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ON THE SET

'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'

The hotly anticipated sixth film promises more humorous moments than previous installments, but a major character will die.

May 03, 2009|Geoff Boucher

WATFORD, ENGLAND — Daniel Radcliffe has spent half his life in the role of boy wizard Harry Potter, so it's difficult to imagine any surprises presenting themselves on the set of the sixth film, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," which arrives in theaters July 15.

"You would think that, but truly every film is different, and this time around the refreshing aspect was the adolescent romantic core of this film, which should be absolutely charming and very funny," Radcliffe said during a break from shooting. "So from that point of view, it is quite a different film, because we haven't had anything that has had this sort of light and warm and funny a core before."

Radcliffe had just finished shooting a holiday party scene on an especially vibrant set at an airplane factory that a decade ago was converted into the stone-walled Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

It was a brisk February afternoon in 2008, and the actor had no idea that a Christmas would come and go before "Half-Blood Prince" appeared in theaters; the sixth Potter adventure was scheduled for release last November but, to the disappointment of fans, Warner Bros. executives announced last summer that they would postpone the film for eight months to maximize its market position.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, May 03, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
"Harry Potter": An article in today's Calendar on the new "Harry Potter" film misidentifies the actress who plays Hermione as Emily Watson. Her name is Emma Watson.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, May 10, 2009 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part D Page 2 Calendar Desk 3 inches; 122 words Type of Material: Correction
Summer Sneaks: 1. A photo caption last Sunday for the film "Imagine That" misidentified the girl who plays Eddie Murphy's daughter as Bobb'e J. Thompson. She is Yara Shahidi. 2. A photo caption for the film "The Hangover" said the film would open June 12. It opens June 5. 3. An article about the film "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" misidentified actress Emma Watson, who plays Hermione, as Emily Watson. 4. An article about the movie "Angels & Demons" said it was adapted from the Dan Brown novel that had preceded the author's "The Da Vinci Code" on bestseller lists. The novel's publication did precede "The Da Vinci Code," but it did not hit bestseller lists until after "Code" did so.

It remains to be seen whether fans will hold a grudge against the film for the delay -- many pledged to boycott it or at least skip the opening weekend to express their ire -- but it's hard to imagine the popcorn juggernaut can be slowed, much less stopped. The last film, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," pulled in $938 million worldwide, making it the most successful edition since the first installment, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in 2001, pulled in $974 million. The franchise has brought in close to $4.5 billion, a number that would make any muggle studio executive believe in magic.

There were seven "Potter" novels published, but the studio and filmmakers will split the final book into two films, a decision they attribute to the action-packed density of the story, not to the allure of squeezing out one more box-office jackpot from the series. Those closing chapters of Potter's grand cinema adventure are scheduled for release in November 2010 and July 2011.

While the fifth Potter film was dedicated largely to the title character, "Half-Blood Prince" will bundle plot lines for a wider section of the ensemble and set the stage for the intense crescendos that will dominate the final two movies.

This sixth installment delves into the creepy past of villain Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), introduces a key newcomer in bon vivant Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) and also climaxes, as readers of the novels know, with one of the major characters giving up the ghost.

Despite that grim loss, director David Yates, who also directed the fifth film and has been contracted to helm the franchise through to its conclusion, said there is "a charm and sweetness" to this particular installment of the J.K. Rowling literary series, and that will be reflected on-screen. The status-obsessed Slughorn and his machinations inject plenty of humor into the film (and may remind some viewers of the comic relief provided by Kenneth Branagh and his vainglorious Gilderoy Lockhart in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"), and a centerpiece moment is Ron's slapstick debut as a Quidditch player.

Radcliffe said the scene will be a hilarious treat for franchise fans, but not everyone was thrilled during the filming -- Rupert Grint, as Ron, had long envied the actors who got to swoop across the screen in the sport that is a sort of flying-broomstick version of lacrosse.

"I found out it was not as much fun to film as I hoped," said Grint, who was left weary and sore by the mechanized broom handle and had headaches from staring at the giant green screen that provides the backdrop canvas for computer artists to later fill in with crowds and the towering playing field. "It's going to be more fun to watch than it was to film."

There's also all that romance as the students, now in their late teens, learn the bittersweet lessons of love. Emily Watson, who fills out the trio of pals as Hermione, said that after so many years of battling magical beasties it was a treat for the students of Hogwarts to tussle with their own passions and enjoy some pratfalls.

"It's so much fun, and I'm really enjoying it," Watson said sitting in her pink-bedecked dressing room. "And it makes a change, because the last one was very heavy, and it is really nice to have that. . . . It's a nice break for me. And for the fans, I think it's going to be very, very funny."

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geoff.boucher@latimes.com

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SUMMER MOVIE MOMENTS

'They're heeeere.'

"Poltergeist," June 4, 1982

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latimes.com/sneaks

Be very afraid

Sam Raimi returns to his horror roots with "Drag Me to Hell," just one of several scary films releasing this summer. See what Raimi has to say about that and mark your calendars for the release dates of Rob Zombie's "H2," the latest "Final Destination" installment, and more.

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