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J.K. Rowling to continue Harry Potter’s universe in new films

Kevin Noonan | Monday, September 16, 2013

Harry Potter’s back, baby. Well, sort of.

J.K. Rowling announced on Friday that she’s reached a deal with Warner Bros. to pen a new screenplay based in the Harry Potter universe. But instead of following the adult lives of the Potter characters, it will instead be based on the fake textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which Rowling actually published in 2001 under the name Newt Scamander, the supposed author of the book.

The film will be set in the 1920s in New York City, following Scamander as he adventures off to conduct research for the textbook. It’s the first in a reported series of films Rowling will work on with Warner Bros. based on Scamander, and Rowling’s first work as a screenwriter.

The cynic in me is against this. For Warner Bros., this is the definition of a purely moneymaking machine. It’s an instantly recognizable brand (not to mention one of the most profitable brands in their arsenal) they’re repurposing now that the actual Harry Potter well has run dry. It almost certainly will make them boatloads more money.

This is exactly the kind of thing I’m usually against. But in this case, I’m all for it.

I loved the Harry Potter books as a kid and teenager, and I really enjoyed the movies, especially in the later films when they figured out what they were doing. The fact that there’s going to be more material created within this universe is exciting news, and makes me remember what it was like as a kid when you heard the next Potter book was coming out.

And the fact that Rowling herself will be creating the story means that the movie will be both excellently crafted and in the same voice as the original novels.

Furthermore, I’m excited because J.K. Rowling does not need more money. Sitting at a net worth right around one billion dollars, according to Celebrity Networth, she’s the wealthiest novelist in the world.

She’s spent the last few post-Potter years penning new non-Potter novels, including a well-received mystery novel, “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. She said she used a pseudonym because she was tired of the expectations and hype that were associated with anything she did. I interpret her desire for anonymity as a desire to just tell stories – she doesn’t care about the money anymore.

So if Rowling is returning to expand the Harry Potter universe, she’s doing it not because Warner Bros. made her an offer she couldn’t refuse, but because she has a story she wants to tell and she’s excited about it.

In her official statement about the film, Rowling echoes exactly the kind of sentiment I hoped to hear from her:

“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 … 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.”

Hollywood’s been trying to repeat the success of the Harry Potter movies for the last decade now, and maybe they’ve finally found the answer: have the greatest fantasy storyteller of our generation do it for you. 

 

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan2@nd.edu.
    The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.