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SNEAKS 2007

`Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix'

At Hogwarts, politics becomes hot subject

January 14, 2007|Susan King

DAVID YATES has made a name for himself as a director of politically charged British stories such as the BBC miniseries "State of Play" and the HBO movie "The Girl in the Cafe."

So it seems a bit incongruous that the British filmmaker was asked to direct the fifth installment in the blockbuster "Harry Potter" franchise, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which opens July 13.

"It was interesting to get the call," says Yates, who had never read any of J.K. Rowling's novels. "I wouldn't have put myself forward as an obvious candidate."

But then he read "Order of the Phoenix" and discovered the story had strong political overtones. "And it's probably the most emotional of all the books," he says. "As I read the book, suddenly, I tuned into the kind of thing I have always been drawn to."

In this outing, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) returns for his fifth year at Hogwarts only to learn the majority of the wizard community denies the truth of his recent encounter with the evil Lord Voldemort.

To keep tabs on Harry and headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), the Minister for Magic assigns a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, the ruthless Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton).

"Professor Umbridge is quite damaged as a person," says Yates. "She basically abuses Harry and puts him through this horrific detention. It is horrific abuse."

-- Susan King

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