Brooms flew over Leicester Square gardens in London last night, albeit invisibly with the aid of cleverly-placed surround sound speakers, to whisk Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and author JK Rowling to the European premiere of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", and Rotten Tomatoes UK was there to brush up on our wizardry.
But moments after the first VIP arrival, Voldemort’s Death Eaters appeared and – some say coincidentally – a rumble of thunder announced the opening of the heavens, soaking all and sundry and condemning fans to the reality that they would, indeed, be soaking wet for their first encounter with Ms. Rowling and company. Still, while the brief but devastating shower left this journalist wetter than a dip in the Great Lake – dorky Hogwarts reference, ladies and gentlemen – it wasn’t long before spirits were raised as the first of the evening’s many guests joined us for a chat.
And our first encounter was with Rupert Grint who, perhaps unlike his character Ron Weasley, is probably the most laid-back of the famous trio. "It’s exciting to be here," he deadpanned to Rotten Tomatoes and we’re fairly certain he meant it. "The premieres seem to be getting bigger and better every year as the films progress."
Joining Harry as part of Dumbledore’s Army, Ron is integral to the film’s climactic battle between Voldemort’s Death Eaters and Hogwarts’ students, deep underground at the Ministry of Magic’s head office. And for Grint, getting involved in the action was great fun, "Usually Ron isn’t the bravest of the three, and in the other films he’s been a bit of a wimp, but this time he’s much tougher and much more mature and gets to fight a little bit. It’s quite cool."
On the brewing romance between Ron and Hermione, Grint confirmed that he’d definitely noticed something going on. "There’s definitely something between Ron and Hermione, there’s quite a bit of tension there, so I think maybe we’ll see more of that [in Book Seven]."
Keen to settle a bet for us, Grint confirmed that he does indeed, as reports have mentioned, own an Ice Cream van. "It’s just a bit of fun really," he laughed, "I’ve always loved Ice Cream vans so it’s kind-of cool to own one!"
Daniel Radcliffe, on the eve of his eighteenth birthday, was clearly still celebrating the success he’s had performing on London’s West End in "Equus", and noted to Rotten Tomatoes that "Order of the Phoenix", too, had presented some interesting challenges. "It was much more challenging, but that’s what made it more fun to be perfectly honest," he told us, "Rather than all the action side of things, I much preferred doing the side of things that’s more about the emotion and the intensity."
Of course a trio isn’t a trio without a third person, and it was the turn of Emma Watson to face the Rotten Tomatoes Dictaphone. "I don’t think it’s possible to get used to these premieres," she told us, "I feel slightly more like I know what I’m doing, so that’s nice. Before it was just one big panic but now I kind-of feel like I know what I have to do!"
Watson told us she’s on tenterhooks to learn Hermione’s fate in the final book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", which is released later this month. "I want her to get with Ron," she theorised, "I want them to get together, I want her to have a really good career and I desperately hope she doesn’t die!"
Regardless with the launch of the final book this year and the realisation that there are only two more films on the way, the sense that the Potter phenomenon is winding down is clearly being felt. "We call it the Harry Potter family; everyone comes back every year and it’s really nice to make friends like that," Watson remembered, "I think I’ll cry a lot when it’s all over."
The film’s director, David Yates, was the next to say hello. He told RT-UK that helming "Order of the Phoenix" was like, "Christmas and birthday all at the same time, it’s very exciting. I think the film’s quite interesting and intense and quite emotional. The world’s getting a bit older and more complicated and it’s a really interesting place to go when you go to Hogwarts, I really like it."
But he told us that he wasn’t won over the second he got the call. "I wasn’t sure initially whether I was really suited to it," he said, "All of my drama work has been quite intense and quite emotional and I wasn’t sure whether the film would call for that. But I’d have been stupid to walk away from it, and I realised, as I said, that that’s exactly what the film is about."
Producer David Heyman was full of praise for his latest Potter director. "David brings a real emotional conviction; I think this is much more emotional than the previous films. And he brings a great enthusiasm, I think the kids have improved so much – they bring themselves and their experiences away from Potter to it – and David has been brilliant at encouraging their performances."
While the directors have changed from film to film – to date only Chris Columbus has done two – this is the first time the screenwriter has changed, with Michael Goldenberg replacing Steve Kloves who took a break to write The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. "I think Michael’s done a great job synthesising this very lengthy book," Heyman said, "and giving it a real emotional story and narrative. I think the book needs this kind of approach; he’s made it feel really grounded and there’s a very clear narrative line to it, which is great."
On the next film, the stars were tight-lipped but we did get some tasters from them on what they were most looking forward to. "Filming the cave is going to be exciting," Radcliffe told us, "I don’t know how they’re going to do it, but I really can’t wait for those scenes."
Yates, who is returning to make the next film after having such a fun time on Order of the Phoenix, told us that his biggest challenge was likely to be the comedy. "It’s much funnier," he joked, "so that’ll be interesting. But it’ll be great fun I think."
"So far David and Steve Kloves have been working brilliantly together on the script for six," Heyman noted, "We’re going to start filming in September and the script is coming along really well."
Though it wasn’t all good news about the sixth film. Richard Griffiths said he hadn’t been called to reprise his role as Vernon Dursley in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," suggesting that the Dursley clan won’t be making an appearance. "I just wish there was more time for Dursley," he said, "but most of it ends on the cutting-room floor because time, time, time is the problem with the film. I don’t think I’m returning for ‘Half-Blood Prince’, which is a real shame."
As the light started to fade and the publicists started rushing their charges through to the cinema, we made the big mistake of mentioning to Radcliffe that we’d spotted Shane Warne earlier. "Shane Warne is here?! I am so excited; I’m in love with cricketers! Oh my God – 708 test wickets, I’ll be quoting his stats at him!"
See? Even stars can be fan-boys…