Ross, Jonathan. "Friday Night
with Jonathan Ross: Interview of J.K. Rowling." BBC
One, July 6, 2007.
Warning: Some of the content of this interview may be unsuitable for younger readers.
Source: 'Friday Night with Jonathan Ross,' BBC One, British Broadcasting
Interviewer: Jonathan Ross.
Context: The interview was aired a fortnight before the release of Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows.
Transcription credit: Courtesy of Jules, Kyrane from the Leaky Lounge and roonwit.
Notes: The interview was recorded a day before
hand. 'Friday Night with Jonathan Ross', is next door to the studio where
Blue Peter is recorded, and we know that Jo recorded the 2007 Blue Peter
interview on July 5th, even though it was not aired until the 20th. She
saved herself some trouble by recording them back-to-back.
The guests on 'Friday Night with Jonathan Ross' are kept in the 'Green Room' behind the set until it is their turn to be interviewed. There is a live TV link between this room and the main set, so often Jonathan Ross shows the guests chatting to each other or jokes with them prior to their being interviewed.
Video: Quicktime MP4, courtesy of roonwit.
Ross: Shall we have a look who is in the Green Room, the final Green Room of the series. Yes. Yes, it is the last one. We had to keep going until we saw off Parky [Michael Parkinson, another long standing and respected TV presenter in the UK].
[Visual: Ross is at his desk with Bob Hoskins in the chair next to him; Jo is on a video screen behind Hoskins, sitting in the Green Room]
Ross: My next guest is a struggling children's novelist. [Audience laughs] I've read some of her stuff and I think she might do quite well. It's J K Rowling, ladies and gentlemen. Hello Jo.
Ross: How lovely to have J K Rowling on the show. This is a special occasion. Thank you for coming on the show.
JKR: Thank you.
Ross: [jokingly] I have read the new Harry Potter book ladies and gentlemen, and personally Jo, I think you could have done better than "... and it was all a dream" at the end.
Jonathan Ross: ...We've got Jo here. I remember, I was talking to her before we started the show, and I remember we were reading that part of Harry Potter I was reading [to] my kids when Cedric dies, remember that part where Cedric dies in Harry Potter? I was in floods of tears.
Bob Hoskins: So was I.
Ross: I was in floods of tears. In floods.
Hoskins: So was I.
Ross: I was like a baby.
Ross: I bet I cried more than you.
Hoskins: Probably you did.
Ross: I cried nine days solid! [Audience laughs] Hey, how now, here's the thing! Jo, while we've got you here, how come Bob, soon to be Sir Bob, how come Bob has never been in a Harry Potter movie? [to Bob] I would have thought you should. Would you like to be in Harry Potter?
Hoskins: Of course. I went to a - We went to a premiere like. In our house when an 'Arry Potter book comes out its a big event. You know what I mean. Everyone's saying "Have you finished it yet?"
Ross: Well you could buy more than one. [Audience laughs]
Hoskins: Well yeh. What I'm saying, is we buy Stephen Fry's sort of recording as well.
Ross: Him on tape.
Hoskins: Oh Yeh. Him on tape. I drive all the way down to Cornwall. There's not a peep out of the kids.
Ross: Just 'cause they are listening to the...
Hoskins: Absolutely. Shorten the way down.
Ross: Its great.
Hoskins: But em. What was I saying?
Ross: I don't remember, but it was marvellous.
Hoskins: No, no. I went, I went to the premiere and she's [Jo] sitting there. And I went over and said " 'Ere, how comes I'm not in your, not in my, not in your..
Ross: That's a bit aggressive if you don't mind me saying that. [Audience laughs] You could've, I have gone over and said "Hi, I admire your work very much. As you know, I'm an actor of some reputation". Would, would...
Hoskins: Yeh, but you haven't had years of you kids saying "Why aren't you in this dad?" [Audience laughs]
Ross: So, they said that to you?
Hoskins: Yeh! All the time.
JR : [Laughs] And what did Jo say back?
Hoskins: She said "well yeh, that's true, why ain't you in it?" [Audience laughs]
Ross: Well that's not the answer you were hoping for, is it? [Audience laughs]
Hoskins: Well yeh, she said "I'll, I'll write you a part".
Ross: [to Jo] And, and Jo, have you written Bob a part?
JKR: [panics, and shifts in her seat] Oh God! No!
[Bob gives a big hearty laugh]
Hoskins: That's put her on the spot!
Ross: Well she just finished the last book. Hey, its not published yet, can you just do a little bit of 'slip it in the back' more like the dust sheet and then a small bald wizard comes in and went "Sorted!". [Audience laughs] Some of that.
