For adult filmgoers, the most fun thing about a Harry Potter movie is seeing all those great classically trained British actors--Maggie Smith, Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson--hamming it up mercilessly. The installment arriving this November, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, brings us more: Miranda Richardson as reporter Rita Skeeter and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. It also brings us something we haven't had before on a Harry Potter film: an English director.
Several British directors were approached for the initial Potter film. "And, in a kind of classically English way, everyone said, 'It's just kids' stuff,'" says Mike Newell, who is directing Goblet. "I'm afraid I was one of those people. And I was entirely wrong."
What converted Newell (apart, of course, from the first three movies' combined $2.6 billion worldwide take) was Goblet's plot. "Book No. 4 seemed to me to have terrific potential," says Newell. "It's very, very dark and sort of a classic thriller." To prepare for the film, the director "began obsessively watching the great paranoid thrillers like Three Days of the Condor and All the President's Men."
Going from Woodward and Bernstein to Potter and Weasley is taking the scenic route, but Newell felt he knew where the journey should begin and end. "First, if Harry is, in films 1 to 3, a hero, he's an accidental hero. He's somebody who simply finds himself in the eye of the storm each time," says Newell. "I thought Goblet was actually about Harry becoming Harry."
For many fans, the director's most crucial task is bringing Voldemort to life. Warner Bros. is keeping mum on the details of the Dark Lord's look, but Newell lets drop a few clues: he has a snake's nose, horrible skin and no hair. "The image we have," he says, "is of a 2-hour-old chick which somebody dropped into a pan of boiling water and whipped out." Seems like the franchise is in safe hands. --By Jumana Farouky/London