September 16, 2013
J.K. Rowling will write a screenplay for Harry Potter spinoff
by Nick Davies
Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling recently announced that she will expand her considerable empire by penning the script for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a feature film based on a book by the same name that Rowling published in 2001. Michael Calia reports for the Wall Street Journal that the project is part of an expanded partnership with Warner Brothers Entertainment, which also produced the eight Harry Potter movies between 2001-2011.
Fantastic Beasts first appeared in 1997 as a book within a book, a textbook used by Potter and other Hogwarts students in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. In 2001, Rowling actually wrote the book, under a pseudonym—though not her more famous one, and it was never a secret that Rowling was the actual person behind the name Newt Scamander.
Rowling wrote on her website about the decision to take the screenplay into her own hands after being approached by Warner Brothers about the possibility of a movie:
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 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.
The Fantastic Beasts film marks Rowling’s debut as a screenwriter, a task she seems eager to take on. ““I always said that I would only revisit the wizarding world if I had an idea that I was really excited about,” she said, “and this is it.” Fantastic Beasts is slated to be the first in a series of movies that will presumably follow Newt Scamander on adventures around the world.
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.