The Harry Potter / Wizarding World Films - In The Order You Should Watch Them...
"And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure."
In a story with parallels to the early rejection of The Beatles, the first Harry Potter manuscript was submitted to twelve publishers, all of whom turned it down.
Almost as if the books prophesised their own fate, it took a child to save the day...
Nigel Newton, Chairman of publishers Bloomsbury, asked his eight year old daughter, Alice, to read the first chapter of J.K. Rowling's unpublished manuscript. Her veracious appetite for “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” convinced Bloomsbury to publish. It cost them just a small advance.
Five months after publication, the book had won its first award (the Nestle Smarties Book Prize). A few months later, Scholastic paid $105,000 at auction for the rights to publish in the U.S. (as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”).
Over the course of ten years, a further six books would follow. The final story (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Allows”) becoming the fastest selling book in history, retailing over 11 million copies in its first 24 hours of release.
In 1997, British film producer David Heyman returned to the U.K. from Hollywood to set up Heyday Films and to reach an agreement with Warner Brothers to source British material for future films.
Tanya Seghatchian, a graduate of Cambridge University and the famous ‘Footlights’ Dramatic Club, spotted potential in the first Potter story and proposed it to Heyman. His subsequent recommendation to Warner Brothers resulted in a £1million deal for the film rights to the first four Harry Potter books.
Director Christopher Columbus saw off stiff competition from a number of other major directors to direct the first two films. (Columbus apparently provided a free script re-write to help win the role.) The visuals of the Harry Potter World owe a lot to his vision, which was uncannily attuned to Rowling’s own.
As for Mr. Harry Potter himself… Daniel Radcliff wasn’t particularly interested in acting, or in the Harry Potter stories. He apparently preferred WWE wrestling and had turned down the opportunity to audition for the part. But, Chris Columbus had seen Radcliffe in “David Copperfield” (BBC America and WGBH, 1999) and thought he would be perfect for the role. Producer David Heyman managed to convince Radcliffe and his parents that he should audition.
The stunning poster for the first Harry Potter film, by Drew Struzan
"Harry Potter and the Philosopher's / Sorcerer's Stone" surrounded three child actors with a stellar supporting cast. Released in 2001, it broke box office records, taking over $90M in its first U.S. weekend.
The same month, filming began on "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", destined to be another world-wide box-office success.
Having delivered two back-to-back blockbusters, Columbus vacated the Director’s chair, with Mexican Alfonso Cuarón taking the helm for “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”.
Mike Newell would direct “Harry Potter and the Goblets of Fire” before David Yates stepped in to deliver the four films that comprise the second half of the series.
The 2011 world premiere for “Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows – Part 2” completed Harry Potter’s journey from paper to film.
The series was nominated for 12 Oscars, 24 BAFTAs and 5 Grammys, and, at the 2011 BAFTAs, on behalf of the entire series, J. K. Rowling, David Heyman, David Barron, David Yates, Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson collected the Michael Balcon Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema.
After the Films
In September 2013, it was announced that the ‘Wizarding World’ would be extended with Rowling penning the screenplay for the first of a series of films set seventy years before Harry Potter.
The original stories make reference to a school text book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”. Its author, Newt Scamander is even mentioned in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. The new films pick up Newt’s story, starting in New York.
Released in 2016, the film reunited many of those behind the Potter films (including Director David Yates, screen-writer Steven Kloves and producer David Heyman) and would become the first Wizarding World film to win an Oscar (for ‘Best Costume Design').
An original one sheet movie poster for 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."
At the time of writing, the second (of five) ‘prequel films’ is playing in cinemas. “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” introduces us to a younger Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and the battle with the evil Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp).
The phenomenon that is the Wizarding World shows no sign of slowing. The series is currently the 3rd highest grossing film franchise of all time (behind the Marvel Cinematic and Star Wars Universes), and has grossed over $9 billion.
All of the Wizarding World films have been produced at Warner Brothers Studios, Leavesden, in Hertfordshire, just a stone’s throw from Art of the Movies H.Q.
The studio complex is now home to “Warner Brothers Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter”, a visitor attraction providing magical insights in to the making of the Harry Potter films.
Leavesden Studios, Hertfordshire
This 5 star tour (see TripAdvisor) is a must for any Potter fan (note that you must book in advance). You can even arrange to pick up an authentic original vintage movie poster from us on your way home! :-)
We are off to practice a Bat-Bogey Hex.
Adam and the Art of the Movies team.