Transcribed by 'Marvelous Marvolo' and Jimmi Thøgersen.
This television show was broadcast by the BBC in the UK and Canada, and by the A&E cable channel in the U.S. The editing and narrators are different. This transcription is of the British version; the sections of the program not broadcast in the American version are in BOLD.
STEPHEN FRY [SF], reader of the British books on audiotape: [Excerpt from PS/SS:] He'll be famous -- a legend -- I wouldn't be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter day in the future -- there will be books written about Harry -- every child in our world will know his name!
NARRATOR [NAR]: When J.K. Rowling wrote these words in the opening pages of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," she never in her wildest dreams thought they'd come true. Harry Potter has become the biggest publishing success the world has ever seen. Since 1997 more than 135 million copies have been sold in 48 different languages. Only the Bible has more translations. Every thirty seconds someone somewhere in the world begins a Harry Potter story.
JO ROWLING [JKR]: I think I would have been clinically insane to have expected what's happened. Who could have predicted this? No one knew. And I certainly didn't.
NAR: Just a few years ago, J.K. Rowling was broke and jobless -- a single mother who spent her afternoons writing in Edinburgh coffee shops while her baby slept. Today, she is famous and rich; the most celebrated children's author in the world. She's created four international best-sellers. The first Harry Potter movie is a blockbuster success, and legions of fans are desperate for the next installment of the boy wizard's adventures. But it's J.K. Rowling's story that's the most amazing of all. Only now has she agreed to tell it, in her own words.
JKR: A lot of rubbish has been written. Not necessarily malicious rubbish. But things get exaggerated and distorted. And I just thought, maybe the moment has come just to -- just to say how it happened -- truthfully -- and then I can at least go easy to my bed and think "well, the truth's out there and people can take it or leave it".
NAR: Harry's arrival on the doorstep of his Muggle relatives, the Dursleys, in the first book, is the start of an epic, magical journey. Harry grows up thinking he's just an ordinary boy until he finds out that in the wizard world his name is legendary and he's destined to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Then Harry's adventures really begin as he and his classmates, Hermione and Ron, battle with the dark forces of magic. A story J.K. Rowling has meticulously planned to tell over seven books; one for each school year. It was a journey that began back in 1990.
JKR: I was going by train from Manchester to London, sitting there thinking of nothing to do with writing, and the idea came out of nowhere. I could see Harry very clearly: this scrawny little boy, and it was the most physical rush of excitement -- I'd never felt that excited about anything to do with writing. I'd never had an idea that gave me such a physical response. So I'm rummaging through this bag to try and find a pen or a pencil or anything. I didn't even have an eye-liner on me, so I just had to sit and think, and for four hours -- 'cause the train was delayed -- I had all these ideas bubbling up through my head.
SF: [Excerpt from PS/SS: description of Harry, visualized with images of Harry and Hedwig (not from the PS/SS film)]
JKR [riding on a train]: I can't describe the excitement to someone who doesn't write books except to say it was that incredibly elated feeling you get when you've just met someone with whom you might eventually fall in love. That... that was ... that was the kind of feeling I had getting off the train. As though I'd just met someone wonderful, and we were about to embark on this wonderful affair. That kind of elation, that light-headedness, and the excitement, and so I got back to my flat in Clapping Junction and started writing, and I've now been writing for ten years so it's been a good affair.
JKR [at King's Cross]: For me, King's Cross is a very very romantic place. Probably the most romantic station, purely because my parents met here, so that's always been part of my childhood folklore. My dad had just joined the navy, my mom had just joined the R.E.N.'s, they were both traveling up to Arbroth in Scotland -- from London -- and they met on the train pulling out of King's Cross. So I wanted Harry to go to Hogwarts by train; I just love trains, I'm a bit nerdy like that. And obviously therefore it had to be King's Cross.
[excerpt from PS/SS film: Harry asking for Platform 9 3/4]
JKR: Like a lot in the Harry Potter books it was reality with a twist I wanted to find another entrance to the magical world, but I didn't want a kind of time-warp thing, I like the entrances to be places that you can only find if you have the knowledge. So anyone who ran at the barrier with enough confidence would be able to break through onto this platform between platform 9 -- platform 10.
[Excerpt from PS/SS film: The portal to Platform 9 3/4]
JKR: I wrote Platform 9 3/4 when I was living in Manchester, and I wrongly visualized the platforms, and I was actually thinking of Euston, so anyone who's actually been to the real platforms 9 and 10 in King's Cross will realize they don't bear a great resemblance to the platforms 9 and 10 as described in the book. So that's just me coming clean, there. I was in Manchester, I couldn't check.
JKR [in her office]: It was five years from the train journey, where I had the original idea, to finishing the book. And during those five years this massive material was generated -- some of which will never find its way into the book, will never need to be in the book. It's just stuff I need to know for my own pleasure -- partly for my own pleasure and partly because, I like reading a book where I have the sense that the author knows everything. They might not be telling me everything, but you have that confidence that the author really knows everything.
JKR [on the floor with all her papers everywhere]: Okay, so this is -- to the untrained eye might look like a pile of wastepaper but this is ten years' work. As you can see I file meticulously and I know where every single piece of paper is -- hem-hem -- but I've dragged out for you bits and pieces So this is the name of everyone in Harry's year [holds up piece of paper] and all these little symbols mean what house they're in, how magical they are, what their parentage is, because I needed this later for the Death Eaters and so on, and the various allegiances that will be set up within the school. [Hogwarts-Library's info on the chart]
I like this: this was ages ... this was '98 and this was me trying to find words for the dementors so I've all these Latin words written all over the inside of my diary. I used to cover just about anything with writing, as you can see. This is my application for housing benefit in 28 Gardner's Crescent, which is where I ... the first place I first lived, obviously, when I was in Edinburgh ... treated with a complete lack of respect by me [she wrote all over it].
Discarded first chapters of book one: I reckon I must've got through fifteen different alternative chapters of book one. The reason for which I discarded each of them were: They all gave too much away. And in fact if you put all those discarded first chapters together, almost the whole plot is explained. This is an old notebook in which I worked out -- and again, I don't want you to come too close on this -- [flashes paper] That is the history of the Death Eaters! Where's my Portuguese diary? God... There it is! So this is a Portuguese diary, as you can see. Not filled in, because I've never filled in a diary in my life, but it had paper in it to write on, so we have another draft of book one, chapter one.
I drew a lot of pictures. I drew them for no one but me -- I just wanted to know what the characters looked like. [shows several drawings] So, anyway, that was Argus Filch; No prizes! Snape, obviously; That is Harry arriving in Privet Drive with Professor McGonagall and Hagrid and Dumbledore; There's a Gringotts' cart; Mirror of Erised; That's the Weasleys; Professor Sprout. And I like this one -- I thought I'd lost this picture, actually, because I was gonna show it to Chris Columbus, and true to form I only found it when it was no use and they'd already they'd already filmed that bit anyway... This is how the entrance to Diagon Alley works in my imagination. So Chris is gonna murder me when he finds out I had it there all along, and he was asking me how it worked, but it was buried in a box.
[Excerpt from PS/SS film: The brick wall entrance to Diagon Alley]
JKR: It felt as though I was carving a book out of this mess of notes. And that's in effect what I did. It was a question of condensing, and editing, and sculpting a book out of this mass of stuff that I had on Harry. And I thought that if this got published, I really thought -- it's a book for obsessives. It's a book for the kind of people who enjoy every little tiny detail about a world. Because I have every little tiny detail about the world.
SF: [Excerpt from PS/SS: the list of Hogwarts students' requirements, visualized by a travelling chest being magically packed -- to the music of Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"]
NAR: As J.K. Rowling continued to build Harry's world, her own fell apart. She arrived in Edinburgh in 1993 after a brief spell teaching English in Portugal -- There she'd married, had a baby and then left her husband. She had no job, no money and a tiny daughter to support.
JKR: That was the phase where the "penniless single mother" sort of tag to my name came along -- which was true, but it wasn't enough I was a penniless single mother. I had to write on napkins, 'cause I couldn't afford paper, and then we started straying into the realms of the ridiculous. Let's not exaggerate here, let's not pretend I had to write on napkins because I didn't. They started sort of adding little bits and pieces that just weren't necessary, because the stark reality was bad enough.
JKR [outside her old apartment]: Haven't been back here since 1994 when I moved out. And I don't like being back here which is no offense to the place but I've -- I've kind of avoided this place since I moved out in -- just in deference to the fact that it was a pretty unhappy six months. I did a lot of writing here I would say it's here that really the first book became a book as opposed to three chapters and a collection of notes. So are we going to go in then? Off we go.
You couldn't really objectively speaking look around and say "Well you've made a success of your life." I was 28, I was living on benefit, I was living on about seventy pounds a week, I had no work... And to suddenly be in a position where actually I couldn't support myself because obviously anyone who's tried to get state childcare will know that you'll be very lucky to get the kind of childcare that means you can work even part-time. So it's all a real shock to the system.
JKR [inside her old apartment]: Oh my god! Huh. This is -- this is so different. This -- oh my gosh... Hum. Oh wow. This is so so different to how it was when I was here -- this is nice, this is really nice. And I'm really glad! You just expect time to stand still when you've walked away from the place, and I should know better, but I have just been -- every time I've come anywhere near this place or passed it in a bus or a taxi, I've imagined it exactly as it was when I -- when I lived here and it's -- it's all been -- I would've been delighted to live here! This is great, actually, it is -- it's like an exorcism. Everything was just very very dilapidated and always filthy which wasn't the flat's fault -- it was normally my fault because people very often say to me, "How did you do it? How did you raise a baby and write a book?" and the answer is, I didn't do housework for four years! I'm not Superwoman, and living in squalor that was the answer.
JKR: Memories of this time definitely created the dementors.
SF: [Excerpt from POA: Description of dementors, visualized by shadows in a dark alley]
JKR: They are kind of depression personified. I was quite depressed at that point. I still think they are the most frightening thing I've written.
JKR [in her office]: During the day I was writing in cafes as everyone famously knows, but could I just say for the record once and for all 'cause it's really irritating me: I did not write in cafes to escape my unheated flat, because I am not stupid enough to rent an unheated flat in Edinburgh in midwinter. It had heating. I went out and wrote in cafes because the way to make Jessica fall asleep was to keep her moving -- in the pushchair. So I used to take her out, tie her out, put her in the pushchair, walk her along -- the moment she fall asleep, into the nearest café and write.
JKR [in café]: So this is Nicholson's. Where I wrote huge parts of the book. This was a really great place to write, because there were so many tables around here that I didn't feel too guilty about taking a table up too long and that was my favorite table. I always wanted to try and get that one because it was out of the way in the corner.
It was just great to look up when you were writing and stop and think about things and be able to look out on the street which was quite busy. They were pretty tolerant of me in here partly because one of the owners is my brother-in-law. And I used to say to them "Well you know it gets published, and I'll try and get you loads of publicity" and it was all just a big Joke. No-one ever dreamt for a moment that was going to happen.
To muster the willpower to keep going with no promise of publication... Obviously I must've really believed in the story and I did -- I really believed in it. But it was more a feeling of I have to do right by this book. I have to give it my best shot. But at the same time my realistic side was reminding me that a completely unknown author always has a struggle to get published, and who knew? Just because I thought it was so great was no guarantee that anyone else would like it.
[We see a draft of her letter she sent to her agent. Here it is:
"June 30, 1994 [*year uncertain*]
Dear Mr. Little,
I enclose a synopsis and sample chapters of a book intended for children aged 9-12. I would be very grateful if you would tell me if you would be interested in seeing the full manuscript."
Joanne Rowling ]
NAR: J.K. Rowling sent off her manuscript and got herself a literary agent -- only to find that publishing houses threw Harry on the reject pile.
CHRISTOPHER LITTLE [CL], literary agent: At the very beginning we were very excited about it in the agency, but it was a very difficult book to sell, and quite a large number of publishers turned it down -- it was too long, it dealt with going away to school, which is something that was regarded as being not politically correct.
BARRY CUNNINGHAM [BC], former editor of Bloomsbury: Well, of course, everybody now denies turning it down and -- and want to distance themselves from this -- from this terrible terrible error.
JKR [in office]: Is it nice to name names? You're nodding, but I don't think it's very nice to name names.
CL: It was all the major publishers we know.
BC: Among them Puffin & Collins, for for for sure. It's like turning down the Beatles, isn't it? The very first question she asked me was "How do you feel about sequels?" [Listen to this!] And then she told me the entire story of Harry Potter -- all through the entire series [He knows!!!]. I realized, of course, that she knew exactly about this world and where it was going, who it was going to include, how the character would develop, and of course it was fascinating because this doesn't normally happen, Children's book characters don't grow up in real time, normally, you know. They're locked in the time they are, and the sequels are endless reruns of the same kind of adventures. But to have a character developing! -- in real time as his age developed -- was a really interesting idea. I gave Jo one memorable piece of advice. After our first lunch together, we were -- we were sitting down, and I said "The important thing, Jo, is for you to --
JKR: -- keep your real job". He said -- Barry said and Christopher my agent also said to me --
CL: -- Children's authors, you know, really don't make any money
JKR: They both of them were at pains to say to me, you know, "We really like the book but, you know, it's not that commercial".
NAR: Bloomsbury publishing acquired what would become the biggest phenomenon in modern literature for just two thousand five-hundred pounds.
JKR: That was -- second to the birth of my daughter -- the best moment of my life. Christopher phoned me up on a Friday afternoon and he said it so matter-of-factly --
CL: She was speechless, certainly, for at least the period of time it takes to build up enough steam for a big scream, I think
JKR: And he said, "Are you all right? Are you still there?" And I said, well, it's just that my only lifetime ambition has just been fulfilled and I was -- I -- that was the best, the best moment, nothing since has come anywhere close to the fact that I was actually gonna be in print It was going to be an actual book in a bookshop. The best moment, oh my God!
I went into Waterstone's on Prince's Street in Edinburgh, and there I was! Between Ronson and -- someone else. You know, I was just there! -- on the "R" shelf, just like any other author! Incredible. And I had this urge to sneak one off and sign it, and put it back on. But I thought, you know, someone would tell me off for graffiti-ing the books, and... I didn't have a credit card or anything at that point, you see, these practical things, so I had no proof I was me. So, I couldn't think how I would explain it away, so I didn't.
NAR: "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" tells of Harry's introduction to the magical world. Not only is he a wizard, but a famous one at that. He's renowned as the miraculous survivor of a brutal attack by the evil wizard Voldemort, who murdered his parents. Through his adventures at Hogwarts, he begins to find out the mysteries of his past.
PHILIP PULLMAN [PP], writer: The orphan is an excellent protagonist for any story because they're free and yet they're bereft. They're bereft of what gives a child most of the sense of who he or she is and where they come from and where they belong. So they're cut adrift in some strange way. They have this great need. 'Cause we all need to know where we come from, and we need to find where we will eventually belong.
[Excerpt from PS/SS film: The Sorting Hat]
JKR: When he first arrives at school he's totally unsure. He has the feelings we all have -- as adults as well -- when you enter a new place and you don't know what's going on. But greatly exaggerated obviously by the fact that he is set apart even there by his fame and his ancestry, and this curious quirk that meant that he survived this what should have been a fatal attack. He's every boy... but with a twist.
NAR: J.K. Rowling's mixture of the everyday and the magical, the matter-of-fact and the mystical, permeates her books.
JKR: I think that the world of Hogwarts, or my magical world, my community of wizards -- it's like the real world in a very distorted mirror. We're not going off to a different planet, we're not going through timewarps. It is a fantastic world that has to live shoulder-by-shoulder with the real world.
SF: I think what I liked at first about Harry Potter was that mix of ... I won't say fantasy 'cause I always think that is a dirty word. And fantasy doesn't really work, and this is grounded in reality, and it's the reality that appealed to me in a sense.
What's woven into them is a true history of the English folkloric tradition of magic. She hasn't made up a magic world which is simply a great wishlist -- a Disney-esque fantasy of "what, if she had a dream, it's gonna come true!," because Harry Potter doesn't present a world like that. It's connected and it comes out of the whole fabric of English history and folkloric mythology. And I'm not in any way trying to push them into a high literary genre, that she herself, I'm sure, wouldn't claim to belong to. It's merely that that's why it works, because things don't work if they are a result of a feeble-minded fantasy.
JKR: Magic is perennially fascinating. There will always be books about magic, because it's deeply deeply deeply ingrained in all of us. In all societies, the world over, magic came first. And we still ... sophisticated as we think ourselves now, I think the appeal of the idea that "I can do something that will influence this large scary environment in which I have to exist." The dream of being able to become a wizard and control the environment is still enormous -- for adults as well as children.
SF: [Excerpt from PS/SS: Snape's monologue in "The Potions Master," visualized by various liquids in every colour, bubbling in vials, tubes and bottles]
JKR: I don't believe in witchcraft. Though I've lost count of the number of times I've been told I'm a practicing witch. Nine...ty... let's say ninety-five percent, at least, of the magic in the books, is entirely invented by me. And I've used things from folklore, and I've used bits of what people used to believe worked, magically, just to add a certain flavor -- but I've always twisted them to suit my own ends; I mean I've taken liberties with folklore to suit my plot. Witches and wizards are a huge part of children's literature, it'll never go away. I don't think it will ever ever ever go away. Hundred years, two hundred years' time there'll be another kind of wizard story.
NAR: By 1997, J.K. Rowling had moved on to the second book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." Book One was doing well, but nowhere near its popularity today. And J.K. Rowling was still making her living as a teacher. Then something happened that would change her world forever. Harry cast a spell across the Atlantic, and American publishers got caught up in a bidding war for the book.
ARTHUR A. LEVINE, Vice President, Scholastic Publishing: My boss would say, "OK, do you love it?" And I'd say, "Yes, I love it." "OK, stay in the auction." "Do you love it this many dollars?" "Uh... yeah!" [nervous laugh] I kept saying "Yes." I just was getting more and more nervous because at the end of the day this is more money than I had ever paid any author as an advance, let alone an advance for a first novel. It was unprecedented. She says, "Do you love it a Hundred and five thousand dollars?" And I said "Yes, yes!" She said, "Well go ahead and make that offer" and that was it!
NAR: The deal with Scholastic meant that at last J.K. Rowling could fulfill her lifelong ambition to become a fulltime writer.
JKR: As soon as I knew that people wrote books -- they didn't just arrive -- I don't know... out of nowhere -- like plants -- I knew that's what I wanted to do. I can't ever remember not wanting to be a writer. It's a bit mysterious to me as well, but.... And yet, it isn't mysterious to me. You see, I can't honestly understand why you don't want to be a writer. I can't understand why the whole world doesn't want to be a writer. What's better than it?
Unless you can really really really remember what it felt like to be a child, you've really got no business writing for children. Even if people hate the books, and I qualify on no other account, then I definitely qualify on that one, because I remember so vividly what it felt like to be that age.
NAR: J.K. Rowling's memories of her childhood have had a big influence her writing. She was born in 1965 in Chipping Sodbury and grew up near Bristol with her parents Anne and Peter and her younger sister Di. She admits to being bookish and bossy as a child, not unlike one of Harry's best friends....
[Excerpt from PS/SS film: Ron trying to do levitation spell]
JKR: When I started to write Hermione -- when I actually got hold of a pen -- she came incredibly easily, largely because she's me.
[Excerpt from PS/SS film: Hermione doing levitation spell]
JKR: I was swotty and I had that you know sense of insecurity underneath, trying to compensate for that by getting everything right all the time, and like Hermione I projected a false confidence, which I know was very irritating to people at times, but underneath it all I felt completely and utterly inadequate, which is why I completely understand Hermione.
NAR: Even as a very young child J.K. Rowling loved to write, completing her first book at the age of six.
JKR: The first finished book I did was a book called Rabbit about a rabbit called 'Rabbit,' thereby revealing the imaginative approach to names that has stood me in such good stead ever since. And I wrote the rabbit stories for ages to the point where a series -- a series of books about Rabbit which were very dull -- illustrated by the author.
The one book I could say that specifically influenced my work was "The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge. She always listed the exact food they were eating. Wherever you were in the book, whenever they had a meal, you knew exactly what was in the sandwiches, and I just remember finding that so satisfying as a child.
SF: [Excerpt from PoA: Description of candy in Hogsmeade, visualized by closeups of various candy]
JKR: As I moved into my teens I was into very dramatic gritty realism entirely influenced by Barry Hines and Kes. Unfortunately I didn't live in a Northern town. My urban landscape wasn't very developed, because I lived in Chepstow in the middle of a lot of fields and it's quite hard to be a disaffected urban youth in the middle of a muddy field.
JKR [at her childhood home]: So this is our cottage, obviously, where I lived from the age of 9. My bedroom's furthest on the right, and I spent an awful lot of time in that bedroom writing. I have very happy memories of this place, it's quite emotional being back here, actually, because I've only once been ... because my dad left this house shortly after my mother died. So I've only once been back here since my mum died. I remember hanging out of my bedroom window smoking behind the curtains late at night. My father will not be happy to hear that. I wasn't very clever about that, either, because, you know, I used to leave the cigarette the cigarette ends were, you know, below the window, I mean, "Oh yeah someone from the pub, dad, has been throwing them into the garden again."
You've got our house, the church and the school, in a little row. Tutshill is not a very big place at all -- it's tiny. So it was a very short walk, obviously, from home to school every morning. I was still late, to my mother's eternal despair. I'm late for absolutely everything.
TEACHER: Put your hand up if you've read one of the Harry Potter books. [gasps] All those people! Now, this morning, we have a very special guest in school with us today. Her name is J.K. Rowling, and she's here to talk to us.
JKR [enters classroom, saying hello to children sitting on the floor as she passes them]: I don't want to step on you. Stay exactly where you are. [stepping over the boy] nnggg... Hello!
JKR: How are you?
JKR: This is absolutely amazing for me to be back here, because, you know, this is where I went to school. It's been really really wonderful to come back.
JKR [voice-over]: Nothing is more fun to me than meeting the children who read the books, What could possibly make me happier than to think that children started reading for the first time with Harry Potter? Some children, obviously there are still huge bookworms out there, for whom Harry is another book. But I have met a lot of children, actually, who said that Harry introduced them, really, to the pleasures of reading.
CHILD: What advice could you give us young authors?
JKR: Would you like to be an author? [Girl shrugs] Maybe. Read as much as you can. I'd say, read anything. The more you read the better, because it'll teach you what you like and what you think makes good writing, and it will increase your vocabulary. And then you'll just have to keep on and on writing, and you'll find that you hate most of what you write at first. But sooner or later you'll write something you quite like. And lots of trees will have to die. Because you'll be crumbling everything up.
CHILD: And... What Hogwarts house would you like to be in?
JKR: I'd definitely want to be in Gryffindor. That's why I put Harry there. Definitely.
CHILD: What were your memories of being at Tutshill School?
JKR: I really liked it here, but my first teacher really really frightened me. Her name was Mrs. Morgan. And she used to sit us all in class according to how clever she thought we were. And my first day at school, she had a 2-minute chat with me, and she put me in the "stupid row". Which is about the nastiest thing I can think of a teacher doing. She was not my favorite teacher, Mrs. Morgan. And then I went on to Wydean -- down the road. Where half of you've got brothers and sisters, haven't you?
It was at Wydean that I met Sean, which has been a very important friendship in my life. Huge friendship in my life. I always felt a bit of an outsider and that might perhaps explain why Sean and I were so close, because he came in late and like me he didn't have the local accent, and so I think to an extent we both felt like outsiders in the place, and that probably formed quite a big bond between us.
JKR [standing with Sean, a bridge in the background (Angharad suspects this is the Severn Bridge)]: So this is Sean to whom the second Harry Potter book is dedicated. And Ron owes a fair bit to Sean.
[Excerpt from PS/SS film: Ron goes "Woah!" at Harry's invisibility cloak]
JKR: I never set out to describe Sean in Ron, but Ron has a Sean-ish turn of phrase.
[Excerpt from PS/SS film: Harry and Ron late for transfiguration]
SEAN HARRIS [SH], friend : I suppose the similarities are that he's not ... he's never quite first-eleven but he's on the verges of being first-eleven. And I think...
JKR: Well, if I may joke -- sorry.
SH: I was gonna say, academically, for example, in school, it was quite clear that Jo was ... I'm not being ... embarrassment aside ... was first-eleven. And I was very definitely hanging on the coattails there. Borrowing essays, occationally, and uh ...
SH: I think with the ... the Ron character, I think what comes through to me anyway, maybe I've misinterpreted it, is that he's he's always there or thereabouts well-intentioned.
JKR: He's always there when you need him, that's Ron Weasley!... Sean was the first of my friends to pass his driving test and he had this old Ford Anglia -- claptop Ford Anglia turquoise, some white, which is now quite famous as the car that the Weasleys drive -- I was obviously going to give the Weasleys Sean's old car. And that car was freedom to us. My heart still lifts when I see an old Ford Anglia, which is a bit sad...
SF: [Excerpt from CoS: Flying in the Ford Anglia, visualized by a Ford Anglia driving on a road, and images of trees flying past]
JKR: He was the coolest man in school, he had a turquoise [they're laughing] Ford Anglia, and you were pretty cutting edge, I think.
SH: I was in those days yeah.
SH: It's all gone horribly wrong since, but --
JKR: Spandau Ballet haircut. Sorry.
SH: And -- of an evening she'd phone up and say Come pick me up, and I'd drive down there, and we'd head off somewhere else in the car, so the car became --
JKR: -- and sit under the Severn Bridge.
SH: Sit under Severn Bridge, or or elsewhere.
JKR: And discuss Life! And drink.
JKR: It's a very sad life, isn't it? This, this is what we thought was exciting when we were seventeen. We used to sit down here in a Ford Anglia. Yeah, those urban kids, they don't know what they miss! [laughing]
NAR: J.K. Rowling escaped to University in Exeter, earning a degree in French and Classics before moving to London. Then a bombshell hit. Her mother, Anne, had been battling with Multiple Sclerosis for a decade, when the disease took her life.
JKR: Mum dying was like this depth-charge in my life. The pain of her -- of her going, and just missing such a huge part of her life -- she was forty-five when she died, which is far too young to die, far too young to leave your family, never knew what we all ended up doing and so on. For mom there would have been a particular glory in being a writer, because she was the real booklover. And so it does add a little bit of poison to the knife, if you like, that the one thing that I think she really would have prized, she never knew.
Perhaps two or three days after I had the idea for Harry, I disposed of his parents in a in quite a brutal way, not a cr -- not cru -- it didn't read in a cruel way, but I mean it was very cut and dry, nothing lingering, no debate about how it had happened or -- and at that stage no real discussion of how painful that was going to be. Well of course, mum died six months after I'd written my first attempt at an opening chapter. And that made an enormous difference because I was living it, I was living what I had just -- what I had just written.
The Mirror of Erised is absolutely entirely drawn from my own experience of losing a parent. "Five more minutes, just, please, God, give me five more minutes". It'll never be enough.
[Excerpt from PS/SS film: Harry at Mirror of Erised]
After five minutes of telling her all about Jessie and, you know, she has a grandchild who obviously she never saw and then I'd be trying to tell her about the books and then I'd realize that I hadn't asked her "What's it like to be dead?" Fairly significant question. But I can well imagine that happening. But it would never be long enough, that was the point of chapter ten, you know. It's tougher on the living, and you've just got to get past it.
[Excerpt from PS/SS film: Confrontation with Quirrel/Voldemort]
Death is an extremely important theme throughout all seven books. I would say possibly the most important theme. If you are writing about Evil, which I am, and if you are writing about someone who is essentially a psychopath, you have a duty to show the real evil of taking human life.
JKR in Nicholson's Café: More people are going to die. And ... they ... well, there's at least one death that I'm ... that ... that is going to be horri ... horrible to write. To rewrite, actually, because it's already written. But -- It has to be!
NAR: Some parents have questioned whether children can cope with the darker side of the books.
JKR: It's very interesting how parents think that they have the right to dictate to you because you're writing reading material for their children. I got a horrible letter on book two, very very stuffy letter, from a mother saying, "This was a very disturbing ending, and I'm sure a writer of your ability will be able to think of a better way to end the next book," so basically, "Liked it two thirds of the way through, but if you could really address this issue in future, and I'll be back in touch if I find you unacceptable". And it was at that point where I snapped and I wrote back and said, "Don't read the rest of the books. Yours sincerely, Jo Rowling." There's no point, I mean, there's no point, I'm not taking dictation here.
