A peek at the sixth Harry Potter film -- While everyone reads ''Deathly Hallows'' film execs focus on ''Half-Blood Prince''

By Steve Daly
Updated July 27, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

The film version of Deathly Hallows won’t be in theaters until at least summer 2010, and as everyone who’s raced through the book already knows, Warner Bros. has a formidable adaptation job ahead. There’s no official word on who will direct, but first crack has always gone to whoever helmed the previous film — making David Yates the leading candidate. Yates, currently basking in the huge grosses for Order of the Phoenix, is scrambling to prep movie 6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, for a September start date. (That one’s due in theaters Nov. 21, 2008.) He’s looking forward to the challenge. ”It’s sex, drugs, and rock & roll,” says Yates. ”If Phoenix is about that place in late childhood where you rebel, Half-Blood Prince is that stage where you really learn to surf as a teenager. It’s playful and funny and full of sexual and emotional politics.” Adds producer David Heyman, ”It’s about that moment in life where you become acutely aware of the opposite sex.”

Or it will be once series screenwriter Steve Kloves (who skipped movie 5) finishes refining the script. Kloves has been sweating over how to dramatize Prince‘s flashback-heavy narrative since its publication. ” Half-Blood Prince has some of Jo [Rowling]’s most accomplished writing,” he told EW a couple of years ago. ”But it doesn’t give you as many cinematic gifts as some of the other books. That said…the imagery is haunting, and the evolution of evil — the origin of Voldemort — is amazing.” Just who will play Voldemort as his teenage self hasn’t been announced; open auditions were held in early July. No confirmation either on who’ll portray portly new Potions teacher Horace Slughorn, or whether Internet rumors claiming Naomi Watts will join the cast (along with Joseph Fiennes, whose brother Ralph plays Voldemort) are anything but piffle.

For now, one thing’s set: This time, there’ll be Quidditch, as Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) becomes an unlikely sports hero. It’ll be a last lighthearted interlude before the gloom and tears of Deathly Hallows set in.