not in the book that Jo said she wished she had thought of. He understood what to leave in, what to leave out, he gave the characters their voices, he was able to turn on a dime, from a dramatic moment to a comedic moment, from the intimate to the epic and he was able to adapt to the styles and demands of each of the four directors and give them what they needed and wanted. The Harry Potter films would be much less without him.”

You can read the full interview at this link on the HeroComplex Blog.

Thanks, Jamie, for emailing in!





38 Responses to Steve Kloves: “In a Cynical World, ‘Potter’ Stands Apart”

Avatar ImageMJBDE15 says: FIRST! I kinda like this guy, he makes sense.Avatar Imagejrivas1284 says: Props to you Steve...:)Avatar Imagegryffindor1991 says: OotP was the worst movie because he didnt write it :DAvatar ImageJane_Potter says: He is awesome like everyone else who have helped so Harry Potter could come alive!!!Avatar Imageazaadpotter says: Steve was just awesome.Avatar Imagej@m says: Kloves was just awful. He butchered the characterizations horribly, particularly Ron, and Hermione to lesser extent (highly ironic, since he named Hermione his favorite character). His love for Hermione made him do stupid things like giving lines and actions that belonged to Ron or Dumbledore to her, making Hermione a Pink Power!Granger character that doesn't resemble the canon one from books at all. Other characters (especially Ron) suffered horribly from Kloves' Hermione favoritism. Makes me sad to think about how much better the movies could have been with some other writer.Avatar Imagebudgie says: I just thought the other movies suffered from focusing on major plotlines at the expense of minor plotlines.Avatar ImageDeliaDee says: Kloves is a talentless !@##$#. The reason he's used to writing movies that people don't go see is because he can't write. People love the movies because they are Harry Potter not because they are good. I can't tell you how many people have told me that they never read any of the books until they watched Prisoner of Azkaban. The movie totally confused them and they had no idea what was going on. So the read the books and were all "Oh, THAT was what was going on. Awesome." He has left out entire plotlines and rewrote them according to what he wanted. Also, the Shrunken Head is the only thing I've ever heard Jo say she wished she'd written (I could have missed something on that front but I've never read or heard any interview where she mentioned anything except that one thing). In short, and if I may be so bold as to reiterate, Kloves is a talentless @#$%$#@.Avatar ImageBeazle says: Kloves- simply a Hermoine obsessive who has no feel for the books whatsoever. Appalling. Avatar Imageelsabetharia says: I didn''t envy Steve Kloves the job of trying to condense the books into a screenplay. The only way we book-lovers would have been happy is if every movie had been a 2-part-er (which is really impractical). However, he did make Ron's character little more than a third wheel -- which is COMPLETELY wrong! He gave most of Ron's best lines to Hermoine. Even my husband (who has only seen the movies and not read the books) has asked me "what does Ron do?" There's a reason why Harry & Hermoine don't make any progress after Ron walks out. I am extremely curious how a lot of the "skipped" plot lines are going to be resovled in these final two films. It'll be interesting to see how Kloves wrote out of the hole he dug for himself.Avatar Imageelsabetharia says: I didn''t envy Steve Kloves the job of trying to condense the books into a screenplay. The only way we book-lovers would have been happy is if every movie had been a 2-part-er (which is really impractical). However, he did make Ron's character little more than a third wheel -- which is COMPLETELY wrong! He gave most of Ron's best lines to Hermoine. Even my husband (who has only seen the movies and not read the books) has asked me "what does Ron do?" There's a reason why Harry & Hermoine don't make any progress after Ron walks out. I am extremely curious how a lot of the "skipped" plot lines are going to be resovled in these final two films. It'll be interesting to see how Kloves wrote out of the hole he dug for himself.Avatar Imagecritterfur says: Wow, the Kloves hate returns. I've always found it funny how Potter fans were always looking for where to lay the blame when they disliked certain aspects of the movies, and it always struck me how they seemed to believe Kloves was solely responsible for the fact that the movies had to be cut down and compressed from the books. Do you guys really think the screenwriter has that much control over what goes in or what comes out? Believe me, unless he or she is also producing or directing a film, a screenwriter is very low on the totem pole. If segments of the story were left out, it was most likely a decision by the director and producers, or even the editor of a film (if it's cut after it's been filmed). There's evidence that Steve Kloves did his best at the beginning of the series to try and fit as much of the book plotlines into the films as he could (it wasn't his decision to eliminate Peeves from the first film, for example, it was a combination of the director and the producers). Screenwriters often just do as they are told, and not everything you end up seeing on the screen is a decision by the screenwriter...directors can add dialogue to scenes (or take dialogue out), or they can decide to have actors ad lib (which means the screenplay becomes useless at that point). Some of what happened to Ron likely happened because of the producers, who probably wanted to create more of a distinction between the characters, making Hermione more brainy and Ron more of the comedic relief, so they weren't simply male and