Fry's Potter

An interview with Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry's fantastic reading of JK Rowling's magical stories brings a whole new dimension to the Harry Potter experience. His irreverent wit and wide range of voices bring a host of much-loved characters to life. Fry talks to about his involvement with the HP phenomenon. Why did you agree to become the voice of Harry Potter?

Stephen Fry: I read the first book when asked about the project and thought, "Rather!" How did you prepare for the first recording?

Fry: Read it again and practised a few voices. Nothing too strenuous. How is a Harry Potter recording made and how long does it take?

Fry: It tears the arse out of three days really. JK Rowling has a habit of making each book longer than the last, so the fourth may creep into a fourth day. Essentially it starts at ten and goes on till about five, with an hour for lunch, so it isn't too hoarse-making. How much input does JK Rowling have into the recording process?

Fry: She has been kind enough to come to the recordings, but she doesn't interfere. She has said that she approves, which is a great feeling when you do a recording for a living author. I hope (and believe) that she would be honest if there was something she didn't like. Which of the voices in Harry Potter do you enjoy doing most?

Fry: I do enjoy the soft wisdom of Dumbledore, but Dobby the house-elf in Chamber of Secrets was good fun too. And actually, I enjoy Hermione as well. And Hagrid. And Lucius Malfoy--damn it, they're all good fun. Where did the voice of Hermione come from?

Fry: A memory of bossy (but essentially good-natured) girls when I was a boy Our site has hundreds of reviews from readers of Harry Potter and thePhilosopher's Stone --what do you think Harry's appeal is?

Fry: It's a cliché, (but true like most) that JK Rowling creates an absolutely believable world, a world where (as a reader) you can move at will, picking up the details and absorbing a real sense of something imagined. Unlike fantasy (which this emphatically isn't) the reader puts in so much of his or her detail too. What did you read as a child?

Fry: The usual, I suppose. Beatrix Potter, Treasure Island, Famous Five stories (embarrassing but true), Biggles(ditto) and then I got hooked on Sherlock Holmes, which shares that strange quality of absolute believability with Harry Potter. Holmes still gets letters written to him from all over the world, just as children write to Harry Potter c/o Hogwarts School ... What was the last audio book you listened to and where were you at the time?

Fry: Cover to Cover's Oliver Twist, read by Miriam Margolis and an unbelievable time I had of it. I was all over the place, it's many, many cassettes, but it was almost entirely in the car ... What makes a good audio book?

Fry: If the original story is no good, then forget it. No matter how good the reader, they can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. But when the story is good, it's all about suitability to the tale, the key thing is for the reader not to show off, after a while you should forget that they are there, just as you forget that the writer is there when you are reading. The characters should speak for themselves and there shouldn't be too much characterisation, enough for the different characters to be distinguishable, but not so much that it becomes all show offy. that's the ideal I think.