JKR: There is.
Ross: Just the end.
JKR: There is a character who he could do. I've just thought.
Ross: Who is that?
JKR: I can't tell you. [audience laughs]
JKR: But he would be perfect [transcriber's side note: Mundungus?].
Ross: Is it a magic character?
Hoskins: [brightening up] Is he a wizard?
Ross: Is he a wizard?
JKR: Yeh [laughing].
Ross: He's, he's a wizard.
Hoskins: Oh, yeh! I'd love to play a wizard. [Audience laughs]
Ross: You see, has he got an East End [London] accent? [Audience laughs]
Ross: I know you'd do the others, but obviously I'd like to see an East End accent.
Hoskins: No, he's a Welshman.
Ross: A Welshman?
Ross: A Welsh wizard [NB: former Prime Minister of Britain, David Lloyd George was known as the Wiley Welsh Wizard]
JKR: That could work.
Ross: Can you do the Welsh?
Hoskins: I'll 'ave a go! [Audience laughs]
Ross: Let's hear a little, let's hear a little bit, I'm Harry Potter, right. 'Cause he's grown up hasn't he? I run in. An, we'll give you the name. What's a good Welsh name? Eh ... Dai Gryffydd. All right?
Hoskins: [in a mock Welsh accent] Dai Gryffydd.
Ross: Dai Gryffydd! Dai Gryffydd! Quick! Voldemort caught me with some
What shall I do? [Audience and Jo laugh].'Cause that's gonna happen soon, 'innit... He's gonna start.. Wankyarmus! [more raucous laughter] He's gonna be, he's gonna be. You've gotta, you've gotta deal with that Jo. Erectiondissapearus! [more raucous laughter and parts unintelligible] (possibly 'You run from me')
Ross: Put away the hoover, Whoop, you know what I'm saying. 'Cause he's a kid [unintelligible].
Hoskins: Yes, I know exactly what you are saying. [in a mock Welsh accent] Dai Gryffydd you say.
Hoskins: [something un-decipherable in a mock Welsh accent]
Ross: I thought you were Huw Edwards [a BBC newscaster].
Hoskins: [in a mock Welsh accent] Absolutely.
Ross: But you would love to do it I'm sure. If they came...
Ross: 'Cause the book, the new film is book number five isn't it. So we've got two more films to come after this one has had it's [unintelligible].
Ross: That's sorted I think.
[Visual: Jo comes out in a glamorous low-cut black dress and gorgeous, dangerous-looking high-heel shoes, and sits down]
Ross: Parents, Brace yourself! In a fortnight you will have a 700 pages of bedtime story to get through! Will you please welcome J.K. Rowling!
Ross: The "J" stands for Joanne I believe but everyone calls you Jo.
JKR: Yeah, Jo.
Ross: And the "K" isn't actually your name, is it?
JKR: No, it's my grandmother's name. They wanted a second initial so I took Kathleen as my middle name.
Ross: To make it sound more highbrow?
Ross: More blokey?
JKR: Yeah, they thought the first book would appeal to boys.
Ross: If you had to double-barrel initial?
JKR: They thought they'd be turned off by a woman writing.
Ross: That is the author A.S. Byatt.
JKR: Yes, she's a woman.
Ross: We didn't know what the name stood for and we asked our kid and she said maybe it stands for "Animal Sounds".
Ross: That would be a great name for someone: "Animal Sounds Byatt". Well, Jo thank you for coming on the show.
Ross: I am a huge fan of the books, obviously the kids have adored them and I'm speaking on behalf of almost everyone in the country when I say just how magnificent they are and what a lovely contribution they've made to our life. Genuinely, I feel honoured to have you here, so thank you for coming on.
JKR: Aww, thank you!
Ross: And, also I'm delighted you're here because I know you don't give a lot of interviews.
JKR: Not loads, no.
Ross: Do you find it easier now though? Have you just got more accustomed to the attention now or is it because the whole thing is behind you now you've finished the books?
JKR: I think now I've finished the books it's definitely been a release. I feel more relaxed. I thought I could come on here now and crash and burn and what does it matter?
Ross: How much of your life have you spent with those books, with those characters?
JKR: Seventeen years.
Ross: Seventeen years!
JKR: I was 25 when I had the idea.
Ross: Wow. And how long between you having the idea and the first book being finished and published?
JKR: Erm, 7 years. So, I've been published 10 years.
Ross: That's a long journey.
Ross: And the first book, you came up with the idea and you were on a train?
JKR: I was on a train. I don't even know what I was thinking about and the idea just came into my head.
Ross: Before we talk about Harry and the huge journey that you've been on with those characters, what do you have planned next? What do you have ... do you know what you're going to write next?
JKR: A break.
Ross: Just a long break?
JKR: I just want to take a break. I really do.
Ross: Do you think you'll go back into fiction that works for children and adults like the Harry Potter books or ...
JKR: I honestly don't know yet. I've said all along and I still mean it, if I only ever write for younger people I will never see that as second best.
Ross: My wife the other night was reading Judy Blume book to my little girl.
JKR: Yeah! Right.
Ross: And I was listening in the background and I was really caught up in this book it was really ... it was a great book.
JKR: She wrote some great books.
Ross: And normally I'm saying, "send her to bed so I can have sex with you." (Audience laugh). But last night, I was saying "I want to find out what happens on the summer holiday! Did she get the carpet she wanted?! Did the first bra expedition work for her?" [He's speaking of Blume's book Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret]
JKR: Oh, I know that one!
Ross: When they go shopping for a bra, it was quite moving. It's a lovely book, and when fiction for children is written well of course it's second to none.
JKR: I think so.
Ross: But is it true, and I've heard this reported, that when you started the books you wrote was it the epilogue?
JKR: The epilogue has been written for years, yeah.
Ross: And you had that kept safe all that time?
JKR: Yeah, well, they said I was keeping it safe, but of course I wasn't. I kept losing it in my house.
JKR: But, yeah. I have the information in the epilogue.
Ross: So you knew where you wanted to go with yourself?
JKR: Oh, yeah, definitely.
Ross: And did you never feel like changing your mind? Because I know sometimes when I've spoken to authors they get to know characters while they're writing them, they know what the want to do with them, but certain characters come to the fore more and you change your feelings.
JKR: I changed it slightly. I have 2 characters that I intended to keep alive, die. But, then that's been taken to mean that only 2 characters die in the book and it's a bloodbath. (Audience gasps)
Ross: It's a bloodbath is it?
JKR: No, it's not a bloodbath but it's more than 2.
Ross: But there is a responsibility that comes with this of course 'cause once children in particular and adults as well, when they get hooked into characters you don't want to see people dying. Even though dramatically it might be more satisfying and it might be more true, and it helps you illustrate the evil of the bad characters. I remember when Cedric died -- I was horrified!
JKR: Were you upset? See, my husband didn't give a damn. He didn't like Cedric.
Ross: He didn't like Cedric? Why not? Too posh?
JKR: He got the girl -- he was too smooth. He was quite glad to see him go, I think.
Ross: He was so decent at the end, Cedric.
JKR: He was.
Ross: Because he was very sportsman-like and very few people are. Early on in the book I didn't care for him at all; I was quite happy for him to be run over or something. By the end part I didn't want to see him go.
JKR: So, you cried at Cedric. Did you cry at Dumbledore?
Ross: Nah, 'cause Dumbledore is an old man. He's had a long life. No, seriously!
(Audience boos and groans)
Ross: F**k off! [pretends to wave wand] F**koffiarnus!. Is that the way to do it?
JKR: Oh, that's beautiful. (laughs)
Ross: That's poetry!
JKR: That is poetry.
Ross: Is that a problem that when you're writing a book with magic at the core, the fact that in a way you could do anything and not explain it.
JKR: That's absolutely an essential problem from the beginning was to establish the limits. Not what magic could do but what it couldn't do.
Ross: So the parameters.
JKR: You had to put the walls in place and contain the action. Otherwise you have no conflict and without conflict you haven't got a story.
Ross: And you haven't got any real emotion when someone dies if you could bring them back.
Ross: Obviously the books are written by you and the coloured by your view of the world but is there much of you as a person in the books. Are any of the characters more like you? Are your family in the books? Are the kids people you knew when you grew up? How much is it based on people in and around your life?
JKR: I think the three main characters are all aspects of me. Hermione is most obviously so because I was quite swotty.
Ross: Quite bookish.
JKR: Quite introverted when I was a kid, yeah. I became less so, and she becomes less so.
Ross: Yeah, well you've got to let people grow up. Well she is a fabulous character.
JKR: Well, I think so. I love writing her.
Ross: And I'm pleased that she's accepted and people like her for being like that.
Ross: Which is perhaps part of the message I think in a subtle way.
JKR: I hope so.
Ross: So, what about Harry? What has Harry got that comes from you?
JKR: Well, he must come from me because he's totally imaginary. Although, various people have claimed to be the inspiration for Harry, it's absolute bollocks.
Ross: So, how does that happen someone says, "That's based on me."?
JKR: They just crop up; it's pretty irritating.
Ross: What, people from school and stuff?
Ross: That's incredible vanity to say, "It's based on me."...
Ross: ...When you've said it isn't based on anyone.
Ross: But, do they have a scar on their forehead?
JKR: It doesn't seem to matter.
Ross: Okay, who of the people you know out of your circle of friends, or your family, how many people have been allowed to read the new book?
JKR: One. My husband.
Ross: And is he a fan of the books?
JKR: Well, he hadn't read any of them before we met, but -- he's got to say he is now, hasn't he?
JKR: Yeah, he liked the seventh one.
Ross: And what about your children, because I know your eldest daughter is a big fan.
JKR: Yeah, she's nearly 14.
Ross: Has she read it yet?
JKR: No. But she's going to get my first copy.
Ross: Well, I think it would take quite a lot of control not to let your eldest child who knows the books -- finish.
JKR: Well she didn't want to have it before she finished school, before she finished term because the pressure was going to be quite immense on her.
Ross: Yeah. How difficult is it to keep things like this secure and keeping quiet? Because if it was out early, if it was snuck out in some way it would be on the net.
JKR: It would. The last three books have been stolen from the printers.
Ross: So, when the manuscripts' been handed in ...
JKR: Yeah, yeah.
Ross: So, how do they get that back? What happens then? Were they published illegally?
JKR: All three of them disappeared at the printing stage.
Ross: And they were all recovered?
JKR: Yeah. It's all a great story and I only know half of the details.
Ross: Was it a house-elf?
JKR: No. It was a bent [crooked] security guard.
Ross: It was a bent security guard. Was Dobby the House-Elf based on Gary Lineker? [Lineker (photo, right) was a British footballer who is now a sports commentator]
Ross: I've always wanted to ask you that.
JKR: (laughs) No.
Ross: But the physical resemblance -- you can see what I'm saying.
Ross: You know, the craven attitude and the big ears.
JKR: No! Gary Lineker's not craven.
Ross (Imitating Gary Lineker / Dobby): "Let me take the penalty! Please, Harry, give me a sock and I'll take the penalty for you."
Ross: How difficult was it for you when you were approached for the film rights and how much control were you allowed to hold on to?
JKR: Well, I said "No" initially because Warner Bros. weren't the only people who wanted to do it so I said "no" to everyone. Then Warner's came back and they thought it was a money issue so they said "would you like a bit more money?" and I said "no" and my problem was I didn't want to give them control over the rest of the story. So, I said if they were prepared to guarantee that any sequels they made were going to be my sequels then we could talk.
Ross: So, was that a possibly -- they wanted to buy the rights to the characters.
JKR: Yeah, exactly, so you could have 'Harry Does Las Vegas', or Harry ... whatever you want.
Ross: Yeah, 'Harry Finds a Hooker'.
JKR: (laughing) 'Harry Finds a Hooker'.
Ross: How is it for you working with the guys that work making the film? I don't know how heavily you're involved. I know you visit the set and you obviously know the young actors that have grown up in these roles. And there's a picture of them.
(Picture of Trio on screen from first movie; they look very young)
Ross: How adorable they are there.
JKR: Oh, I know!
Ross: It's almost heartbreaking, isn't it?
JKR: It is.
Ross: Is it strange for you 'cause in a way those people are a part of your life as well as the books.
JKR: They are. It's a weird relationship actually. It's a little bit parental and yet they're playing something that came out of your head so there's this place where you meet -- where you're both inhabiting the same characters, so its strangely intense from my point of view.
Ross: Are you, I mean those three leads have proven themselves to be more than up to the task but are you overall, have you been pleased with the way the films have been cast and made?
JKR: Oh, I really have, yeah. To keep it all British I think has been a hell of an achievement, because that's not necessarily the way it would have gone.
Ross: Let's have a look. This is the new movie. You have seen it, you were at the premiere of course.
JKR: I have, yeah.
Ross: What did you think of the movie?
JKR: It's great. I think it's the best one.
Ross: Okay, this is 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix'. It is out in cinemas next week.
JKR: The 12th.
Ross: On the 12th of July. Have a look at this.
(DA Clip from the movie)
Ross: Let me ask you about something, I think you have said it is the case but I don't know. This may be something you've planned and changed your mind; but when you think about the end of the book and you had this epilogue that the last word in the book is "scar". Was that so? Is that the case still?
