In the Great Hall of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, breakfast is underway, tables heaped with sausages and toast, casually dressed students talking and eating. Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) stands in the doorway, dressed in full red-and-gold Quidditch kit, nervously surveying the room.
He enters. Fellow students slap him on the back as he walks down the central aisle. "Good luck, eh, Ron?" "Countin' on you, Ron!" "I've got two Galleons on Gryffindor!"
A huge guy blocks Ron's progress. He stops, they do a side-to-side dance, Ron has to squeeze by the guy to get to his table.
It's January 2008 on the set of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, shooting on the stages at Leavesden Film Studios outside London, the longtime home of the Potter film franchise, where SCI FI Wire was among a small group of reporters allowed to observe filming.
In addition to observing the filming that day showing the morning of Ron's debut as a Quidditch player, we sat down and spoke with director David Yates about the sixth film in the beloved franchise, which opens July 15. Following is an edited version of our talk with Yates, who was dressed in a beige V-neck sweater and fleece pullover on this chilly day.
So I think you were quoted as saying this movie's about sex, drugs and rock
Yates: Yeah. I want to amend that. It's actually about sex, potions and rock 'n' roll. ... It's a wonderfully fun, slightly rebellious, quite naughty stage of teenage life. When you're kind of discovering the opposite sex. ... In the previous film, it was about the first kiss. This film is a bit more sexualized than that. You know, in a way. We don't see sex, but it's kind of in there. And the relationships are a bit more complicated and romantic and convoluted. So we're pushing into new emotional and kind of physical territory for Harry Potter, you know, in a way, so it's quite playful and fun.
Do you think Harry Potter fans are going to be ready to see him grown up?
Yates: Do you know, they've been growing up with him, so I figure they would be by now. And that's what's wonderful about this series of films, is that they grow older, the characters grow older. You know, the actors grow older. ... I think it's quite an interesting relationship they probably have with him, and I'm sure they're ready for that.
And there's more comic elements in this film than the last film?
Yates: Very much so. The previous film was, you know, we really enjoyed making the last film. ... I liked the intensity of the story that we did last time. But ... this has intensity, but it's very playful, and there are some terrifically funny scenes. And six is a much lighter, more playful book than five was.
It still has some tremendous intensity at the end of the story, but it's got lots of laughs, too, and for me as a director, what's lovely is to change gears a little bit, and that's why I wanted to do it. I didn't want to make a kind of film about teenage angst; I wanted to make a film about teenage romance, and so, when I took over for Mike Newell—Mike Newell did the fourth film—I said, "You [got a chance to do] the kind of teenage love side of things, and so now I've got a bit of that to do." And it's really fun to come back and do it. ...
Can you talk about the scene that you're shooting now?
Yates: Yeah. This is a, Ron's big Quidditch match, and he's really nervous, and he's not very good, and he's terrified, frankly. And so it's really about him building up to the game. And Harry [Daniel Radcliffe] pretends to slip some Felix Felicis, which is this potion that apparently gives you great luck, and Harry's going to pretend to slip it into his drink to give him this bravura, which he doesn't have. So it's a gentle, funny scene about Ron's trepidation about playing Quidditch. ...
How have the actors changed since the last film?
Yates: That's interesting. Emma [Watson, who plays Hermione,] has become much more confident. I mean, she was confident before, but ... her acting ... is becoming more effortless. Dan's been off and done Equus and some television things, a television film, and he's grown a lot more confident and matured a wee bit. And they're all getting a wee bit older, and the material allows them to take a few more turns, again. They're getting better, as they should be as they get older, you know, so it's encouraging and enjoyable. ...