Do I care about my readers? Profoundly, and deeply, but... Do I ultimately think that they should dictate a single word of what I write? No. No, I'm the only one who should be in control of that. And I'm not writing to make anyone's children feel safe.
SF: She's a tough writer. She won't compromise on what she sees as being right, just in order to worry about what might frighten children. I think it's a function of literature to give children nightmares, just as it's a function of, you know, the biological world to give them measles. Because if they don't get their nightmares when they're 12, [if] they don't wrestle with the dread of the unknown, then, when it comes later in life, that's ... that's when you're really in for trouble, just as mumps at 30 is a much bigger deal than mumps at 8. So, you're kind of doing the children a favor!
Child 1 [discussing with other children]: Once, I was in bed
reading -- and it's quite scary, when, Voldemort's, like, appearing, and
I was like all hunched up in bed. I'm like [makes tiny voice] "What's
gonna happen? What's gonna happen?" And I'm really -- quite scared.
Child 2: It's like, when it gets really tense, and you're reading in bed, and then your dad comes in and goes "Oh you're gonna have to stop reading that. Bedtime." And you've got on to this really exciting bit, and you're like "Oooooh! I must read the next chapter!"
Child 3: It's cool that adults actually read it as well, and not just kids.
Child 4: I wonder what they think of it.
Child 4: They're really into Harry Potter.
Child 5: 'Cause it's for all age groups. Everyone likes it.
PP: One mistake that adults used to make about children's books, is to think that children's books deal with trivial things. Little things that please little minds, and little concerns about little people. And, so, nothing could be further from the truth. Quite the contrary, it's been my observation that a lot of highly praised adult books, or highly successful adult books, in recent years have dealt with the trivial things. Such as "Does my bun look big in this?" or "Will my favorite football team win the cup?" and "Oh dear, my girlfriend's left me, whatever am I going to do?". Whereas the children's books have dealt with ultimate questions: "Where do we come from?," "What's the nature of being a human being?," "What must I do to be good?" These are profound questions, very deeply important questions. And they're being dealt with. Largely, not in the books that adults read, but in the books that children read.
NAR: The launch of Book Three, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" in 1999 marked J.K. Rowling's transformation from popular author to international superstar. For the first time ever, three books by the same author topped the New York Times' Bestseller List, and her book-signings began to resemble rock concerts.
JKR: I have no idea how many books I have signed, but it's got to be in the tens of thousands now. So, if anyone wants to own the very last unsigned Harry Potter in existence, I sometimes feel like I should be "Don't get it signed! It'll be valuable someday. I never touched it!"
The fun when all the international editions started coming in, was to see how differently they interpreted Harry. This is a funny one, because this is my Italian publisher. And in the very early "Philosopher's Stone"s that they did, they'd taken Harry's glasses off [on the cover], which really annoyed me. It was as though, in Italy, you couldn't be a hero and wear glasses, but they've put them back on now. Slightly bizarre, the rat head [shows Italian cover, with Harry wearing a hat that looks like the head of a rat, nose pointing upwards] ... don't quite understand why he's wearing a rat hat, but that's ... fine.
[Excerpts from PS/SS being read by children in various languages: British, English, Swedish, Hebrew, Spanish, French, German, Turkish, Italian, Japanese, Greek, American, English]
NAR: By the time book four was published in Summer 2000, J.K. Rowling had bewitched readers the world over. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" was launched at the stroke of midnight on July 8th, and Pottermania took hold as thousands of fans queued for hours for a copy.
[Boy is reading the back of GoF] A LADY: Don't read the ending before the beginning -- don't do that!
GIRL: Oh God this is definitely not the way it's supposed to start! [she objects to GoF, apparently]
NAR: In Toronto an audience of twelve thousand gathered for the biggest book reading ever. J.K. Rowling was terrified.
JKR: I've never been good at speaking in public. In fact it's a borderline phobic. And I thought, "What have I done?"
ANNOUNCER AT EVENT OVER THE LOUDSPEAKER: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, J.K. Rowling! [he cedes the podium to her. Out she steps.]
JKR: And I felt so pathetically, woefully inadequate for the task ahead. Just me with my book, shaking. And I had two ear-plugs. So I could only very distantly hear the noise of the crowd.
JKR [speaking at podium]: Morning! [thunderous applause] I am delighted and terrified to be here, to be honest with you.
JKR [voice-over]: So I did my reading and once I was up there I was actually okay
JKR [podium]: "... but Dudley kept running his hand nervously over his backside, and walking..."
JKR: ... And then I finished and I said, "Thank you very much," that's -- whatever I said, and I just wanted to hear what it actually sounded like so I took out one of the plugs and it was as though my eardrum exploded. [Very loud applause] I actually heard the noise that everyone else could hear in the stadium. It was unbelievable.