JKR: It was so, for ages, and its now ... not.
Ross: So it doesn't end with "scar"?
JKR: "Scar" is quite near the end but it's not the last word.
Ross: Could I ask you what the last word is?
Ross: Oh, Jo!
JKR: I can't, no.
Ross: You're such a literary tease!
Ross: You're a lit-tease. That what you are!
Ross: Scar. But, scar not like (sings) "A message to you Rudy ..." [a 1979 ska hit from The Specials]
Ross: It's a fantasy that Ron and Hermione would go to a gig and she would say "what the perfect end to our adventure, enjoying and evening of ska!" (in reggae/ska accent) The message 10 commandments of man!
JKR: Oh, that would have been brilliant.
Ross: It would have been a good ending. Not too late to change it perhaps. How did it feel when you signed off from the book?
JKR: I felt, I cant think of anyone who could know how that felt because there aren't that many people who have written a 7 book series' that's taken them 17 years and actually finishing it was the [deep breath] most remarkable feeling I've ever had. I couldn't tell you which was uppermost, euphoria or feeling devastated.
Ross: Did you cry when you finished?
JKR: I didn't cry when I finished but there's a chapter towards the end that I absolutely howled. It was unbelievable. When I finished writing it, it had been planned for so long when I finished writing that, I was in a hotel room on my own, and I grabbed, you know they have those pitiful half bottles of champagne, well, I was sobbing my heart out and I ripped open the mini bar and downed that in one and just sat there just a mess, then went home covered in mascara. That was really tough.
Ross: And what excuse did you give for your appearance to Neil?
JKR: He's used to it.
Ross: You come back from visiting a local hotel ...
Ross: Drunk and in tears and you say "yeah, I wrote a particularly heavy chapter." Well, no ones going to believe that, Jo.
JKR: Well, exactly.
Ross: What a trusting husband you have. Would you or do you ever intend to write any more Harry Potter?
JKR: Um, I think that Harry's story comes to quite a clear end in Book Seven but I've always said that I wouldn't say "never". I cant say I'll never write another book about that world just because I think what do I know, in ten years time I might want to return to it but I think its unlikely.
Ross: I'm going to show you a clip now because I know you quite like to hear... obviously Jo has done well out of the books. Its very rare that I'm the poorest man in any exchange these days, but certainly I feel like a virtual pauper sitting next to Jo here but at the same time what a lovely gesture when you wrote those books for Comic Relief because there were millions there that you could have written those books and kept it for yourself and you gave all that money, it raised literally millions and millions of pound for Comic Relief so thank you for that. It was a wonderful thing to do and we have a clip of how they repaid you by taking the piss out of you [unintelligible].
Ross: Have a look at this. This is Dawn French as Harry Potter and its Jennifer Saunders as Jo. Have a look at this.
(Clip of the Comic Relief 'Harry Potter and the Secret Chamberpot of Azerbaijan')
Ross: And I was saying how much, it was two books you had it was the kind of glossary.
JKR: Yeah, yeah.
Ross: Those books raised sixteen million pounds for Comic Relief. So that's incredible.
JKR: Thank you.
Ross: Before we part company, and it's been an absolute joy talking to you...
JKR: And for me too.
Ross: And I'm very excited because I love a theme park ...
Ross: And Harry Potter is going to have its own kind of little world as part of the Universal theme park.
JKR: That's right, yeah.
Ross: Is this going to be the ones in Florida or Los Angeles?
Ross: Florida, yeah, I would have though so; they have more space there. So what's the place? Are they going to have a whole kind of Hogwarts area?
JKR: It's going to be Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.
Ross: And will you be able to go on the Express at any stage?
JKR: It will be there. You can do all sorts of stuff. It's going to be brilliant!
Ross: I can't wait. When will the theme park be open?
JKR: I think its 2010 or something.
Ross: But you know even that sounds like an improbable time away. Time flies and the next thing you know you're standing in a queue for 7 hours.
JKR: I can take my kids. It's going to be amazing.
Ross: You can go straight to the front though, of course.
JKR: I hope so!
Ross: (laughs) I should think so. Congratulations, on just a wonderful series of books.
JKR: Thank you!
Ross: Thank you again for the Comic Relief contribution and I can't wait for the movie but more importantly the book, which is out, is it the July 21st?
JKR: The 21st.
Ross: July the 21st. Ladies and Gentlemen, Jo Rowling.
JKR: Thank you.
Original page date 7 July 2007; last updated 7 July 2007.