If you’ve had your eyes even half-open during the past 10 years of pop culture, you may be acutely aware that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1″ is coming to the big screen on this Friday. The first installment in the two-film adaptation of the final book in J.K. Rowling’s acclaimed series, it’s the beginning of the end for a film series that’s run over a decade and made billions of dollars while still managing to be impressively well-made and unexpectedly engaging. “Deathly Hallows” isn’t just a rousing adventure in its own right; it’s also full of hints as to how the final film will play out: with real action, real stakes and real consequences.
Talking with Daniel Radcliffe in London, I have to ask him about his reaction when he was first told the final book would be, in fact, split into two films — was it a sigh of exhaustion, or one of relief? “My reaction was, I was overjoyed, to be honest,” he says. “I was advocating it should be two films when I read the book, because I just thought it was impossible. The thing is, people say, ‘Yeah, but it’s not the biggest of the books.’ Well, the fourth (‘Goblet of Fire’) and fifth (‘Order of the Phoenix’) books, they’re big, but there’s so much you can cut from them.”
Diplomatically, Radcliffe explains, “Not being horrible, but if you’re being tough and ruthless about this, you can strip away a lot of stuff (from books four and five) so that you’re still left with the main story. In (“Deathly Hallows”), there aren’t really any subplots. Everything is contributing and vital to the main story, so it’s very hard to tell that story if you cut it down into one movie. Also, I think a lot of the stuff that would have been cut is the stuff that is in this first film where we’re in the forest, and that journey. That’s the really interesting character stuff where we get to explore the relationship. So I think if we had to cut all that, it would cut all our action in the movie, and I would have lost a lot of heart.”
Radcliffe is also honest about what pieces of Harry’s world he’s already grabbed for himself — and what he’s going to miss. “Well, I’ve got the glasses; I’m taking the glasses,” he says. “But also, there’s all the stuff in Dumbledore’s office. Dumbledore’s office is a very, very cool set, because it has a kind of amazing astrolabe and stuff like that. I’ll probably never get to work on a film again where it’s just the norm to have these amazing set pieces everywhere you go.”
This raises the question: Is it going to be hard for Radcliffe to adjust to other films in the future, where the material — and, more importantly, the budget — aren’t going to allow for the level of splurge and spectacle the Potter films have enjoyed? “Very, very few films have a budget comparable to ‘Harry Potter,’ he says. “It’s wild. So, I’m on a film now (‘The Woman in Black’) which is not made for a fraction of the money that ‘Harry Potter’ is, but is, I think, going to be just as good in terms of quality and in terms of how it looks. But I do think I’ve been spoiled, especially in terms of the sets that you just get to walk around. The fact that a huge amount of the exterior stuff of that we do in (“Deathly Hallows”) was actually filmed in the studio where we build forests. There are very few films I’ll go into where they’ll have that kind of capability.”
Finally, I ask Radcliffe what it’s like to be done filming the saga but not done with the release of the saga, as “Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ isn’t slated to hit theaters until July 2011. Is he finished with the films? Is ‘Potter’ frenzy in his metaphorical rear-view mirror? “To an extent, I am finished, but every so often I see it coming up, and then behind me again. I’m on another film at the moment, and next year I’m doing a musical in New York, ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.’ So I’ve got lots of stuff already going on … but July of next year, I will be doing ‘Potter’ again, so it keeps coming back. I think the premiere of the last film will be where I draw the line.”