The Big Picture
- David Yates considers Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 to be the most challenging and rewarding film he worked on in the franchise.
- The film had no natural end point and lacked a third act, making it difficult to create a satisfying structure.
- The editing process involved retooling certain plot elements to create the illusion of more happening at the climax, resulting in a creative compromise.
David Yates has seven Wizarding World films on his CV at this point, but he’s opened up on one in particular which he felt was the most challenging and rewarding to put on screen via the magic of editing and post-production. Yates took over the Harry Potter franchise in its fifth iteration, Order of the Phoenix, before seeing it through to its conclusion, and then following it up with work on the Fantastic Beasts saga. However, it was the penultimate Potter that required the most work.
While promoting his newest film Pain Hustlers at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Collider’s Editor-in-chief Steve Weintraub spoke with Yates about which of his projects had seen the most notable changes from filming to the finished article via the editing process, which led Yates to open up on his work helming the legendary Harry Potter franchise, and in particular, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One, which was the most notable film of the series in that it took the plot away from Hogwarts for the first time.
The film was also a tough one to make because, as part one of a double-hander, the film had no natural end point, nor did it have a third act of which to speak within the body of the novel upon which it was based. The film itself concluded with the daring escape from Malfoy Manor, thanks to the assistance of Dobby who is taken down by the flying blade of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), the house elf’s burial, and finally, a stunningly composed and ominous shot of Ralph Fiennes’ Lord Voldemort peering over the corpse of Michael Gambon‘s Albus Dumbledore, before blasting the Elder Wand into the night sky. On the film’s lack of a third act and natural breaking point, Yates revealed that those were the two biggest issues with making the film, which was, in essence, a road movie as it saw the central trio travelling across Britain while on the run from Voldemort’s Death Eaters.
“Oh, that’s a good question. Probably [Harry Potter and the] Deathly Hallows: Part 1],” said Yates. “The great challenge of that film was it didn’t actually have a third act. It kind of ran out of steam halfway through, and Mark [Day – the editor on the final four Potter films] and I would often sit there kind of figuring it out and saying, “This movie doesn’t have a third act. How are we gonna…? Hang on, this is crazy. It doesn’t have a third act.”
Magic Wands and Jazz Hands
Yates expanded on what he felt made the movie special, as more of a character piece than the usual three-act structure set within the walls of Hogwarts, which would see a setup, a challenge, and then a payoff all within the year of school, which worked neatly within novels. In order to counter that, certain elements of the plot were retooled within the edit, in order to make it seem as if more was actually happening at the climax of the film than was actually visible. This allowed for more creative compromise, and it’s for that reason Yates is always delighted when people tell him the film is his favourite.
“Those two movies, Part 1 and Part 2, the idea was the first one was a road movie that was very sort of, like, take the kids out of the school, put them in jeopardy outside of that safe place, and see how they grow up and their relationship is tested. But then you go straight into the climax and the fireworks to the final one. So, we noodled Part One to bits to try and feel that the end of the movie had an escalation when, in fact, it’s Jazz Hands. [Laughs] There’s not much going on at the end in the second half of the movie, and I say that with great– People still say to me, “My favorite film is Hallows: Part One, mate. That was so amazing. It felt like a European road movie.” And I’m going, “Yeah, but the work we did in the edit was unbelievable.”
Pain Hustlers stars Chris Evans and Emily Blunt. It will be released in select theaters on October 20, before premiering exclusively on Netflix one week later, on October 27. Check out the trailer for the movie below: