Warner Bros. has cast an Immobulus spell on Fantastic Beasts.
Director David Yates gave an update about the beleaguered franchise, which halted after three of its five planned films were released.
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“With Beasts for a minute, it’s all just parked,” Yates told the Inside Total Film podcast. “We got to the end of [the third film, 2020’s Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore] and we’re all so proud of that movie, and when it went out into the world, we just needed to sort of stop and pause, and take it easy.”
Yates claimed the entire idea of a five-film franchise wasn’t the studio’s at all. It was initially planned as three films, and he suggested the saga’s author and Beasts trilogy screenwriter J.K. Rowling made the announcement of a five-film plan without much of the creative team knowing ahead of time during a media event for the first film, 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
“The idea that there were going to be five films was a total surprise to most of us,” Yates said. “[Rowling] just mentioned it spontaneously, at a press screening once. We were presenting some clips of FB1. We’d all signed up for FB1, very enthusiastically. And Jo, bless her, came on … and said, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s five of them.’ We all looked at each other — because no one had told us there were going to be five. We’d committed to this one. So that was the first we’d heard of it.”
It should be pointed out, however, that Warner Bros. never corrected this statement or gave any indication that five films wasn’t the plan, despite five being cited in media stories for years afterward. Also, it’s clear that — especially with the second film, 2018’s The Crimes of Grindelwald — that that franchise creatively seemed intent on following the villainous wizard’s (first played by Johnny Depp, then Mads Mikkelsen) storyline through to his climactic, as-yet-unseen, confrontation with Dumbledore (Jude Law). Then the ending of Secrets rather unexpectedly seemed like an attempt to wrap things up.
Added Yates, who is currently promoting his new crime drama, Pain Hustlers: “I haven’t spoken to Jo, I haven’t spoken to [producer] David Heyman, I haven’t spoken to Warner Bros; we’re just taking a pause. It’s quite nice because it allows me to do stuff like [Pain Hustlers]. But I’m sure at some point, [central character] Newt [Scamander] may well be back. Who can tell? We haven’t had any in-depth conversations.”
Warner Bros. and Rowling did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
It’s difficult to imagine the franchise returning without some degree of creative reboot. While the first film was a bona fide hit, grossing $811 million globally, the next two films both fell sharply (to $648 million and $404 million, respectively), signaling declining interest. Critics have pointed out the franchise struggled with a bit of an identity crisis, launching as a creature-focused tale centered on magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his friends and evolving into a Dumbledore vs. Grindelwald Wizarding World War story. Online debates over Depp being replaced by Mikkelsen and Rowling’s controversial positions about the trans community added to the franchise’s struggles.
In the meantime, Warner Bros. has a plan to launch a Harry Potter TV series for Max, which intends to reimagine Rowling’s beloved series of novels into a multiseason series with a new cast. Since assuming control of the company last year, Warner Bros. CEO David Zaslav has repeatedly expressed his desire for more Harry Potter projects. Notably, he has not called for more Fantastic Beasts.
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