In October, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling shocked a room full of fans when she revealed during a panel discussion that the spin-off franchise of the successful “Potter” movies, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” would not be a trilogy as earlier reported, but instead would comprise five movies.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” opens in theatres on November 18 with a lot of anticipation and excitement about the adventures of “magizoologist” (the study of magical creatures) Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne. That includes Rolwing herself, who wrote her first ever screenplay for “Fantastic Beats” and, according to longtime “Potter” and now “Beasts” producer David Heyman, couldn’t stop with just one.
“Halfway through the first script she said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to write the next one. I’ll do an outline of the story and then someone can write it,'” Heyman recently told Business Insider. “Then at the end of the first one she said she would write the second film, and halfway through that she said, ‘Not only am I going to write this one but there’s going to be five!'”
The proclamation by Rowling shocked Heyman, but as he put it, “It’s great to play in this sandpit.”
And the franchise’s studio, Warner Bros., likely agrees. The “Potter” franchise pocketed it $7 billion-plus over eight movies.
But Heyman, the producer who secured the “Harry Potter” book rights back in 1999 and went on to produce all the movies (he will do the same for the “Beasts” movies), isn’t surprised by Rowling’s hunger to continue writing about the “Harry Potter” universe.
“Jo is a writer, she can’t help writing,” he said of Rowling. “She’s done a draft of the second ‘Fantastic Beasts’ and director David Yates asked her to go back and do a 12-page outline. She went away and two days later came back with 102 pages. She can’t help it, she’s a workaholic, it pours out of her.”
But Heyman admits Rowling’s transition from cherished author to a first-time screenwriter had its growing pains.
“Her greatest challenge was finding tone and once that tone was established, the rest flew,” he said. “So the first draft was rather light and whimsical and a lot of that remains in this film, then under our guidance it became darker, much darker than what we see in the finished film, and quite violent. Then we found its language, which combined the two.”
Heyman said there were numerous drafts of the screenplay (“way more than 10,” he said), in which they tackled not just the entire story but individual character structure and sequences. But the reason Rowling was able to pull it off was because she understood the collaborative nature of making a movie.
“Like all of us she’s ambitious,” Heyman said. “But at the same time she had to learn the way to give out exposition in a screenplay differently from a book, or the nature of internal narrative that you can get across in a book but can’t in a film. But I knew she was a really good screenwriter because she has great humility.”
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