Here’s a Harry Potter book that all, even Muggles, can love

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 26, 2011 

Harry Potter fans, rejoice!

An oversized coffee-table behemoth of a book, “Harry Potter: Page to Screen” by Bob McCabe is a wonderful wallow. The 504 pages are rich with photographs, drawings and anecdotes from the movies. It is aimed squarely at the “Harry Potter” fan who has it all, and it hits the bull’s-eye.

The film world of “Harry Potter” started in 1997 when producer David Heyman was introduced to the manuscript of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” — the British title for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” The manuscript had been retrieved from a slush pile in the office, and while skeptical, Heyman started reading and fell in love. Twelve years later, they wrapped the eighth and final movie of a blockbuster series of films.

Over those years much happened. There was the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorism in London, and several stock market crashes. Real life was less than happy for many people.

Inside the boarding school of Hogwarts, the trio of Potter and his friends Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley learned to be wizards, faced death several times, went through adolescence torment, and fell in love. Sound familiar?

But, in the end in Harry Potter’s world, good conquers evil and made book and cinematic history.

The “Harry Potter” series may have been based in a school, but the book makes clear that the films WERE a school in more than one sense. A talented crew of young actors learned their trade from some of the finest thespians in Britain, including the late Richard Harris.

For example, Daniel Radcliffe — the hero Harry Potter — credits Kenneth Branagh, a noted Shakespearean actor, with a discussion of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”: “What a privilege and what a teacher.”

Tom Felton, who played the bullying, conflicted Draco Malfoy, says working with Jason Isaacs (Draco’s father, the vicious Lucius) was a privilege. “He’d be telling me a story right before a scene, and as he’s saying, ‘I was working with Scorsese on this film …’ we’d hear ‘Action!” and boom, he turns straightaway into this insane person — literally Lucifer himself. … I just soaked in everything he did and then tried to display it myself.”

The production section of “Page to Screen” is fantastic. There are fold-out pages of brooms, Death Eaters’ masks and dragons.

Want to make the wand of a Death Eater? You can start by seeing production sketches of them. Concept designer Adam Brockbank says of the evil Voldemort’s wand, “I had this idea that it was carved to resemble a bone, probably a human one.”

For the kitten plates on the walls of Dolores Umbridge’s office, they filmed 40 cats. “We had a fantastic all-day session … filming kittens dressed in knighted wool cardigans, jackets, and ruffs; on the ‘beach’ with sand castles and seashells; and, of course, wearing a witch’s hat and sitting in an empty cauldron,” says set decorator Stephenie McMillan.

Jany Termine, costume designer for “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” provides her insights: “A character’s clothing must have just as much history as the character who wears them.” For example, Emma Watson’s multi-tiered dress for the Yule ball was “really special. It took three months just to make this one dress alone, including twelve meters (thirty-nine feet) of chiffon.” It “was the real start of her being an object of desire for Ron.”

Termine had no problem dressing Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). “Ron’s mother, Molly, loves to use all these colors (brown, orange and red) in the knitted sweaters and scarves she unrelentingly bestows on her children.”

“Page to Screen” devotes page even to lesser characters. Even Barty Crouch Jr., played by David Tennant, who will be better known for his years on “Doctor Who,” has a full page of his thug costume.

The only thing lacking in “Page to Screen” is an index.


Harry Potter: Page to Screen — The Complete Filmmaking Journey” by Bob McCabe; Harper Design, NY (540 pages, $75)



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