You have to hand it to Warner Bros… Tapping J.K. Rowling herself to make her screenwriting debut by adapting a Potter-verse book that doesn’t actually interfere with the Harry Potter story is a sharp way of exploiting the franchise for more films.
You see, WB has announced that Rowling’s 2001 side-book Fantastic Creatures and Where To Find Them will be their next foray into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, except it will focus on the book’s “author” Newt Scamander, who was active 70-odd years before Potter’s birth, having himself been born in 1897. The story will take place in a period New York and involve many of the eponymous fantastic creatures. Since magical lifespans tend to be a bit longer than that of muggles (Scamander died in the 1990s, though there is some light evidence he remained a ghost at Hogwarts), there is definitely room for a cameo or two from, say, Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore.
The most exciting bit of new for me is that J.K. Rowling is writing the screenplay herself- across the course of her unprecedentedly successful series she evolved into an extremely sophisticated writer of rich, entertaining fiction. I have a feeling her passion for her universe and her dedication to engaging storytelling will translate well to the screen. I’m very excited to see what kind of tone this film strikes as well- I assume WB will seek a new director to separate this a bit from the increasingly dark Yates films.
Considering this film will undoubtedly push the Potter franchise’s box office returns well over the $8 billion dollar mark, it would be nice to hear that the film will in some way benefit the Comic Relief charity for which Rowling originally wrote the book. Her Potter-spinoff books have benefited poverty-stricken children worldwide to the tune of many many millions of dollars. I doubt said children are going to get any gross points on the back end, but WB shouldn’t forget the charity entirely*.
As a life-long and dedicated a Potter fan as it’s possible to be without running a Tumblr dedicated to it –the first book was read to me a chapter at a time by my fourth-grade teacher– I couldn’t be more excited. WB and Rowling have made it a point to keep things classy when it comes to Potter, so I’ve got no Phantom Menace fears here.
Now it’s time to wonder what amazing British character actor will land this juicy lead!
Full press Release below.
*If they do, Rowling will no doubt funnel her proceeds in that direction. Her philanthropic doings are rather impressive.
BURBANK, Calif. & LONDON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Warner Bros. Entertainment today announced an expanded creative partnership with world-renowned, best-selling author J.K. Rowling. At the center of the partnership is a new film series from Rowling’s world of witches and wizards, inspired by Harry Potter’s Hogwarts textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and the adventures of the book’s fictitious author, Newt Scamander. The announcement was made by Kevin Tsujihara, Chief Executive Officer, Warner Bros. Entertainment.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” will be an original story and will mark Rowling’s screenwriting debut. It is planned as the first picture in a new film series. Set in the wizarding world, the story will feature magical creatures and characters, some of which will be familiar to devoted Harry Potter fans.
“Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world,” said Rowling. “The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.” (Expanded Rowling quote at bottom of release.)
“We are incredibly honored that Jo has chosen to partner with Warner Bros. on this exciting new exploration of the world of wizardry which has been tremendously successful across all of our businesses,” said Tsujihara. “She is an extraordinary writer, who ignited a reading revolution around the world, which then became an unprecedented film phenomenon. We know that audiences will be as excited as we are to see what her brilliant and boundless imagination conjures up for us.”
In addition to the film series, “Fantastic Beasts” will also be developed across the Studio’s video game, consumer products and digital initiatives businesses, including enhanced links with Pottermore.com, Rowling’s digital online experience built around the Harry Potter stories.
The Studio’s expanded partnership with Rowling also covers the continued expansion of its Harry Potter activities, including the wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme parks in conjunction with partner Universal Parks and Resorts (currently in Orlando, FL; opening in Hollywood, CA and Osaka, Japan), digital initiatives (including Pottermore), video games, consumer products and visitor attractions.
In addition, Warner Bros. will serve as the worldwide TV distributor (excluding the U.K.) of J.K. Rowling’s upcoming television adaptation for the BBC of “The Casual Vacancy,” her best-selling first novel aimed at adult audiences. This miniseries begins production in 2014.
The relationship will be managed in London by Neil Blair of The Blair Partnership, Rowling’s literary agency, and Josh Berger, President & Managing Director, Warner Bros. UK, Ireland and Spain, who will serve as Warner Bros.’ chief business contact for all J.K. Rowling initiatives going forward.
Rowling’s expanded quote regarding “Fantastic Beasts” is below:
“It all started when Warner Bros. came to me with the suggestion of turning ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ into a film. I thought it was a fun idea, but the idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ realized by another writer was difficult. Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it and I already knew a lot about Newt. As hard-core Harry Potter fans will know, I liked him so much that I even married his grandson, Rolf, to one of my favourite characters from the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood.
As I considered Warners’ proposal, an idea took shape that I couldn’t dislodge. That is how I ended up pitching my own idea for a film to Warner Bros.
Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.
I particularly want to thank Kevin Tsujihara of Warner Bros. for his support in this project, which would not have happened without him. I always said that I would only revisit the wizarding world if I had an idea that I was really excited about and this is it.”
Notes to Editors:
1) J.K. Rowling is the author of the bestselling Harry Potter series of seven books, published between 1997 and 2007, which have sold over 450 million copies worldwide, are distributed in more than 200 territories, translated into 74 languages, and have been turned into eight blockbuster films. She has also written two small volumes, which appear as the titles of Harry’s schoolbooks within the novels. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages were published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in March 2001 in aid of Comic Relief. In December 2008, The Tales of Beedle the Bard was published in aid of the Children’s High Level Group (now known as Lumos), and quickly became the fastest-selling book of the year. In 2012, J.K. Rowling published her first book for adults, The Casual Vacancy, which has since been published in 44 languages. J.K. Rowling has also written The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, which was published this year by Little, Brown.
2) Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter films have grossed more than $7.7 billion to date worldwide at the box office, making Harry Potter the largest-grossing film franchise in history. The Harry Potter franchise has also been successfully extended across the Studio’s television, home entertainment, consumer products, video game, digital initiatives and visitor attractions businesses.