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Q&A: David Heyman

THR sits down with the wizard behind the 'Potter' franchise

David Heyman is on his cell phone, talking about how the "Harry Potter" franchise has changed during the past 10 years, and his voice suddenly drops to barely a whisper. "I've just gone on set and everyone has to be quiet. It costs money if you spoil a take," he laughs quietly. Heyman is shooting the last, two-part installment of a franchise that has become one of the most lucrative in history. When the producer struck a deal to bring J.K. Rowling's creation to the big screen in 1997, no one knew just how big it would get. Heyman recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter's Stuart Kemp about working with Warner Bros. and just what his future holds in a post-"Potter" world.

The Hollywood Reporter: You studied art history at Harvard. Ever regret choosing producing over art dealing?

David Heyman: No, (though) there was a point where I contemplated being an art dealer. But now I love art as someone who goes to galleries occasionally, who buys occasionally.

THR: How has the "Potter" franchise evolved since you began producing all those years ago?

Heyman: In a couple of ways. Firstly, it has become slightly more contemporary in spirit, even though it's clearly surrounded by traditions and old-fashioned influences. The issues we're dealing with in the more recent movies are very different from those from the first films. The books themselves have matured and have become a more natural counterpoint to the magical world in which they are set. Secondly, from the third film, we began to tell the stories from Harry's point of view. As the books became larger and more extensive in scope, it became obvious we'd have to tell the story from Harry's point of view rather than attempt to make a single film using all the character strands.

THR: Have the budgets grown?

 

Heyman: These are not inexpensive films to make and Warner Bros. has not scrimped on them once. We try to make them as efficiently as possible and with every film there are budget restrictions. But that can be a good thing because adapting to those restrictions often inspires creativity and imagination. (Warner Bros.) has never done anything to limit our scale and meticulousness with the material.

THR: Do you feel differently as a producer tackling the last books in the franchise than you felt when you embarked on the process for the first time?

Heyman: There is an element of feeling more confident and you understand the framework and practicalities of making such a film a bit more. The difference with the last two films ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts I & II"), is I feel a sense of the end being nigh and a lot of us (working on it) feeling that mix of melancholy and excitement. We've all grown up doing this process of eight films. In the 10 years of making the films, people have married, divorced, babies have been born and it really is like a big family. But we are all excited about embracing the future.

THR: You haven't just made "Harry Potter" movies. How did you manage to make other films ("Yes Man," "I Am Legend," "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" and "Is Anybody There?") while embroiled in "Potter"?

Heyman: It wasn't without its challenges. The great thing on "Potter" is that the lines of communication are fast, open and really direct. It means everything on "Potter" has its own shorthand and decisions are quick and easy.

THR: Warner Bros. has backed the "Potters," but you have worked with other studios on other projects. How is the climate for independent producers?

Heyman: The options in terms of U.S. financing for movies are demonstrably more limited than they were. Studios are primarily interested in big tentpole pictures right now, so it is hard for independent producers.