‘Fantastic Beasts’ Was Originally Considered as a Documentary-Style Film

     September 12, 2016

It’s no secret that when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 closed out the Harry Potter film franchise, Warner Bros. was still considering different ways of keeping the brand alive. After all, the Harry Potter franchise as a whole grossed over $8 billion, and the ancillary revenue stream alone is worth keeping alive. We now know that Warner Bros.’ golden ticket was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a film based on a Hogwarts textbook that was “written” by magizoologist Newt Scamander detailing the various creatures he’d come across during his tenure. The film took shape with J.K. Rowling penning the screenplay, Harry Potter veteran David Yates directing, and a story set in 1920s America, but the original idea for how to turn Fantastic Beasts into a movie was very different.

Last December I had the pleasure of visiting the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them set in London along with a few other reporters, and during our interview with producer David Heyman, he revealed that the very first conversations about a Fantastic Beasts movie revolved around a very different idea:

“We were thinking about what to do and Lionel Wigram, who was one of the producers on this and who was the executive who I first sent Harry Potter way back in the beginning of 1997… He was thinking about what we could do and he had the idea of maybe doing a documentary about Newt. But ultimately I think Jo got word of that and sort of—I mean, we wouldn’t have done it without Jo’s permission or also a lot like, not sure we could’ve, but most certainly wouldn’t have done even if we could’ve [without her blessing].”


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Image via Warner Bros.

Indeed, a documentary-style feature about a famous magizoologist could’ve been an interesting take on the wizarding world, but when they brought this notion to Rowling, it turns out she had already been thinking about a Fantastic Beasts movie herself:

“So, Lionel had this idea. Jo got wind of it. She said, ‘Well, funny enough I’d been thinking about something already.’ And she had this whole idea in some form. I mean, it’s changed and developed over the course of the year and a half and two years that’s been going on. But she knows how each part connects with her universe. She knows the history of magic before we were with Newt Scamander. She knows the history of the school where Queenie and Tina may have gone—I mean she has all this in her head. She knows creatures, their history, where they’re from and so on. She’s knows who Newt’s family is, she knows Queenie and Tina’s family, she has it all figured out in some way. So, when she started, she showed us the script and [we] went, ‘Whew. Thank you.’”

Rowling’s idea for Fantastic Beasts is now fully formed, opening up the wizarding world to a whole host of new possibilities when it comes to franchise potential. This first film is but a taste of what the American side of wizarding was like back in the 20s, and after being introduced to this bevy of new characters, we’ll no doubt be eager to jump back in as WB has already slated release dates for Fantastic Beasts 2 and Fantastic Beasts 3. So yeah, Warners kind of lucked out here with a new extension of the franchise given that no arm-twisting was involved—Rowling’s wealth of knowledge about her universe is an ever-fruitful giving tree.

To read the rest of my Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them set visit coverage, peruse the links below. Look for even more in the coming days:

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