Yesterday I reported how the box office figures and general reception for Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them hasn't been exactly what Warner Bros. was hoping for. There's a lot of thought, within the industry, that the launch of the Fantastic Beasts franchise has somewhat missed the mark the studio was aiming for. In that piece, I speculated that future installments of the spinoff series- set in the same world as J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books- might become more Potter-centric in an effort to maximize its success.
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them producer David Heyman, who also produced all of the Harry Potter films, spoke to Cinema Blend a few days ago and revealed something that's very telling:
Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander is not going to be the central focus of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, but the Dumbledore/Grindelwald storyline will be.
The history between those two characters factored into Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows- Part 1, where Gellert Grindelwald was played by both Jamie Campbell Power (Young) and Michael Byrne (Old). In Fantastic Beasts, we met a middle-aged Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp.
Here's what Yates said about how Fantastic Beasts is going to shift the focus from Newt and his cohorts- who'll still be present- and lock in on Dumbledore and Grindelwald's history:
"I don't think [Newt will be at] the heart of all of them. I think he'll be part -- so will Tina, Queenie and Jacob -- will be part of the next one.
"[Dumbledore] and Credence and Grindelwald. I think they will be the main players."
He also revealed that Credence (Ezra Miller), who seemingly died in Fantastic Beasts, is still very much alive.
"We actually had a scene, which we cut, which was Credence going to a boat, to get on a boat somewhere else. But we cut that, because we didn't want to have it be such an, 'Ahhh, here we go.'"
It's interesting that Newt Scamander, who was basically the face of every aspect of this first installment and is played by an Academy Award-winning actor in Redmayne, is going to be de-emphasized in favor of further exploring elements of the Harry Potter mythos. Especially when the connection to the Potter films was handled somewhat loosely for the Fantastic Beasts promotional campaign- Something that industry insiders say was a misstep by Warner Bros.
This calls to mind what Warner Bros. did with its Superman franchise. An old report by Forbes claimed that the studio was somewhat underwhelmed with the returns for Man Of Steel, so they champed at the bit when Zack Snyder pitched the idea of bringing box office champ Batman into the sequel. Now the studio seems to be taking a similar approach with Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, where they're suddenly going to add a whole lot more of the Potter mythos into the sequel in order to appeal to that franchise's ardent fanbase.
This, after Rowling and director David Yates worked fairly hard to establish the idea that Fantastic Beasts is a spinoff that's only cosmetically linked to the Potter stories.
While it's obvious that the series was always going to touch on key Potter elements, by even including references to Dumbledore and having Grindelwald in the script, this assertion from Heyman that Newt Scamander will not be "at the heart" of the upcoming films, and that the main players will actually be key figures from the Potter mythos, is a notable realignment for the franchise's trajectory.
If it was always their intention to veer the focus away from Scamander, you'd think they would've played up the Potter connection much more in the march towards its premiere last week.
It's pretty clear that things have been rejiggered in the last few months as the studio has seen how the film was testing, and how its box office prospects were looking.
They're now going to head full-steam towards Harry Potter Prequel territory.
What do you think of that? Are you surprised that Redmayne's Scamander is going to take more of a backseat in future installments after all the work that went into making him the face of the Fantastic Beasts franchise?