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Columbus Talks About Potter

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With principal photography on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone finally completed, director Chris Columbus is now letting out a few tidbits regarding the highly anticipated film in between editing the movie and overseeing the many special effects it requires. Columbus told USA Today that he was surrounded by Potter experts during filming, including his 12-year-old daughter Eleanor who first brought the book to his attention.

"She's seen quite a bit of the footage and she's impressed," Columbus told USA Today. "When you come home from work and talk about the day, usually you don't have your kids correcting you. But she'd tell me, 'You can't do this,' 'You have to do this.' It was a passion for me to be as faithful to the book as possible."

Diagon Alley

The film's second trailer (the first was only a brief tease) is set to debut today on America Online (keyword: Harry Potter), followed by the Harry Potter Web site and then appearing in theaters on June 29 before screenings of A.I. Artificial Intelligence.  The trailer is sure to whet the appetite of the series' faithful as brief glimpses indicate that painstaking care was taken. Among the tidbits shown are Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall greeting the new students; the great hall at Hogwarts; a visit to Diagon Alley; Richard Harris as Head Master Dumbledore; Robbie Coltrane as groundskeeper Hagrid; Alan Rickman as Professor Snape, nastily referring to Harry as their "new celebrity"; the Forbidden Forest; Harry and his pals Ron and Hermione; and Harry's owl, Hedwig, delivering Harry's first magical broom. 

Harry shows his scar

However some fans are likely to express a little disappointment on two fronts — one involving something in the trailer and others something that is missing. The trailer includes a snippet where Ron and Hermione ask Harry about his famous lightning bolt scar, which Harry acquired as a baby when the evil Lord Voldemort's spell backfired on him. As seen here, Harry's scar has been moved to the right side of the his forehead, rather than in the center as always depicted in the books. Purists are sure to complain, but the change is small and makes it easier for Harry's hair to conceal.

The Golden Snitch

The other possible disappointment is that while Quidditch is clearly referenced to in the trailer — Harry briefly holds the Golden Snitch that is essential to the game — there are no actual shots of the soccer-like game wizards and witches play while flying on broomstick.

"The key is to show a little Quidditch when it's ready," Columbus said. "I want people to be intrigued and excited about seeing the film, but I don't want to spoil the experience for anybody. Too many trailers do that." Columbus added that the Quidditch sequence took three-and-half months to film.

The chess challenge

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling reportedly agrees with Columbus' approach to the trailers and has been very involved in the production planning, which no doubt was at least a small factor in the delay of the fifth book's release. (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is now tentatively scheduled for a Feb. 2002 release.) Rowling consulted with Columbus, producer David Heyman and screenwriter Steve Kloves many times before filming began in order to make sure the film would please fans of the novels.

Flight instruction

Columbus praised the three children — Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger — who play the leads, saying that they're all talented and got along really well. Columbus was also very pleased with his all-British cast, which also includes John Hurt, Fiona Shaw, John Cleese and others.

"There's not a sense of ego with any of the stars, none of that Hollywood stuff," said Columbus. "Everyone just comes in to do their work. Nobody has a cook or a personal trainer. It's just so refreshing."

Meanwhile, when fans aren't buzzing about the trailer, they're talking about casting rumors for the second film. Officially, Warner Bros. hasn't announced anything in regard to the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but since the first film is almost guaranteed to do well with the scores of fans curious about it and any further films must be made quickly before the young stars grow too old, it only makes sense that some advance work on it would have begun.

The rumor flames were fanned recently when Hugh Grant mentioned Chamber of Secrets on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, though it was clear that any discussions were in extremely early stages. Fans have latched onto the tidbit, generally agreeing that Hugh Grant would be perfect as the handsome, egotistical Dark Arts teacher Gilderoy Lockhart. Sources at the studio have confirmed that some casting has begun for characters who do not appear in the first film, such as Colin Creevey, Cornelius Fudge, Lucius Malfoy, Moaning Myrtle, Arthur Weasley, and Tom Riddle.

Regardless of controversy or casting, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is guaranteed to do well financially. The film's budget is said to be in excess of $130 million, but a licensing deal signed with Coca-Cola a few months ago was worth in more than $110 million, making it the largest licensing agreement ever. The deal was also unusual in that Rowling, whom Warner Bros. consults even though she does not have final authorization in regard to the movie's licensing, insisted that some of Coca-Cola's money be used to support literacy programs worldwide, especially in Third World countries. Literacy non-profit organizations will be designated to help Coca-Cola find the neediest schools which will receive donations of classic books and new titles, as well as books in Braille and multiple languages. All Coca-Cola products will also carry display the statement "You're supporting book donations to schools" for three years.

Katie Wright-Neil, Coca-Cola's manager of consumer promotions confirmed the program saying, "We promised Warner Bros. and J.K. Rowling that this would be about reading first. New-book distribution is the biggest need."

Rowling also refused to allow Harry to be used in fast-food tie-ins, so don't expect to see Harry Potter children's meals. There is no word on why she rejected such a potentially lucrative deal, but one can't help but wonder if a mother's concern for children's diets is a factor.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone opens Nov. 16.


Harry Potter characters and novels J.K. Rowling and her respective publishers. Accompanying stills and the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 2001 Warner Bros.













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