The Harry Potter film franchise is the highest grossing film series of all time when not adjusted for inflation, with over $5 billion in worldwide receipts. The series consists to date (2009) of six motion pictures with the latest instalment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, released in cinemas worldwide on 15 July 2009.
Warner Brothers is currently producing the remaining novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows which will be split into two films: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is due out on 19 November 2010 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is due out on 15 July 2011.
Late in 1997, film producer David Heyman's London offices received a copy of the first book in what would become Rowling's series of seven Harry Potter novels. The book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was relegated to a low-priority bookshelf, where it was discovered by a secretary who read it and gave it to Heyman with a glowing review. This fateful act led Heyman, unimpressed by "the rubbish title", to read the book. Impacted highly favorably by Rowling's work, he arranged the process that was to lead to one of the most successful franchises in movie history.
This led to Rowling's 1999 sale of the film rights for the first four Harry Potter books to Warner Brothers for a reported £1 million (US$2,000,000). A demand Rowling made was that the principal cast be kept strictly British, allowing nevertheless for the inclusion of many Irish actors such as the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and for casting of French and Eastern European actors in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where characters from the book are specified as such. Rowling was hesitant to sell the rights because she "didn't want to give them control over the rest of the story" by selling the rights to the characters, which would have enabled Warner Brothers to make non-author-written sequels.
Although Steven Spielberg initially negotiated to direct the first film, he declined the offer. Spielberg wanted the adaptation to be an animated film, with American actor Haley Joel Osment to provide Harry Potter's voice. Spielberg contended that, in his opinion, there was every expectation of profit in making the film, and that making money would have been like "shooting ducks in a barrel. It's just a slam dunk. It's just like withdrawing a billion dollars and putting it into your personal bank accounts. There's no challenge." In the Rubbish Bin section of her website, Rowling maintains that she has no role in choosing directors for the films, writing "Anyone who thinks I could (or would) have 'veto-ed' him [Spielberg] needs their Quick-Quotes Quill serviced." After Spielberg left, talks began with other directors, including: Chris Columbus, Terry Gilliam, Jonathan Demme, Mike Newell, Alan Parker, Wolfgang Petersen, Rob Reiner, Tim Robbins, Brad Silberling, and Peter Weir. Petersen and Reiner then both pulled out of the running in March 2000. It was then narrowed down to Silberling, Columbus, Parker and Gilliam. Rowling's first choice was Terry Gilliam. However on 28 March 2000 Columbus was appointed as director of the film, with Warner Bros. citing his work on other family films such as Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire as influences for their decision.Steve Kloves was selected to write the screenplay for the first film. He described adapting the book as "tough", as it did not "lend itself to adaptation as well as the next two books." Kloves was sent a "raft" of synopses of books proposed as film adaptations, with Harry Potter being the only one that jumped out at him. He went out and bought the book, and became an instant fan. When speaking to Warner Bros. he stated that the film had to be British, and had to be true to the characters. David Heyman was selected to produce the film. Rowling received a large amount of creative control for the film, being made an executive producer, an arrangement that Columbus did not mind.
After a seven month search, lead actor Daniel Radcliffe was discovered by Heyman and Kloves sitting behind them in the theater. Radcliffe had already established himself as an actor in the 1999 BBC television production of David Copperfield in which he played the title role's childhood years. Highly impressed with Radcliffe's overall bearing, Heyman convinced the youngster's parents to allow him to audition for the part, which involved Radcliffe being filmed. (Heyman has stated in an interview published July 21, 2009 in the Los Angeles Times that this historic screen test of Radcliffe will be released as bonus material on a subsequent Harry Potter DVD.) Rowling was enthusiastic after viewing Radcliffe's filmed test, saying she didn't think there was a better choice for the part of Harry Potter.
