Back when Chris Columbus turned in the first two Harry Potter films, it didn’t look like the director’s chair in the series would alter too much as the franchise evolved.
But to the credit of Warner Bros, after the tepid opening two films, it got a bit riskier with its choice of directors, and has been generally rewarded with better films. That said, alongside the directors that it did manage to lure to the franchise are a number who turned them down. And let’s start with the one that J K Rowling wanted, but Warner Bros simply wouldn’t consider…
Terry Gilliam was reportedly the first choice of author J K Rowling to direct the Harry Potter films, but she quickly hit a brick wall over at Warner Bros. Gilliam, they contended, was not going near the franchise – which Warner Bros back then was banking on to bring in an awful lot of cash, and thus didn’t want to take risks with – and that was pretty much that.
Since then, Gilliam has given an interview during the publicity of his film The Brothers’ Grimm where he lambasted Warner Bros’ decision. He was quoted in the New York Post as saying, “I was the perfect guy to do Harry Potter. I remember leaving the meeting, getting in my car, and driving for about two hours along Mulholland Drive just so angry. I mean, Chris Columbus’ versions are terrible. Just dull. Pedestrian.”
At one stage, the bearded directorial wonder, Steven Spielberg, was in line to helm the first Harry Potter film. However, the deal broke down, reportedly over control. The story goes that Spielberg wanted final say on the picture, whereas J K Rowling was interested in a director who would work closer to her thoughts. The deal was thus never done.
GUILLERMO DEL TORO
The mighty Gullermo Del Toro was offered the director’s chair on Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban, but turned down the offer to concentrate his efforts on the first Hellboy film instead. Since then, he expressed an interest in helming the final films in the series, but has since committed to filming The Hobbit, while David Yates steps in to complete the Harry Potter saga. Alfonso Cuaron went on to director Prisoner Of Azkaban, which remains arguably the most acclaimed film in the series. Which neatly leads us on to…
Warner Bros knew they were onto a good thing when Alfonso Cuaron turned in the much darker and more interesting Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban. Compared to the dry and predictable first two entries in the saga, helmed by Chris Columbus, his film was something of a revelation. Thus, Warner Bros tried to get him signed back up for the fourth film in the series, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire. Cuaron, however, turned down the opportunity, reportedly because he would still be immersed in post-production on Azkaban when he would need to be preparing the next film.
Columbus helmed what are generally regarded as the weakest of the Potter films, namely the first two entries in the series. But he declined the chance to continue his run, noting that he hadn’t seen his own kids properly for the best part of three years due to his commitment to the films. Thus, Prisoner Of Azkaban eventually went to the aforementioned Alfonso Cuaron.
The man who’s just added Quantum Of Solace to his CV was red hot off the back of Finding Neverland when the Potter call came. He too was in the running for the third film in the series, the Prisoner Of Azkaban, but rejected the chance citing an unwillingness to go and do another film with child actors. Since then, he’s done the underrated Will Ferrell film, Stranger Than Fiction, that really deserves a bigger audience than it’s had to date.
There hasn’t been, and doesn’t look like there will be, a female director of a Harry Potter film to date, but Mira Nair was offered the chair for Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix. Nair, who has helmed Vanity Fair and Monsoon Wedding, passed on the opportunity, however, and David Yates ultimately got the chair instead.
Now this would have made a fascinating movie. Buoyed by its success in luring an international director to the franchise previously (with Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner Of Azkaban), Warner Bros approached Amelie director, and the co-helmer of Alien Resurrection, Delicatessen and The City Of The Lost Children to tackle Order Of the Phoenix. Sadly, he declined the opportunity.