It’s a wrap!

2011-07-15 09:50

For the final instalment of the hugely popular and lucrative Harry ­Potter movies, the ­makers pulled together a pantheon of old favourites from the first seven films – dragons, goblins, giants, dementors, ghosts, even the quidditch pitch,
which goes up in flames in the ­final showdown between good and evil.

It’s a fittingly big finish to a movie franchise that was sparked by a reading frenzy.

For a decade we’ve been in thrall to the adventures of a ­bespectacled young wizard and his David-and-Goliath battle with the ­terrifying forces of dark magic.

Back in 1997, JK Rowling’s first book, Harry Potter and the ­Philosopher’s Stone, started a ­revolution – a reading revolution.

Not only were children snapping up the book, so were their parents.

Long before the author had penned the final book, her series of magical novels had everyone talking of Hogwarts, Muggles, death-eaters and Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers at water coolers everywhere.

By the time she’d exorcised the last Harry Potter tale from her ­imagination, Rowling had sold 450 million copies worldwide, ­according to Wikipedia, and her magical stories have been ­translated into 67 languages so far. Among them is Latin, giving ­scholars of the dead language a break from translating Julius ­Caesar’s campaigns.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a far cry from the first film. In the 10 years since we first met Harry – in his cupboard under the stairs – and his two cohorts, the actors have changed and blossomed into adults. So, too, have the films ­become less and less suitable for children as the subject matter has darkened malevolently.

Arguably, Ralph Fiennes’ snake-faced Voldemort is one of fiction’s most frightening villains and his scaly companion, Nagini, is straight out of a nightmare.

The author’s only casting ­guideline was that the cast had to be British, which it was – with the exception of Irishman Richard Harris, who starred as Dumbledore until his death, after which Englishman Michael Gambon took over the role.

Through the eight films based on the seven novels, a who’s who of British acting talent – among them Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane and Helena Bonham ­Carter – have donned pointy hats and waved their thespian wands to bring Rowling’s characters to ­magical life.

It was at the close of the past century that the principal cast was chosen.

Daniel Radcliffe was spotted by chance as the perfect Harry Potter by the films’ producer, David ­Heyman, while Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were chosen from thousands upon thousands of ­auditions to play the roles of ­Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.

Of the three, Radcliffe had ­previously acted professionally – in the BBC mini-series David ­Copperfield. But it seems all three had already mapped a way out of Potter purgatory long before the last film was released.

Radcliffe has a role in the film version of the creepy gothic horror The Woman in Black, due for ­release next year, while Grint has four films in various stages of completion, including a war-time drama and two true-life sports ­dramas.

As for Watson, who has morphed into the best-looking adult of the three, there are ­modelling contracts and a pair of films, including a glitzy film about Marilyn Monroe and ­Laurence Olivier.

While Harry, Hermione and Ron are all grown up, Rowling’s much-anticipated Pottermore promises those who can’t get enough magic thousands and thousands of words online on everything from wand lore to the uses of dragon blood.

As for Rowling herself, she’s the subject of the TV movie Magic ­Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story. She will be played by Without A Trace’s Poppy Montgomery.

Perhaps the critic most fans would agree with is the British Times’ AN Wilson, who said of the books: “There are not many writers who have JK’s Dickensian ability to make us turn the pages, to weep – openly, with tears splashing – and a few pages later to laugh, at invariably good jokes...We have lived through a decade in which we have followed the ­publication of the liveliest, ­funniest, scariest and most moving children’s stories ever written.”

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