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HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN

A New Direction
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is Warner Bros. Pictures' third film adaptation of J.K. Rowling's celebrated Harry Potter novel series, in which Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione, now teenagers, return for their third year at Hogwarts, where they are forced to face their darkest fears as they confront an escaped prisoner who poses a great threat to Harry, and contend with the chillingly foreboding Dementors, who are sent there to protect them.

When director Alfonso Cuarón was first approached about helming Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he had just completed work on his award-winning film Y Tu Mamá También and was not familiar with what he calls "the mythology of Harry Potter.” After reading Steve Kloves' screenplay and the series of novels, Cuarón was hooked. 

"Even though on the surface this is a story about magic and magical creatures, it was the issues explored in it that were so interesting to me, and so relevant today,” says the acclaimed writer-director, who directed the enchanting family tale A Little Princess and was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar in 2003 for Y Tu Mamá También. "Issues about growing up, identity, relationships with friends, the lack of parental guidance and the search within. There are also issues about social class, injustice, racism – things that affect all of us around the world.”

As producer David Heyman notes, "Y Tu Mamá También is a story about the rights of passage from teenager to manhood, and the third Harry Potter story is about the journey from childhood to teenager. The themes are quite similar. Alfonso has a keen understanding of the nuances of teenage life – he is a teenager at heart. Moreover, you only need to watch A Little Princess to see that he has magic in his soul. He is a deeply compassionate man with a great sense of humor. He is a wonderful filmmaker.”

"Alfonso is terrific with young actors, and that's obviously very important with these films,” adds Chris Columbus, who joined Heyman and producing partner Mark Radcliffe as a producer on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban after directing the first two blockbuster Harry Potter films. "He is also one of the most visually exciting directors working today, and he has an incredible storytelling sense.”

Having spent a total of four years directing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Columbus made a decision "to finally have dinner with my kids!” he says good-naturedly. "Choosing another director to further explore the cinematic world of Harry Potter was really a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we were looking for a director who would be happy to take on an established universe, with sets and a cast already in place, but at the same time we wanted someone who would bring their own point of view and vision to the production. We wanted the audience to continue these adventures with the characters and world they'd grown to love, but be equally exposed to a new perspective.” 

Author J.K. Rowling, who reportedly counts A Little Princess as one of her favorite films, gave Cuarón her full support as he endeavored to bring her exciting yet contemplative third novel to the screen. "Jo Rowling asked me not to be too literal with my interpretation, but to be faithful to the spirit of the books,” the director relates. "She's so eloquent about the world she has created, and equally aware that if you want to make a film that is not more than two and a half hours long, you have to make choices. I knew that if I honored the universe that is Harry Potter, I could potentially make my best film yet.”

Cuarón enjoyed the fact that he "inherited” a pre-established world of sets and cast, as it gave him more time to focus on the story and the performances of stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. For the young actors, the production brought two ne

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