J.K. Rowling announcing more Fantastic Beasts movies came as “a total surprise” to director

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 13: J.K Rowling attends the UK Premiere of "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald" at Cineworld Leicester Square on November 13, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 13: J.K Rowling attends the UK Premiere of "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald" at Cineworld Leicester Square on November 13, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images) /

Sixteen years after the final Harry Potter book and twelve years after the last Harry Potter movie, the Harry Potter brand remains strong. The play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is preparing to go on tour and Max is planning a full Harry Potter TV series. Magic lives.

That said, there have been some speed bumps. After the mainline movie series continues, Warner Bros. tried to keep things going with a new movie series kicked off by 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which followed mild-mannered magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). Two more movies were made — The Crimes of Grindelwald and The Secrets of Dumbledore — but each made significantly less money than the last, and the reviews became more and more mixed. The series seemed to be suffering from an identity crisis. The first movie was about Newt, but the films slowly morphed into a wider story involving a conflict between a young Albus Dumbledore and the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, a conflict that was to climax in a fight we never got to see.

That’s because, although we were told that the Fantastic Beasts series would last for five movies, 2022’s The Secrets of Dumbledore seemed to wrap things up prematurely, possibly because Warner Bros. saw the writing on the wall and wanted to get out of this series before they lost more money on it. Speaking on The Hollywood Reporter’s Inside Total Film podcast, David Yates — who directed all three Fantastic Beasts movies plus four Harry Potter films — didn’t say the series was dead, but did say it was “parked”:

"With Beasts for a minute, it’s all just parked. 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."

Is “parked” a gentle way of saying “this franchise is over”? We don’t know, but it’s hard for me to envision a world where the Fantastic Beasts movies continue. “I’m sure at some point, [central character] Newt [Scamander] may well be back,” Yates said. “Who can tell? We haven’t had any in-depth conversations.”

The Fantastic Beasts series is “parked,” which may be code for “over”

One of the reasons for the franchise’s flagging fortunes may have been a lack of planning up top. Originally, Warner Bros. announced that there would be three Fantastic Beasts movies, and that is indeed what ended up happening. But in 2016, ahead of the release of the first movie, Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling announced that there would be five.

Apparently, that announcement was news to Yates. “The idea that there were going to be five films was a total surprise to most of us,” he 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.”

Funny as it is to imagine J.K. Rowling just adding two more movies extemporaneously at a press conference, my guess is that someone okayed this move, even if Yates didn’t know. After all, the media reported on there being five movies for years and the studio never corrected them. And again, the fact that The Secrets of Dumbledore ends without a major clash between Dumbledore and Grindelwald tells you they didn’t get to do everything they wanted.

Will Harry Potter director David Yates return Max’s new Harry Potter TV show?

As for Yates, he’s moved on to other projects like Pain Hustlers, a drama about the opioid epidemic starring Chris Evans and Emily Blunt. “I have other projects on my desk, which are a million miles away from wizards and involved all sorts of things which are non-wizard associated,” he told Deadline.

Still, it doesn’t sound like Yates is the sort of guy who likes to close doors on anything. When asked if he might return for Max’s upcoming Harry Potter TV show, he said simply, “Never say never.”

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