The whole world seemed to give a collective sigh of both sadness and relief when J.K. Rowling penned her last line in the Harry Potter series. That sigh was repeated four years later in 2011 when the last Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2, hit theaters. They were both ends of eras, and for many fans, marked the end of a childhood journey.
However, despite any sadness we may have had, many of us knew that Warner Bros. would be revisiting this world somehow. We didn’t know when or in what capacity, but it was too big of a cash cow to let it simply die off without a fight. So how did this film come to be?
Speaking with our very own Edward Douglas, producer David Heyman talked about the origins of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them following the end of the Potter franchise, and how it was a mix of ideas from both the studio and J.K. Rowling herself, who went on to pen the script for the film.
“What happened was that Potter finished and it was mixed feelings. There was sadness because it was like family going their separate ways. We're leaving it on a high, which is great, but at the same time, it was such a brilliant world to be a part of and we're all going our separate directions; and when that last day of filming and then when we looked at the premiere, the last premiere in London at Trafalgar Square, it was so moving. The passion of the fans. At the same time, it's quite exciting to move on and make other films and tell other stories.
“Hooking on to Gravity and Paddington was exciting, but at the same time, Potter always loomed large. Lionel and I got together - Lionel Wigram, who is the executive who had sent the first book back in 1997. We were sitting and talking about what we could do. Lionel had the idea of doing a faux documentary--Newt Scamander traveling around finding his beasts. That idea was pitched to Jo who said, 'Huh, that's so funny. I've been thinking about Newt Scamander, and I've actually got a completely different story.' When we heard it, it was so much better than the faux documentary, as Lionel will be the first to admit. She told Warner's, they loved it, and she went off and wrote.”
And write J.K. Rowling did, eventually going on to scribe the entirety of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay. Of course, any writer knows that tackling a screenplay is much different from tackling a novel, and Heyman wasn’t immune to the fear that Rowling wouldn’t know how to write one.
“Then I received the script first, and it was mixed feelings, because there was some trepidation because she's a novelist--she'd never written a screenplay. I was a little bit nervous about, is it going to be good? Because there's a big difference between being a novelist and being a screenwriter; but as soon as I opened it and read the first paragraph, it was fantastic. That being said, it wasn't perfect. It needed work. It's a first draft done in isolation alone, a first script -- she'll be the first to admit--she had to learn, certainly. We brought on David Yates, and he and Steve worked together to discuss it with her, and she then went in a different direction, and she made it really dark - which was great! - but it was really dark. In a way, the big thing that she discovered was tone. Once she found her tone, some of that whimsy that was in the first script remained. Some of the darkness that was in the second draft remained. Once she found her footing, we were off to the races. She's a voracious writer. She cannot stop writing. Then we were working on the new script for the new film. She'd done a draft, and David asked her for a 12-page outline; the structure, the plot. Then two days later, a 102 page half-draft, half-treatment shows up. She is phenomenal. This is just pouring out of her.”
While the mediums of film and novel are entirely different, there is something to be said about one’s story sensibilities. So long as the writer is coming from a place of understanding regarding the strengths and weaknesses of each medium, and they have a solid sense of story, it’s not impossible for them to do well with both — as was apparently the case with Rowling. Thus far, reception to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them seems to be pretty solid. Our very own Kellvin Chavez has already sung its praises in the recent Los Fanboys Podcast episode, and as of this writing, the film is at 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 55 total reviews.
Are you looking forward to checking our Fantastic Beasts this weekend? Let us know your thoughts down below!