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So how did a Nick Cave song end up in 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1'?


Terms such as "Quidditch" and "Muggles" have essentially become part of everyday lexicon due to the "Harry Potter" series. Yet the weirdest and most unexpected addition to the world-o-Potter, one with magic schools, talking photos and violent trees, may very well be something as simple as a song.

Midway through "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1," the characters Harry Potter and Hermione Granger share a dance. The music for the movement comes from an artist whose work has been steeped in lechery, sin and redemption, characteristics not necessarily associated with a holiday-season family blockbuster. Yet there was "O Children," from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, playing a dominant role, with Cave's baritone of heartache at the fore.

How and why music supervisor Matt Biffa came to Cave's "O Children" is relatively simple, and no doubt similar to how many have discovered Cave's fire-and-brimstone rock and darkly haunting ballads: A breakup.   

"I was separating from my wife at the time," Biffa said Tuesday from his London home. "I came across ‘O Children’ in 2004 and I hoarded it. I knew it would be a great song for something, but I didn’t know what. I had forgotten all about it and started listening to it because I was splitting up from my wife. I was really terrified that we were going to hurt our little boys, who were 1 and 3 at the time. So it was like a love letter to my kids."

Lyrically, "O Children," which is featured on the 2004 album "Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus," largely plays out like a song of atonement. The moment it comes in "Deathly Hallows" is one in which Harry and Hermione are struggling to carry on with the quest, looking for some sort of strength to emerge from their friendship. Cave's songs have an ability to walk a line between numerous emotions, and cuts such as "Into My Arms" could work equally well at a wedding or a funeral

"Exactly," said Biffa. "There was something really uplifting about that 'O Children,' with lyrics like 'rejoice / lift up your voice,’ and all that stuff. I was thinking of my kids. The lyrics are saying, ‘Forgive us for what we’ve done.’ It started out as a bit of fun, but then there’s weeping. It was horribly on the nose for me. At the same time, it was giving me hope. It’s not the same as writing a song for my children, but this is the closest I can get." 

Selling it to director David Yates wasn't much of challenge, although the filmmaker still had his music supervisor jump through numerous hoops. Remembered Biffa, "David called and said, ‘I think this song is just right, but is there anything better?’" 

Biffa delivered Yates about seven CDs full of music. The director's initial suggestion to Biffa was to find an old soul song, and artists ranging from Radiohead to Queens of the Stone Age to Spirtualized were all in the mix. 

"We talked a lot about some of the great old soul songs, songs from James Carr and Otis Redding," Biffa said. "That was initially what David was after. But they’re too much of the Muggle world, if you like. It’s too human, such as bands like Oasis, and Radiohead, to a certain degree. As much as I love Radiohead, I think it would have been too obvious."

Immediately stricken from the list was any song that had appeared anywhere in any film or TV program. The dance scene is not in the book that the film is modeled after, and Biffa knew that fans would be analyzing any song used in the movie. 

"The way that the script read, if you read it on the page, it seemed like it was upbeat," Biffa said. "It read like two teenagers going for it. But once David explained the nuances, I realized it had to be quite uplifting, but not too pointedly romantic."

Biffa knew he had it right when he was on set to watch the filming of the dance between actors Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson. "After they did the first couple takes, I looked over and a couple of the makeup girls were crying," Biffa said. "Then I felt all right. We nailed it."

Getting permission for the song wasn't all that difficult. In fact, Biffa said it was relayed to him that Cave was pleased that a lesser-known song had been requested for the film. 

Still, it may take some real magic to turn even a fraction of the millions who saw the first chapter of "Deathly Hallows" into Cave fans. Those curious, however, may not want to start with Cave's side-project Grinderman, an aggressive, sexually charged rock 'n' roll assault. 

"I love the fact that a whole generation of people, like kids, who weren’t aware of Nick Cave will discover him through the film," Biffa said. "It will be hilarious if they start with Grinderman, or something so different from ‘O Children.’ I’m sure there are songs on the Grinderman albums that are illegal in a few states."


