HOLLYWOOD — Screenwriter Steve Kloves, who, with the exception of “The Order of the Phoenix,” has adapted all the “Harry Potter” books for film, talks about the upcoming “Half-Blood Prince,” the confrontation between Alan Rickman’s Snape and Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore and reveals that he created an entirely new scene.
Q: Do you work with (author) J.K. Rowling when you’re hammering out a script, or do you have total freedom to adapt as you please?
A: I’m a little too free. Jo’s become a really good friend, one of my best friends, and I wish I had more of her. From the beginning she has always said to me, “I know the movies will be very different. The only thing that matters to me is that you stay true to the characters.” So that’s always been the one thing I feel very much in charge of, protecting the characters, and it’s the thing that upsets me the most when I feel the characters are being violated. That’s when I push back hard.
Q: Has that happened on any of the films?
A: There’s one moment in “The Chamber of Secrets” that I don’t like, where Hagrid enters Hogwarts at the end of the movie and the whole group of assembled students applauds him. That would not happen.
Q: What kind of things do you run by Rowling?
A: A range of things, even something really simple. I once asked about the 12 uses of dragon’s blood, which is referenced in the books. I e-mailed her to ask (and this was 10 years ago), and 25 seconds later I get an e-mail back with a list.
Q: Do tell. She’s only mentioned “oven cleaner” in interviews.
A: One is an oven cleaner, yes. Another is a spot remover. … It was really amazing. Really, the books are only the thinnest surface of what she knows about the series. Where Jo is helpful in a more serious way for me is when I want to know more about motivation or background, when Harry realized certain things, when characters understood things.
Q: What, if anything, can you say about the climactic moment between Snape and Dumbledore? In the book, it’s a short but intense scene.
A: It is informed by everything (Potter readers) have come to know is true. So if you watch the film carefully, there are performance moments that are quite extraordinary, Alan Rickman (who plays Snape) especially. There is something we added that you can look forward to, a short scene between Harry and Snape prior to the big event.
Q: I’ve also read that most of Dumbledore’s memories of young Voldemort, then Tom Riddle, have been cut from the film. (Not to mention: Dumbledore’s funeral!)
A: In my original draft, I had every single memory but one, I believe. I’m a Harry Potter fan, so my first drafts tend to reflect that, in that they tend to be long and all-inclusive. When (director) David Yates came in, he had a very specific point of view, which was that he wanted to showcase Voldemort’s rise without getting overly involved with his past as Riddle. We went back and forth on that for quite a bit. But he was very convincing, and I think it wound up working out well.
Q: Are there any other changes or additions that you can talk about?
A: I know one thing David is very proud of is getting Quidditch right. I do think it’s the first time that it feels like a sport. And it’s comic, which is fun. Rupert Grint (who plays Ron) is great. We also do a lot with the kids coming of age, navigating sexual politics and all that.
Q: Speaking of … how does the coming together of Ginny and Harry play out when we’ve all fallen for Cho Chang in the previous films?
A: I’m very happy with the moment they consummate their feelings. It was a nice scene and David did it really well. It’s sweet. For any longtime Potter fan, it’s now that you begin to see people coming together, but in doing so, it strains the old relationships and the relationships that are the truest and the most trusted. That’s potentially dangerous, but it’s also a part of growing up. You have to strain those relationships to realize how important they are.
Q: How satisfied are you with the finished film?
A: I haven’t seen the final version. But I liked what I saw a lot. It’s quite powerful, and genuinely moving at times. “Half-Blood Prince” is quite a leap from “Order of the Phoenix.”