Warner Brothers had initially planned to release the first film over the 4 July 2001 weekend, making for such a short production window that several proposed directors pulled themselves out of the running. However due to time constraints the date was put back to 16 November 2001.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Edit
Harry Potter is an eleven-year-old boy. As a baby, he had been attacked by Lord Voldemort who killed his parents; his survival brought unknown fame to Harry. He was taken by Hagrid to live with his aunt and uncle. Eleven years later, Harry enters his first year of Hogwarts along with his new friends Ron and Hermione.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Edit
Harry, Ron, and Hermione return to Hogwarts for their second year, which proves to be more challenging than the last. The Chamber of Secrets is opened, leaving students (and ghosts) petrified. Harry learns that he can speak parseltongue which leads to many students believing he is the heir of Salazar Slytherin. Near the end of the year Harry, Ron and their new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lockhart, discover the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. There he battles the young memory of Lord Voldemort (Tom Marvolo Riddle) and his basilisk. During the battle, Godric Gryffindor's sword appears out of the sorting hat (brought by Fawks), which we later learn from Dumbledore that the sword would have only appeared for a true Gryffindor.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Edit
Harry's third year truly begins when the Hogwart's express stops moving, a Dementor attacks Harry and is dispatched with the help of new professor, Remus J. Lupin. The Dementor flees but not before it causes Harry to faint. A prisoner named Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban prison; he was incarcerated there twelve years previously for apparently aiding Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Harry, believing it was Black who caused his parent's deaths, finds out the truth at the end of the year.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Edit
Harry's fourth year begins with him having a nightmare about Frank Bryce being killed by Voldemort. At Hogwarts, there is a new professor, Alastor Moody, Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament, a dangerous tournament between three schools of magic. Fleur Delacour, Viktor Krum and Cedric Diggory are the three champions. However, Harry's name appears out of the Goblet of Fire making him a fourth champion.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Edit
Harry's fifth year begins with Harry being attacked by Dementors in Little Whinging. He finds out later that the Ministry of Magic does not believe that Voldemort has returned and is in for a hard year. Professor Umbridge, a representative of Cornelius Fudge, is the new Defence against the Dark Arts teacher, and the rebellion between the students of Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic begins.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Edit
In the sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft, and in both wizard and muggle worlds Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters are increasingly active. With vacancies to fill at Hogwarts, Professor Dumbledor persuades Horace Slughorn, back from retirement to become the potions teacher, while Professor Snape receives long awaited news. Harry Potter, together with Dumbledore, must face treacherous tasks to defeat his evil nemesis.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Edit
Harry, Ron, and Hermione's quest to find all of Voldemort's remaining horcruxes begins. It is meant to be Harry's final year at Hogwarts but Voldemort's rise to power prevents him from attending. The trio undergo a long adventure to destroy Voldemort for the last time. The film will be split into two parts; the first part is due for release in 19 November 2010, the second part in 15 July 2011.
Chris Columbus directed the first two films, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Alfonso Cuarón directed the third, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Mike Newell directed the fourth, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The fifth, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was directed by David Yates, as was the sixth, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and he is currently directing both parts of the seventh, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as well. Columbus was the producer on the first three films.
Rowling's first choice for director was originally Terry Gilliam, but Columbus's involvement as screenwriter on the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes encouraged Warner Bros. to select him in preference. It is similar to the Harry Potter series in that it includes three leads that bear a strong resemblance to the Harry, Ron and Hermione of Rowling's description (as does a character named Dudley to Draco Malfoy). They investigate a supernatural mystery in a Gothic boarding school, where staff include the Professor Flitwick-like Waxflatter, and sinister Rathe. Scenes from the film were used to cast the first Harry Potter film.
In 2000, the virtually unknown British actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were selected from thousands of auditioning children to play the roles of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, respectively. They have played their characters in the first five films, and on 23 March 2007, Warner Bros. confirmed that all three would return for the sixth and seventh. Other notable Potter character portrayals include Robbie Coltrane's Hagrid, Alan Rickman's Severus Snape, Tom Felton's Draco Malfoy, Maggie Smith's Minerva McGonagall, and Richard Harris and Michael Gambon's Albus Dumbledore (Gambon took over for the third film following Harris's death in 2002). Each reprised their characters for Order of the Phoenix, along with Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, and Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort.
