Harry Potter knows how to pull a vanishing act. In his final appearance as a big-screen action hero in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2 (2011, PG-13, 2 hrs., 10 mins.), J.K. Rowling’s iconic boy wizard defeated Lord Voldemort in spectacular (Oscar-worthy?) fashion, grossing $1.3 billion worldwide in the process. Now comes word that soon all eight Harry Potter films will disappear from local DVD retailers, as Warner Bros. prepares to stop stocking stores with product beginning next month. By making Harry scarce, the studio wants to prime the market for special-edition discs that will hit in the years to come. (It seems Harry Potter knows a thing or two about marketing as well.)
The first-edition DVD of Deathly Hallows—Part 2, on sale Nov. 11, is a pretty special product on its own — but only if you have a Blu-ray player. The standard-issue DVD has meager extras: additional scenes; a tour of Leavesden Studios, where the Potter flicks were shot. Ho-hum. But the Blu-ray experience casts an immersive, transporting spell. You get the Maximum Movie Mode hosted by actor Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), which allows viewers to interact with the film and access behind-the-scenes material, plus a how-they-did-that feature showing how the makeup artists turned Warwick Davis into a goblin. But the biggest revelations come from J.K. Rowling herself. In two different features, the author opens up about the input she gave to the filmmakers over the past decade and shares some secrets about the books, too. In ”The Women of Harry Potter,” for example, Rowling discloses how the death of her mother influenced her writing, and she reveals an elaborate backstory for Professor McGonagall (played by Maggie Smith in the films) that never made it into the novels.
Best of all is a wide-ranging conversation between Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe. Here are the highlights:
Rowling thought that Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and especially Emma Watson were ”too good-looking” to convincingly play the ”geeky” Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
”It was really lucky I spoke to [Emma] first on the phone, because I absolutely fell in love with her,” says Rowling. ”And then when I met her, and she was this really beautiful girl, I just had to go, ‘Okay. It’s film. Deal with it. I’m still going to see the gawky-geeky ugly-duckling Hermione in my mind.”’
Radcliffe had a bad reaction to his first pair of Potter glasses.
”I had these two rings of whiteheads around my eyes,” recalls Radcliffe. ”It took us two weeks to realize it was the glasses.” Radcliffe also thanks Rowling for giving permission to change Harry’s eye color (green in the books) because he had ”an extreme reaction” to the contact lenses that were developed for the first movie.
Rowling never insisted that the movies be exhaustive, literal adaptations of her books.
”I was always accepting of that,” she says. ”It didn’t need to be a word-for-word transcription of my world.” Yet Rowling was persnickety about depictions of magic. During the third movie, she vetoed director Alfonso Cuarón’s proposed addition of a musical instrument that is operated by enchanted little people.
Radcliffe asks Rowling if her infamous ”Dumbledore is gay” pronouncement was merely an attempt to ”stir up” the American press.
Answer: No. She says she wasn’t explicit about calling out the Hogwarts headmaster’s homosexuality in the books because ”it wasn’t relevant.” Still, she hoped adult readers would catch on. (If only Radcliffe had asked some follow-up questions here.)
Contrary to legend, Rowling didn’t write the last chapter of the saga years in advance.
While writing the first novel, she says, ”I wrote a sketch of what the final chapter would be. That’s true. But it changed.” Biggest deviation: Professor Lupin (David Thewlis in the films) survived. But she always knew Harry would ”die” (a secret she shared with Radcliffe before publication), and from the start she had the image of Hagrid carrying Harry’s ”lifeless” body out of the Forbidden Forest before the final confrontation with Voldemort. After finally writing the last chapter for real, Rowling says, ”I cried as I had not cried since my mother died. It was a place I could escape to for 17 years, and I knew the door had closed.” And now it’s closed for us, too.