Producer David Heyman recounts the highs and lows of making the first three films ''Potter'' movies, from finding Harry to losing Richard Harris
David Heyman found his Harry Potter at the theater. Summer 2000: The Warner Bros. exec-turned-producer (Juice, The Daytrippers) was preparing to put Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or ”Philosopher’s Stone,” as the Brits prefer) into production. But he still didn’t have a boy wizard, even after auditioning thousands of children. One night, Heyman and Potter scribe Steve Kloves decided to catch a production of Stones in His Pockets in London’s West End. At the theater, he spotted an acquaintance named Alan Radcliffe, who had brought his son, Daniel, whom Heyman had never met before. ”It was like lightning,” says the producer, 44. ”I didn’t pay attention to the play. I was just looking at him.” The next day, Heyman phoned. Tea with Daniel was arranged. And the rest is franchise history — one filled with happy accidents, some heartbreak, and even an underwater puppeteer. With four films in the can and three books left to go — the midpoint in what he calls ”a most wonderful journey” — Heyman looks back on the pivotal moments that have shaped the series thus far.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
For me, it began with my secretary. One Monday in 1998, she said, ”I read something I quite like: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” I said, ”That’s a bad title. What’s it about?” I took it home. Read it. Loved it. After Warner Bros. optioned it, I went to lunch with Jo [author J.K. Rowling], who was deeply [exhausted], having just been to a book party at her publisher’s the night before. But we got along. The next signature moment: meeting Steven Spielberg. His focus was just impressive. Ultimately, he made the decision not to [direct] it. If I’m 100 percent honest, I’m more at the heart of this than I might have been had he been involved. We ultimately went with Chris Columbus, who was an incredible partner and laid the foundation for all that followed. Hiring screenwriter Steve Kloves and production designer Stuart Craig was critical. And then Daniel. There were three finalists for Harry. But Daniel — the way he talked and laughed, and his curiosity — embodied so many of the qualities we were looking for. I remember sending a tape of him to Jo and talking her through it as she watched it, and her being so moved by the choice. I recall vividly showing her the finished movie. Nervous as all hell. Afterward, she just stood up, walked over, and gave me a big hug. To say the least, I was greatly relieved.