Grinderman's Nick Cave kills panthers, steals wives at Music Box

The art of seduction: Nick Cave offers a compelling lesson

Nick Cave's master plan

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Nick Cave. Credit: Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (43)

You know what would have been even more perfect? Cutting that whole terrible scene.

ugh. that scene should have been cut. it was so forced and awkward.

like it felt like it was there just to insert romantic tension and drama that didn't exist in the book. this isn't twilight, harry potter doesn't need a love triangle.

to those haters, i loved that scene! It did add a bit of romance, but it was supposed to be there. it was something that would happen sooner or later because it is just them on the run. lust was inevitable.

I enjoyed the scene! It was perfect!

That scene was great, it showed how truly close Harry and Hermione are. The song was great with it as well.

I don't believe it was forced, or they were trying to have a love triangle. I think it showed Hermione and Harry trying to have some normality and happiness in a dark time.

In the beginning of the scene it was awkward - as it was meant to be shown that way, but then they both loosened up and had a laugh.

It's one of my favourite scenes, it made me really smile.

Well I for one Loved the scene. I have read the book, and Loved it, but I also Loved this. It was so moving to see how close of friends they are, and I didnt "read into" sexual tension. I felt like they were such great friends and he was trying to cheer her up. I thought It was beautiful!

"After they did the first couple takes, I looked over and a couple of the makeup girls were crying."
Really? So was I but from laughing so hard. I love Dan and Emma, they're great, but that scene was painful to watch. Who on Earth taught Dan how to dance?! Possibly the most awkward scene in any of the Potter movies to date, it shouldn't have been in the movie. I agree, this isn't Twigay and we don't need to start some twisted love triangle that was never supposed to be there! Harry and Hermione NEVER get together and NOTHING ever happens, ever. I'd appreciate it if you directors could get that through your thick skulls.

I liked the scene. It was awkward and forced, but i don't think it was to bring romantic tension or make a love triangle. She was upset because Ron left and Harry is such a bad dancer that it made her laugh and smile, which is what I think he was trying to do.

I see no problem with the scene. And I don't see the lust that you guys are mentioning. It was two best friends trying to have a little fun in a really awful time. But, there was no romance and certainly no lust. When I first saw it, I was scared they were going to have them kiss and I would have been furious. But, they didn't and what with the goofy dancing, it was just Harry trying to cheer Hermione up. Don't read more into it than is actually there.

The dancing scene wasn't about tension for a love triangle. My friend, who owns an animation art gallery and has an extensive background in film (and works with HP artist Mary GrandPre), wrote her own review of the film.

She said the entire scene was about how horrible and demanding and lonely the search for the horcruxes was. This moment was about them trying to find any joy they could out of the predicament they were stuck in. So yeah, it was awkward because things were awkward between them all. Things were painful and they were looking for something to bring them a tiny bit of joy so they could perhaps find the strength to keep going. Just like Biffa said—it's about hope.

Anyway, though it was unexpected, and yes not in the book, I think it did add something at least somewhat positive and uplifting to the weight of the mission they were on in the film. I like it.

(Also, yes, her name is Leslie C. and my name is Leslie P., but we are two separate Leslies.)

There's nothing romantic about that scene. When Grey's Anatomy characters dance in the living room, there's nothing romantic about it. It's just friends trying to get their minds off of something. Grow up.
And yes, it's a beautiful scene, it reminds us that the characters are supposed to be human beings.

I actually loved the scene. There was nothing romantic at all about it, it was just about the love between two friends, which is something that most people forget about or gloss over or try to read more into. It was wonderfully touching to see Harry's attempt at cheering Hermione up.

I thought this scene was so great. It was a really nice way of showing the desperation and platonic love between the characters, which was originally done through narrative that wouldn't have survived the transfer to the screen.