JKR [podium]: Thank you, thank you! [waves, exits]
JKR: If you could take me back and you were able to tell me exactly what has happened, first off I wouldn't believe you -- at all. Then if you managed to convince me of the truth, then I don't know what I would've done, because I would've thought "Well, I won't be able to handle that. I won't be able to cope with that". So I don't know what I would've done. And there'll be people watching this who will never believe that, because of the money, but the reality of it has been a strange and terrible thing at times.
NAR: With fame and success came the relentless attention of the world's media. Harry has to deal with the same problem in book four, when he meets a ruthless journalist called Rita Skeeter.
SF: [excerpt of GoF: Rita Skeeter prepares to interview Harry, visualized with an actress playing Skeeter -- quite scary]
JKR: Originally Rita Skeeter turned up in book one. Harry enters the Leaky Cauldron, which is the place where he gets his very first taste of how famous he is. For the first time it hits him. And there's a very early draft of that chapter, in which Rita made a beeline for him. But this gutter journalist fits better in book four, which is when the pain of fame starts to drag at Harry. Little did I know, that when I came to write book four, there was a very good chance that people were gonna think "Aha! We know why you put Rita in there, 'cause you've met this kind of person now," but I mean, how ironic is it that I spent five years imagining myself into the mind of a boy who became suddenly famous? I mean, I spent five years doing that -- imagining what it would be like to live in total obscurity and suddenly be famous.
[We see flashes of headlines... She's "Rowling" in it etc.]
JKR: It's never pleasant when they go digging in areas that have absolutely no relevance to your work. I mean there's a lot of my life that has absolutely nothing to do with Harry Potter. Journalists who shall remain nameless, but I can't really think why, 'cause I think these people should pay for their crimes -- went after my father, and pursued a very horrible line of questioning with him along the lines of "Why does your daughter hate you?," which was a bit of a shock for my dad, as I'd just got off the phone with him. Fairly upsetting. And they came and "doorstepped" me: They came to my front door and started banging on the front door. And I ... that really wrongfooted me completely, because in my total naivety I thought "Oh, if I just stay at home and work," you know... So ... and it ... I think then I realized this isn't going to go away.
NAR: And in some places the books have sparked controversy. J.K. Rowling has become the center of a witch hunt, with some Christian groups claiming the books promote the occult. In the American state of South Carolina, parents even tried to ban Harry from the classroom. [Cut to School Board hearing in South Carolina]
CAROLINIAN #1: The books, we believe, promote the religion of witchcraft, Wicca.
CAROLINIAN #2: I'm deeply concerned. I've spent a lot of time in prayer crying because I've seen the affects of putting negative thoughts into the minds of our children.
JKR [does a look]: The pause is due to all of the very rude things I'd like to say to these people bubbling up -- and now I'll say the polite version, and the polite version is: That's not true. Not once has a child come up to me and said, "Due to you I've decided to devote my life to the occult." People underestimate children so hugely. They know it's fiction. When people are arguing from that kind of standpoint, I don't think reason works tremendously well. But I would be surprised if some of them had read the books at all.
NAR: So far nothing can cloud J.K. Rowling's success. And the long-awaited Harry Potter movie achieved the biggest opening weekend in film history.
JKR: The closer the viewing came, the more frightened I became, to the point where where I actually sat down to watch the film I was terrified, because I just thought, "Oh, please don't do anything that's not in the book, please don't take horrible liberties with the plot." I liked it, which was a relief, if you can imagine. Yeah, I'm -- I'm happy.
NAR: And Harry's journey is far from over. Fans are desperate to get their hands on the fifth book -- "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."
JKR [in Nicholson's café]: I am loving writing Book Five. Harry gets to go to places in the magical world we haven't yet visited. More boy-girl stuff, inevitably. They're fifteen now; hormones working overtime. And Harry has to ask some questions that I hope the reader will think, "Well, why hasn't he asked that before?" Harry finds out a lot more, a lot more, in this book about his past.
NAR: But the mystery won't finally unfold until book seven. J.K. Rowling has already written the ending.
JKR [laying in her pile of notes]: This is the thing that I was very dubious about showing you, and I don't really know why because what does this give away? [It's a big folder] But this is the Final Chapter of book seven. Um ... [laughs] which I'm still dubious about showing you, I don't know what I feel like, the camera's gonna be able to see through the folder. So this is it, and I'm not opening it for obvious reasons. This is really where I wrap everything up, it's the Epilogue, and I basically say what happens to everyone after they leave school -- those who survive, because there are deaths, more deaths, coming. It was a way of saying to myself, Well, "you will get here, you will get to book seven, one day. And ... then you'll need this!" So I'd just like to remind all the children I know who come round my house and start sneaking into cupboards that it's not there, anymore. I don't keep it at home any more for very very very obvious reasons. So there it is.
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