It's hard to find people who haven't read the Harry Potter books or at least kept up with them. Still, the filmmakers want to make sure the movies stand on their own, even when they're up to part five of the series. Director David Yates' joined the series with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and kept other newcomers in mind.
Yates on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
"I think to a certain extent I have to feel that the audience is going to bring a certain knowledge to the movies when they walk through the door," said Yates. "At the same time, we were very [intent] that this film to try to make it as self-contained as we possibly could, to make it feel like a story in its own right. There’s inevitable connective tissue."
Though Potter fans may rejoice in references to past or future entries, Yates was concerned that dropping too many inside jokes could ruin the film. "The adaptive process is quite tricky. The worst thing you can do in a movie is take the audience out of the moment. Once you start referring back to things that aren't relevant to the story you’re telling or try to predict things that might be coming, it tends to fall into the expositional and that’s not great for theatrical experience. We try to put as much of that out as possible in this movie. I think ultimately the ambition is to kind of reflect that spirit because you inevitably have to loose things along the way to service a theatrical experience for an audience."
Yates also had a Potter expert on the set with him. Evanna Lynch, who plays Luna Lovegood, may be the ultimate Potter fan. "Evanna was just utterly delightful to be around. I’m sure she knows more than J.K. Rowling. She’s just a formidable mind of information. She’s very sweet and very lovely and she really knew Luna inside and out. I was able to lean on that and we were able to have very frank conservations about what Luna would and wouldn’t do. She’s just so delightful and she’s a natural actor. That’s what was really delightful about her is that you can’t see the acting. That’s my favorite kind of acting actually."
For his first big budget visual effects movie, Yates came out of Order of the Phoenix relatively unscathed. "Initially it’s pretty scary. When you go to Leavesden which is where these movies are shot, the scale of the enterprise is just enormous. I went to see Mike Newell shoot Goblet of Fire for half a day and it feels like you’re walking into this Roman arena. It’s massive. You’ve got butterflies in your tummy to begin with, but I really, really quickly found my feet really. I think what you do is you just learn to prioritize what’s the most important thing for you to focus on as a director and for me it was working with Michael [Goldenberg] on the screenplay, pushing the performances and putting a creative team together which is a kind of combination of people I’ve worked with before and people who had already done some Potter."
Ultimately, it was little risk for a newcomer to the franchise. "Actually, it’s an incredibly safe environment. That’s what I’d say about Potter. [Producers] David Heyman and David Barron are both incredibly supportive. The studio was very excited by the dailies so I felt actually quickly very, very confident about the whole thing and I had a great time doing it really."
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is out in theaters.