We knew we'd be getting a different kind of Harry Potter when Warner Bros. hired Alfonso Cuarón -- the stylish Mexican auteur behind 2002's lauded carnal carnival ''Y Tu Mamá También'' -- to succeed Chris Columbus and direct ''Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.'' But an allegory for our Patriot Act age? That's a surprise.
ALFONSO CUARÓN: The moment I read the book, I was hooked. It's a myth for our times. You read about Fudge and the Ministry of Magic -- that's Tony Blair! And Guantánamo is not that different from Azkaban. There are Dementors over there, too. [Smiles impishly]
You've made some cosmetic changes to J.K. Rowling's world. Is she cool with your renovations?
Really cool. She actually encouraged me: ''Please don't be literal.'' At the same time, we wrote a scene where there was this organ, and tiny people were jumping on the keyboards. She said, ''Nope, no tiny people at Hogwarts.''
While you were shooting, Rowling's fifth book was released. What was the reaction on the set?
There are what I call ''the Harry Potter Talibans'' here -- they read it in one weekend. I promised I was not going to read it, because I'm a little over-Harry Potterized. The day the book came out, I saw it and said f--- it, I'm just going to see how it opens. Next thing you know, I've read it all.
So you're having fun?
Loads. Though after so many bluescreens, you just snooze. The other day, I joked, ''Give me a sex scene! Somebody, please: Get naked!''