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Producers Guild Honors ‘Harry Potter’ Producer David Heyman

Producers Guild Honors 'Harry Potter' Producer David Heyman

The Producers Guild of America (PGA) will honor David Heyman with the 2016 David O. Selznick Achievement
Award for the producer’s work in motion pictures at the Annual PGA awards ceremony on Saturday, January 23, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles.
The producer of eight “Harry Potter” films, David Heyman discovered J.K. Rowling’s unpublished manuscript in 1997; the blockbusters based on her series of global bestsellers grossed $7.7 billion worldwide, a record for any franchise. They amassed a total 12 nominations, but never won. Overlooked for their stellar work on “Potter” were American screenwriter Steve Kloves, who wrote seven of the eight films, Alan Rickman as Snapes, Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, and composer Alexandre Desplat. Nominated three times was “Harry Potter” production designer Stuart Craig, who over the years expanded beyond his elaborate Hogwarts miniature model into the digital realm, especially on the finale. The Academy tends to look askance at sequels, unless they’ve been rewarded from the start, like literary “The Lord of the Rings,” which earned its best picture Oscar at the end of the trilogy. “
“Making ‘Potter’ has been a lovely magical escape from reality,” Heyman told me in a 2011 interview. He now has to do the heavy spade work of putting movies together like everyone else. While there was stress and pressure to deliver great quality on these films, Warner Bros. gave them substantial budgets to back a team of top-flight European craftspeople and talent. “Chris Columbus set the atmosphere,” Heyman said. “It was all about the work. If we made a good film, and Jo liked it, the fans would like it. That was the driving force. We made one good film and then each film was better than the last. We were filled with great pride, not ego.”
While the studio left the “Harry Potter” team alone with eventually $200-million-plus budgets, the filmmakers never felt like they had more than enough money, said Heyman. “Some of our best decisions were made when trying to make something work.” One decision—to edit down the films by adopting only Harry’s point-of-view throughout—broke down on the finale, when multiple POVs were required. Hence two parts: Kloves insisted that there was no other way to do the lengthy tome justice. And there was no time to do the penultimate Potter in 3-D, says Heyman, only for the finale, which “drew you in, not out. We went with a restrained aesthetic and heard not one criticism of the 3-D.”
Director David Yates’s gritty take on “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” was a departure from the franchise’s earlier installments, and his most recent Potter film (the second half of the seventh book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”) took in $1.3 billion in worldwide receipts and received the best reviews (96% on the Tomatometer) of the entire series. “It was challenging, we were building to the final conflict between Harry and Voldemort, tying up countless loose ends, ending with the long battle,” said Heyman. “Yates looks for the truthful moment, in every single cut, like the final sequence, there’s always a rhythm, a pause.”

Educated in the UK and the United States (where he majored in Art History at Harvard), Heyman moved to Los Angeles in 1986 to work as a production exec at Warner Bros. and United Artists. Among his other film credits are comedies “We’re the Millers,” starring Jennifer Aniston and “Yes Man,’ Starring Jim Carrey, sci-fi thriller “I Am Legend,” starring Will Smith, Pawel Palikowski’s romance “My Summer of Love,” starring Emily Blunt, and war drama “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.”
Since leaving “Potter” Heyman has produced Oscar-and-PGA-winning 3-D space blockbuster “Gravity” (November 4, 2012) starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who delivered what many consider the best Potter, “The Prisoner of Azkaban”); David Hare’s thriller “Page Eight,” starring Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz; the kid-friendly live action “Paddington Bear” starring CG bears (The Weinstein Co, January 2015), which has a sequel in the works, and a film version of Vera Brittain’s World War I memoir and BBC series “Testament of Youth” (Sony Pictures Classics) starring Alicia Vikander.

Still to come is David Yates’ Rowling prequel “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (November 18, 2016), about the adventures of writer Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards. And there’s a film on the love triangle among Johannes Brahms and his mentors, pianist Clara Schumann and her husband, composer Robert Schumann; Derek Cianfrance’s adaptation of the M.L. Stedman novel “The Light Between the Oceans,” starring Vikander, Michael Fassbender, and Rachel Weisz (DreamWorks); Kloves’ adaptation of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night Time,” for Kloves to direct, and an animated “Meet the Beetles” featuring new interpretations of ten Beatles songs.

Meanwhile Harry Potter has set up residence in all sorts of places, from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, a traveling “Harry Potter” exhibition, and a permanent “Harry Potter” exhibit featuring the Great Hall and other sets and props at the Warners-owned Leavesden studios where the films were shot. And a new Hollywood theme park is set to open at Universal Studios Hollywood by 2016.

The 2015 recipient of the David O. Selznick Award was Gale Anne Hurd. Previous recipients include Stanley Kramer, Billy Wilder, Clint Eastwood, Jerry Bruckheimer, Brian Grazer, Laura Ziskin, Kathleen Kennedy & Frank Marshall, Scott Rudin and Steven Spielberg.

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