female versions of the same sidekick...I'm not saying it's right, or justified, but it has happened in adaptations of books into films that Steve Kloves had nothing to do with (Merry and Pippin were not simply comic relief in the Lord of the Rings book series, but they became that in the films, simply because a film needs to be more streamlined and exaggerated, in a lot of ways). And to be fair, when you put down Steve Kloves in such harsh terms, you're really kind of dumping on Jo Rowling herself. There are multiple interviews where she has expressed her admiration for Steve Kloves and his adaptations of her books, and SHE is one of the main factors the films started to diverge more and more from the books around the time Prisoner of Azkaban was being made by Cuaron...Rowling has stated in interviews that she wanted the films to be a different entity, NOT a carbon-copy of the books, and while she was glad that Chris Columbus had been faithful in adapting the first two books (something he was ordered to do, by the way, and the reason the studio didn't hire someone like Terry Gilliam, who wanted to do everything his own way), she wanted the films to have their own sense of personality and life. Also, Kloves didn't "skip" plotlines, believe me...there is evidence (again, from interviews, joint interviews with Jo Rowling on the DVDs) that he was constantly in contact with her, asking if certain characters were going to be important in later books, just so he wouldn't write a character out that was going to be crucial later on. I'm actually kind of amazed at how well he's managed all of that (yes, it was sad to see characters like Dobby written out of Goblet of Fire, but by giving Neville the opportunity to give Harry the gillyweed, considering Neville's strength in Herbology, actually makes more sense than the book's plotline, and strengthens Neville's character). Switching Ron's Quidditch team plotline from Order of the Phoenix to Half-Blood Prince didn't have any negative effect at all, to be honest. Kloves is by no means talentless...Before the Potter movies even began he was a well-respected writer in the film scene. If Jo Rowling or the producers or the directors or Warner Brothers themselves had wanted to replace him, they could have...he doesn't hold some sort of mystic Sword of Damocles over their heads. He's there because they all want him to be there. So give the guy just a modicum of respect, okay? Don't just stick to your beliefs based on your emotions, actually sit down and look at the facts of a situation before you start heaping blame onto one person. Avatar ImageMaryMalfoy says: I would not want his job. There are literally thousands of people that hate him for "butchering" the HP films. I think he's done a reasonable job with the movies. I just wish he wasn't such a Harry/Hermione shipper. All my friends that haven't read the books, and have just seen the movies are convinced that Harry and Hermione have been secretly dating throughout the movies. It really comes across in the films that he leaves out the Ron/Hermione aspect. That's all I have to complain about though. He seems like a smart guy.Avatar Imagemystiqueminx says: @Mary Malfoy - That is exactly what i think too.. He inserts too many H/Hr moments in the film which actually makes the film Hermione and the film Harry different from the book Hermi and book Harry...If you take the H/Hr dance in the deathly Hallows for instance,,it is totally out of character for Harry..The book Harry is very bad at handling women who cry and that is the reason his relationship with Cho did not work out..When Hermione cries, Harry is the kind of person who would just throw a blanket on her and walk away..But in the film, he is seen comforting her and having a dance with her when his best friend has left them...it is so out of character for Harry and it looks like they dont care about Ron at all!...Avatar ImageDumblebridge says: Well said critterfur, if Jo's happy with the movies and has had her input that should be good enough for everyone. I love all of the films and watch them and read the books constantly. I'm just so grateful to everyone involved in producing them.Avatar Imagej@m says: I don't care if they have to cut some sub-plots from the movies, that's understandable. However, Kloves fails at writing the characterizations properly, and that is unforgivable. It's unfortunate that the HP franchise got stuck with such a bad writer, the movies could have been.. should have been a lot better.Avatar ImageHagiographer13 says: As the person who suggested Leaky highlight this rare and candid interview, and as a major Kloves fan, I knew I was risking the wrath of the haters. But the man is truly gifted and has done an admirable stab at a thankless job. As he says at the top of the interview "if people like a Harry Potter movie it's because of the book ... if they don't ... it's my fault." I love all the films, and my favourites have been penned by Steve. We love the books too much to forgive any cuts or alterations -- but Jo has expressed nothing but praise for his work. If it's good enough for her, then it surely is good enough for me. :)Avatar Imagehewy says: The movies did one thing very well and that was the casting of the characters. This gave me a mental picture to use when rereading the books and for that I will always be grateful. Converting books to movies is a thankless job and never satisfies those that are fans (rabid) of the books. If Jo is satisfied with the end results I guess that should (?) be good enough for us.Avatar ImageBeazle says: Even the Kloves lovers cannot explain the reduction of Ron's role and the increase of Hermoine's. The first newpaper review of DH1 in tonight's Daily Mail Online says that the movie should be called "Hermoine goes on a road