It wasn't romantic at all. It was just Harry seeing how depressed Hermione was getting and trying to lift her spirits up, maybe before she decides to leave him too. Hermione's expression at the end says it all.

There was never suppose to be any hint of lust though, that's why so many haters are upset. In the book, Harry has no tact as he throws a Ron-scented-blanket over a sobbing Hermione, and then the two didn't speak for a couple of weeks. In the book, they are comfortable enough to know they see each other as siblings, and no lust was ever inevitable.

In the book, Harry and Hermione fall apart without Ron.

In the movie, Emma and Dan are directed to end the dance as though the two of them were thinking of kissing.

Nick Cave is the only saving grace in this scene. Not to take anything away from Dan and Emma, because their performance was brilliant, but the directions were out-of-character.

I don't think that scene was meant to be romantic as some people are saying. It was about friendship and because they were sad about Ron leaving. It was just friendly! Hermione and Harry have always been really close like that.

The song is nice. But i don't think it is relevant to the movie @ book. Furthermore, hermoine and harry was fall apart when ron leaves. this scene is not necessary to be there and rather it was wasted of time - i would rather have 'potterwatch' scene and more of dobby's dead.

I am a longtime Potter fan. I've read the Deathly Hallows book more times than I can remember. I saw the movie at midnight. So coming from this background of fandom, I have to say, this was my favorite scene in the movie.

It was so utterly, heartbreakingly beautiful.

Good call!

FYI, though I had heard of Nick Cave a Grinderman before, this has given me a reason to listen again...

I don't think this scene was supposed to be romantic at all. It's been established that Harry and Hermione see each other as a sibling. I just don't get why two friends of the opposite sex can't even share a dance without others misconstruing it as something romantic or sexual.

They weren't trying to make a love triangle, they were trying to justify Ron's jealousy issues for him, trying to make the audience understand why Ron would leave his two best friends in the woods.

I hope that the next time people decide to hate a scene, they'd think of all the possible reasons that it was there in the first place. Not just close their mind after reaching the first conclusion that pops up in their minds. There isn't just one form of love that can exist between a man and a woman. Sometimes we should really remember this often overlooked fact.

I thought the scene was awkward but then I thought it was suppossed to be. There is nothing normal about what Harry, Hermione and Ron are going through here. Basically we have "children" trying to save a race of people from destruction. I thought the song was perfect. I felt like the lyrics were saying that these kids have a voice and can make a difference. Children find solace in music everyday. They pass songs to each other. They quote lyrics. They cry. They laugh. They dance. They sing. They let the song tell their story. I felt Harry was acting his age here. Letting the song speak for him and just being in the moment with one of his best friends. Honestly I was worried about this film. While the camping scenes were wonderful in print I wasn't sure how they would play on scene. There was a lot of inner dialogue in their heads. I felt this helped show that inner dialogue and angst in movement and song.

You all realize that Jo Rowling LOVED that scene, right? She thought it was a great addition... if the woman who created this world for us was more than okay with that scene, why can't everyone else be? It wasn't to create a love triangle. They were breaking, they were upset, Hermione was torn. Harry was trying to lift up her spirits... I think it was perfect and truly showed how close (though UNromantically) Harry and Hermione were, it showed how much they cared for one another and needed that kind of fun moment on their journey.

i loved the scene and i didn't see anything sexual in it. it was just harry trying to cheer hermoine up. I loved it.

The scene was brilliant. I just about died when I head Cave singing. Nick Cave is possibly the most underrated musician...or maybe just too real for this bubble gum society of ours.

It was about trying to bring themselves out of the darkness and into the light. Trying to make the best out of such a terrible situation. Harry knew that if they didn't bring themselves out of such a dark and terrible place that they quest would be over and Voldermort would win. That's what its about. Of course when a couple dances there's some tension in such a time, but because they started laughing, that's what saved them. It about the Philos love they share.

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