The first four films were scripted by Steve Kloves with the direct assistance of Rowling, though she allowed Kloves what he described as "tremendous elbow room". Thus, the plot and tone of each film and its corresponding book are virtually the same with some changes and omissions for purposes of cinematic style and time constraints. Rowling has asked Kloves to keep being faithful to the books.
The fifth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released by Warner Bros. on 11 July 2007, in English-speaking countries, except for the UK and Ireland which released the movie on 12 July.
Production of Deathly Hallows is currently underway. It will be split into two films which was confirmed during a scene production in London at the Millennium Bridge, a crew member was asked if the film would be split in two, the crew member smiled and nodded stating that filming for both parts will occur back to back. And it has also been confirmed by Matthew Lewis who is cast as Neville Longbottom.
An online article attributed to the LA Times appeared on March 14 confirming that Part I is planned for November 2010 and Part II for May 2011. David Yates, who returned for his second Potter tour of duty on "Half Blood Prince" will also direct the "Deathly Hallows."
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All the films in the series have been a tremendous financial success, causing the franchise to be seen as one of the major Hollywood tent-poles, akin to James Bond, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Terminator, Batman, Jurassic Park, The Matrix, Shrek, The Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
However, opinions of the films generally divide book fans right down the middle, with one group preferring the more faithful approach of the first two films, and another group preferring the more stylised character-driven approach of the later films.
Some feel the series has a "disjointed" feel due to the changes in directors, as well as Michael Gambon's interpretation of Dumbledore differing from that of Richard Harris's.
Chris Columbus's approach was extremely faithful to the source material, recreating the book as much as possible. A criticism is that his two films contain much action but little emotion, undeveloped characters, and an abundance of expository dialogue. Such a strict recreation of the book also results in a slow pace, and consequently, the films are accused of being too long.
Alfonso Cuarón's approach was more stylised and lively, using many handheld long takes and dark uses of colour. Unlike Columbus, his dislike of expository dialogue or explanation of back story (most notably the Marauder's story) led to criticisms of his approach being "style over substance". His re-imagining of Hogwarts and student attire caused some to feel the continuity of the series had been hurt, though some find it to be closer to the descriptions in the novels. Furthermore, his quick fire pacing led to a shorter film, leading some to call Cuarón "lazy". However, the film is often perceived by critics to be the finest in the series.
Mike Newell's approach focused more on humour and character development. Newell delved more into interactions between the students and their relationships, creating the feeling of a British boarding school. A criticism is that Newell left in moments of slapstick, childish humour (such as Madame Maxime eating something out of Hagrid's beard) in favour of the book's subplots, resulting in a rushed, disjointed film.
David Yates took his movie in an entirely different direction. He focused more on the tone of the book, ensuring that the film was as dark as its counterpart. This has led to criticisms that the movie is missing the delight and "magic" that installments three and four had. However, it is unclear whether these "problems" should be attributed to Michael Goldenberg (the screenwriter, taking over for Steve Kloves) or rather to Yates himself. On the other hand, some have seen his direction thus far as an improvement; comparable to Cuarón's dark style.
Rowling has been constantly supportive of the films, and evaluated Order of the Phoenix as "the best one yet" in the series. She wrote on her web site of the changes in the book-to-film transition, "It is simply impossible to incorporate every one of my storylines into a film that has to be kept under four hours long. Obviously films have restrictions - novels do not have constraints of time and budget; I can create dazzling effects relying on nothing but the interaction of my own and my readers' imaginations".
Box office Edit
|Title||Original Release date||Director||Time Length||Total worldwidebox office|
|Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone||16 November 2001||Chris Columbus||152 minutes||$974,733,550|
|Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets||15 November 2002||161 minutes||$878,643,482|
|Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban||31 May 2004||Alfonso Cuarón||142 minutes||$795,634,069|
|Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire||18 November 2005||Mike Newell||157 minutes||$895,921,036|
|Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix||11 July 2007||David Yates||138 minutes||$938,212,738|
|Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince||15 July 2009||153 minutes||$751,190,624*|
|Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I||19 November 2010||n/a||n/a|
|Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II||15 July 2011||n/a||n/a|
|Totals of films 1-6 as of 4 August 2009||903 mins.||$5,234,335,499*|
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