trip" ! Oh no- here we go again.Avatar Imagebellatrix15101 says: Ahhh, poor Kloves, he always takes the brunt of every little thing that people don't care for...... I personally think he did an excellent job, even if there were a few things cut that shouldn't have been and a few screwed up characterizations. But those weren't all his fault. I mean, he's not the one who made Dumbledore a crazy, yelling psycho in GOF. All those lines were perfectly able to be said calmly. I must agree that he HAS favored Hermione a bit too much, by giving her some of Ron's SMART lines. But otherwise I feel he kept very close to the characters in his writing. And in my opinion, the only movie that got butchered was Prisoner of Azkaban, and that was not Kloves's fault. Avatar ImageGiant Squid says: He is a very good screenwriter!Avatar ImageGiant Squid says: But I don't really understand what he said in the interview :SAvatar Imagevicki_the_house_elf says: If Steve Kloves was a good writer we would be watching one of his books become a record breaking film, not him making someone elses. Steve has missed out vital plot points in every film he's 'written', the more films you watch the more confusing it gets. He completely destroyed my favourite book (HBP) by removing the story, plot, pace and character development and exchanging them for a load of sexual innuendos and teen lust! Where was Harry understanding the decisions and thought processes that made Voldermort who he is? Nowhere! Harry's now going to have to make a random stab in the dark when trying to figure out what (and where) the Horcuxes are! I can't even begin to figure out how he's going to explain eveything he left out of that film! He's ruined characters, every character is a shadow of the person they're meant to be. And left out characters altogether, 'you mean theres another Weasley brother we've never seen or heard of and he's marrying Fleur?! Don't be ridiculous!' Ruined relationships, i wonder how many people were confused by Tonks calling Lupin "Sweetheart" in HBP when there was no on screen interaction between them beforehand. Harry and Ginny came out of nowhere! They could have easily had a minute of footage with Harry at the Weasleys in the summer, hanging out with Ginny, laughing at her jokes, having a conversation, the beginning of Harry seeing Ginny in a different way, but they didn't, they chose to waste minutes by burning down the Burrow instead! And the people saying that if Jo is happy then we should be too, don't forget that she had to fight to get Kreacher in the fifth film at all! Some things are the editor and producers fault, but everything to do with characters, storylines, character development, plot and the ridiculous things that some of the characters have said is solely the fault of Steve Kloves! My favourite film is the fifth one, which Steve had nothing to do with! “If people like a ‘Harry Potter’ movie, it’s because of the book, But if they don’t like it, then it’s my fault.” He's hit the nail on the head with that one!Avatar Imagej@m says: "My favourite film is the fifth one, which Steve had nothing to do with!" I agree, OOTP is the best Potter film by far.Avatar Imagehrslvr529 says: Adaptations of very popular books are never easy, and a screenwriter can't fit the whole book, especially if it's nearly 800 pages, into a 2 and a half hour movie. And critterfur is right, a screenwriter has very little control of the script once it has left their hands. My uncle is a screenwriter and he complains all the time about how the producers and directors mess with the script. And I think Kloves did the best job that he could. And let's face it for all those that aren't happy with the movie series, Harry Potter is so popular that the movies will probably be remade in 20 years or so.Avatar Image2tal says: I really appreciate his comment of how “In a cynical world, ‘Potter’ stands apart,” ... As someone that has wandered a bit I've encountered people who went out of their way to be kind when they could have just as easily turned their backs. That is one of the messages in the HP tales and from JKR too, I believe. It is one of the reasons I hold them so dearly. It is living life and choosing to approach each others best self.Avatar ImageSindi says: wow its scary to see this side of so many harry potter fans... i personally think books and movies are very different things... people who are hating on what the harry potter movies are, are just blinded by perfectionism.. i personally think he is a very good writer, i enjoy the movies, and if Jo Rowling put her stamp of approval on the films, then so do i... people don't understand that the movies are BASED on the books and are not meant to be exact replicas of the books... On another note, I congratulate all the staff of the harry potter films for such an amazing accomplishment :D Avatar ImageNoble Birth Descending says: All I can say is the omission of "And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure." (HBP3) in lieu of something like 'Take my arm, Harry, do it now' and the addition of "Your shoelace is untied" really diminished the HBP movie in my eyes. Dumbledore is quirky in the books, not angry like in the movies. And, don't get me started about the diminishment of Ron to create a made up sexual tension between Harry and Hermione in the movies. The movies are a really great work of fan fiction. Personally, I am hoping for a BBC miniseries that sticks to the book.Avatar Imagesidnandragin says: tell the truth, he is a good writer but i was not a fan when he started to write the screenplays the way he wanted. Its not your story. He took away from so many characters and at the end had to do a rush job to put them in the screenplay. It is a shame that he couldnt do it properly. Kloves & JK did not have that