[size=large]Harry Potter and the Unknown Future[/size]
[i]E! Online -[/i] Harry Potter’s greatest trick might be getting all his books turned into movies.
As Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets casting an $88.4 million spell at the box office over the weekend, Warner Bros. continues to prep the third chapter in J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, scheduled to start shooting early next year.
But there are several questions lingering about the long-term franchise, including: What to do when your young cast hits puberty, one of your older stars dies, your original director drops out and the next promised book is going on a year overdue?
The Potter series is key to Warners’ fiscal future–after all Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone alone made nearly $1 billion theatrically worldwide and studio execs have similar expectations for the better reviewed Chamber of Secrets. So the studio wants to avoid the same kind of disastrous misstep that caused its Batman franchise to falter.
Of particular concern to Warner Bros. is keeping the films on pace with stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, who are beginning to outgrow their roles (anyone notice Harry’s voice beginning to crack in Chamber of Secrets?)
Warners initially planned on the ambitious schedule of one Potter film per year–following the lead of the books, each of which takes place during a new school year. That way, the actors could grow with the films. But while the first two movies were shot back to back and released in subsequent Novembers, there will be a longer delay before Prisoner of Azkaban begins shooting, and the latter film won’t be out until 2004. Furthermore, the studio and screenwriter Steve Kloves are trying to translate Rowling’s hefty 734-page fourth volume, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, into a single film, but given the book’s length and Warners’ fear of alienating die-hard fans by cutting scenes, the studio and scribe are considering breaking the book into two separate films released in the same calendar year.
All that means the three young leads, who are signed only through the third film, might need to be recast. While the James Bond franchise has flourished for 40 years with five different 007s, it remains to be seen whether kids will embrace a different set of actors for later Potter installments.
Then there’s a big question as to whether 13-year-old Radcliffe will even be up for playing the bespectacled boy wizard in more than the three films. Monday’s Los Angeles Times reports that Radcliffe’s parents–wishing to return some normalcy to their son’s life which has been turned upside down by the role–had petitioned the studio to push back the filming so Radcliffe could attend school rather than be tutored on the set. The same request was also made by Watson’s parents.
“The kids wanted a break,” studio chief Alan Horn tells the Times. “We’re talking about real people here
“We’re experimenting with cryogenic techniques to simply freeze the actors until we’re ready to go again, but so far there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that it’s a workable plan,” Horn quips in the paper.
A rep for the studio declined to comment on the report and says everything for Azkaban is right on schedule.
Meanwhile, the new film will be guided by a new director. Warners tapped helmer Alfonso Cuaron, whose rÃƒÂ©sumÃƒÂ© includes not only a sexually explicit coming-of-age flick (Y Tu Mama Tambien), but also an update of Dickens (Great Expectations) and an old-fashioned Hollywood fairy tale (A Little Princess), to help shepherd Harry and company through those awkward teen years.
He’ll take over from the franchise’s original director, Chris Columbus, who bailed out of Azkaban to spend more time with his family. For continuity sake, Columbus will stay on as a producer to supervise filming.
Speaking of headmasters, the studio needs to find someone to fill the wizard’s cap of acting great Richard Harris, who played beloved Professor Albus Dumbledore, and unexpectedly died last month of cancer at the age of 72.
No official word from the studio yet, but rumored candidated include Ian McKellen (news), aka Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Harris’ stand-in from the first two Potter films.
As for the fifth tome, Rowling is still working on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which is said to be longer than Goblet of Fire by a chapter and isn’t due to hit book stores until next year. Considering that, when Order of the Phoenix finally is published, it will be three years between books with two more still to come, by the time the seventh book is ready to be movie-fied, Radcliffe could be playing Dumbledore.