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Filmmakers already at work on next Harry Potter movie

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2001

LONDON - No sooner had Harry Potter fans caught their first screen glimpse of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry then the cameras were already rolling on the further adventures of the boy wizard and his pals.

And if anybody worried that the filmmakers might lose interest after "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," rest assured. Screenwriter Steve Kloves already has dug into "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" - adventure No. 3.

"We are making seven films," producer David Heyman says. "We have the rights to make all of them with Warner's - we have purchased outright films three and four already."

Storyteller J.K. Rowling, who has promised exactly seven Potter volumes, was reported to have begun writing volume five many months ago.

The same team that made "Sorcerer's Stone" is making "Chamber of Secrets," including the three child actors, Daniel Radcliffe, 12, Emma Watson, 11, and Rupert Grint, 13.

Whether the kids can be in all seven movies depends in part on the whims of nature and the speed at which the filmmakers can work.

"We can't very well have Harry Potter with a mustache, can we?" says actor Robbie Coltrane, who is playing the giant Hagrid for the second time. Will he be in all seven?

"Nothing's settled on that score," he insists. "I'm doing the next one; we've started."

Director Chris Columbus is trying to be realistic about his wish that the cast remain intact. "I know we're running a marathon because of the kids' ages, so we can't stop for too long or they'll be too old for the roles," he says.

On the plus side is the fact that the kids age a year in each book. On the minus side is the fact that special effects take a long time to film.

"It's probably a fantasy to think I could do all seven books, one a year, and keep the same cast; it would be wonderful," Columbus says.

Besides, Columbus says, he himself might not be able to do all seven.

"I don't think it's possible for me, for a personal situation. I haven't had any time off between the two films," he says. "I don't know if I want to do it for seven."

Columbus has signed on for only the first two, "but I happen to love book three," he says.

The fourth volume, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," is more than 600 pages long, presenting a troll-size problem for filmmakers trying to squeeze so much story into a movie-size script.

"I see it as two films," Columbus says. "Shoot a four-hour version, release two hours at Thanksgiving and two hours at Christmas, because it's the only way I think it could be done and also do justice to the books."

The director says that having Rowling as a collaborator at the start of the first film was a huge help in adapting a plot that is still unwinding in future volumes. To cut a minor character from the first book and then find he's pivotal in the sixth would be a disaster.

"It was fantastic, because you can sit there with Jo and you can find out things that are going to happen ... and you can tell your actors, this is why you need to do this here, because it's going to be in book five," Columbus says. "It's just invaluable."

The collaboration also was important for Kloves, the screenwriter.

"It's the first time as a writer I had been writing a story that I do not know the ultimate end to," he says.

He says it also was important to him to know "what's simmering underneath the surface" in the characters' relationships. Only Rowling knows all the details.

"I wrote a piece of dialogue referring to Sirius Black (one of the main figures in the third book), and Rowling said, 'You can't do that, because you will see in book five, that's not possible,' " Kloves says.

When he took on book one, he says, he didn't think he was going to do book two, let alone book three.

But Kloves, screenwriter of such adult films as "The Fabulous Baker Boys" and "Wonder Boys," was smitten.

"What makes this unique is it's not a sequel, just a continuation of the story. The children grow a year and everything that indicates - they become more interesting characters as they move through the narrative," he says.

"I would love to sit down and write the whole story. Just to write a 1,400-page script and shoot it in chunks."

He probably wouldn't get an argument from millions of young fans of Harry and Hogwarts.

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