great of a relationship. Many a times she had to remind Kloves that there is no H/Hr romance. He insisted and she said no. JK doesn't care about the movies because she realized too late that they werent going to be done properly. She has to live with it. She was not Lucaslike in making sure she had a hand in the whole production. Like I said before, i look forward to when they do a proper write up in the way the book was written. To me, i always felt that harry was more sensitive to what ron was in his life than hermione. ron was the closest to him. hermione is there but given the choice, he chooses ron. all of a sudden hermione is the bestest friend? i dont think so. kloves, write your own story and unite the characters you want. i am sure that someone else will take it and make it the way they want. not a fan. kloves **ows.Avatar ImageDumblebridge says: Where do you get all this from sidnandragin? Goes completely against what quotations I've read from JKR, and last night again she repeated that she loves all the movies!Avatar ImageDeliaDee says: I respect the fact that Jo is fine with the movies but that doesn't change my opinion nor will I ever hand the right to decide my opinion over to someone else. That said, yes, adapting is a thankless job but that doesn't change the fact that, if you are going to do it, you should respect the characters in the material you're adapting. Look at the Lord of the Rings. Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens changed things around quite a bit due to the fact that you have to if you're adapting books - especially books that huge - to film. However, they always respected the characters and refrained from turning them into what they would prefer them to be rather than who they were. Sure, there were still a lot of unhappy fans but no one can honestly say they weren't true to the characters. Kloves changed the characters, made them less than what they are in the books. I would not have cared about these books so much if the characters had actually been the way Kloves portrays them and for that I will never forgive him.Avatar ImageReader511 says: Kloves did a terrible job adapting the books to the big screen. I won't repeat what others here have said--attributing lines to Hermione that were others' lines in the books, adding scenes/things (the Shrunken Head was the WORST thing I've seen), etc. Numerous people have told me that they have never read the books; they have only seen the movies. I have told them that they are missing 90% of what Harry Potter is, then, because Steve Kloves is NOT J.K. Rowling, and the magic of Harry Potter is brought to life because of Jo. People for the most part "like" the movies because they are Harry Potter fans, have read the books and understand everything that is missing, so the movies become a Cliff's Notes version of the books on the big screen.Avatar ImageReader511 says: Kloves did a terrible job adapting the books to the big screen. I won't repeat what others here have said--attributing lines to Hermione that were others' lines in the books, adding scenes/things (the Shrunken Head was the WORST thing I've seen), etc. Numerous people have told me that they have never read the books; they have only seen the movies. I have told them that they are missing 90% of what Harry Potter is, then, because Steve Kloves is NOT J.K. Rowling, and the magic of Harry Potter is brought to life because of Jo. People for the most part "like" the movies because they are Harry Potter fans, have read the books and understand everything that is missing, so the movies become a Cliff's Notes version of the books on the big screen.Avatar Imagevandy says: I've always loved Kloves' work.. Some people say his writing is just cheesy but I like it.. For one thing , I felt the 'magic' was missing in OOTP. All right ,he did give Hermione more limelight than Ron but other than that his work was good.Avatar ImageBeazle says: Of course Jo is going to say that she like the films....she is after all, a pro and there is obviously an enormous financial incentive NOT to have the author panning the films ! But Kloves has made Ron into a barely necessary figure of derision. Remember the end of HBP when H &H are discussing the future and Ron is not included ! There are numerous other examples. Unlike the respect and love shown by the Lord of the Rings writers, to totally change a central character's role and to bolster that of another for no good reason is appalling.Avatar Imagesidnandragin says: @dumblebridge. From the very beginning. JK has to say that she likes Kloves. There is really nothing she can do about it. She gave away her right to the screenplays. She is saving face. Go look to the articles from very beginning. Ever since the third movie, she insisted to Kloves that Hermione and Harry are not going to happen. She has to save face. These are her characters. Go to imdb, you will be surprised. Avatar Imagesidnandragin says: @Beazle... Thank you! My friend & I stated the same thing. Kloves wrote Ron as a buffoon. Ron was soo much more than that. Hermione is smart but Ron is just as smart. He plays chess, did Kloves pass over that fact? Because I know chess is a hard game to learn and there is no way a non thinker can walk into a game like chess and not be aware of the next move. It makes me sad that he is not good in keeping in tune with the characters. looking forward to the rewrite. I love you Ron & Ginny. You were both robbed!Avatar ImageDumblebridge says: Are you doubting JKR's integrity sidnandragin? and do you really think she needs to save face - she is the most successful woman in the world!! If she says she likes the films she likes the films. They are not meant to copy the books, they are their own universe.

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