Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hoffman to be director for Harry Potter? (NEWS/EDITORIAL)

Dark Horizons is reporting that Warner Brothers is in talks with Michael Hoffman to direct Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, the sixth film in the Potter franchise. Confirmation of the next Harry Potter director is due before Christmas. Other names in the frame include David Yates, currently filming Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and former Potter directors Christopher Columbus and Alfonso Cuaron.

Hoffman's former films include One Fine Day, starring George Clooney and Michelle Pffeifer; A Midsummer Night's Dream with a star-studded cast including Kevin Kline, Michelle Pffeifer, Calista Flockhart and Rupert Everett; and an excellent adaptation of Rose Tremain's Restoration, starring Robert Downey Jr. Based on these efforts alone I am sure Hoffman would fare very well directing Potter, although browsing Potter fandom online, there seems to be a great deal of scorn being poured on the idea, largely on the basis that Hoffman is not seen as a 'big' enough name. Instead Peter Jackson is proclaimed by many to be the best possible Potter helmsman.

Personally I couldn't disagree more with this viewpoint. It might be controversial to say this, in view of the exceedingly high esteem Jackson enjoys, but I never rated the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I can admire the hard work, the grandiose effort, the dedication, the special effects (well, some of them) and the sheer panoramic majesty of the enterprise - but, in truth, I felt many other core directorial values were a tad neglected. I thought a lot of the acting performances were hammy beyond belief, literally risible at times, and the narrative flow was sluggish at points. The Return of the King was the greatest offender in my book, with its interminable, sappy ending. And the best film, (and also the least popular by all accounts!), in my view, was The Two Towers.

As for the Potter franchise securing a top-rate director with pretensions to auteur status - no way ... not now at any rate - unless Warner Brothers can tempt Cuaron to return. Cuaron, in my book, was the best of the Potter directors so far, and his Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is leagues ahead of the other films in terms of quality and style. Cuaron is an excellent filmmaker, and Warner Brothers were lucky to have someone of his calibre stepping in to save the franchise.

Having said that, David Yates, currently filming the fifth Potter film, is himself a burgeoning and impressive talent. His skills have not been tested as yet on the mega-budget scale Harry Potter films usually command, but his works to date, such as The Way We Live Now, The Girl in the Cafe and State of Play suggest he has the ability to carry the job off splendidly.

The simple truth is most directors see the Potter franchise as a cookie cutter system - even though Warner Brothers are forever stressing that directors are allowed an independent take on the novels. Terry Gilliam's recent statement that he would never direct a Potter adaptation, might have smacked a little of sour grapes in view of how he was passed over for the first film in favour of Columbus, despite being author Rowling's number one choice - but he did point out how directing Potter is viewed in the industry, describing it as a 'factory job.' Seemingly then directors keen to preserve their own self-conscious sense of creativity will avoid Potter like the plague - Cuaron excepted of course - so that should rule out other perennial favourites amongst Potter fandom such as Tim Burton, with his wholly unique brand of filmmaking, Quentin Tarantino (as if !), Steven Spielberg (refused to direct the first film), and, Guillermo del Toro, who reportedly rejected an offer from Warner Brothers to helm Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Another potential names thrown into the mix is M. Night Shyamalan, famous for The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and The Village, who has reportedly expressed an interest in directing Harry Potter. But the lack of critical and audience approval for his latest outest, The Lady in the Water, might well have damaged his chances.

Joss Whedon, best-known for writing and directing the cult TV series Buffy; the short-lived Firefly, which has accrued a vocal and devoted fanbase; and the quirky sci-fi picture Serenity, (based on Firefly), has also suggested himself as director for the final Potter film, to be based on Rowling's seventh and last Potter book - likely to be published in July 2007, according to reports.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

"The Return of the King was the greatest offender in my book, with its interminable, sappy ending."

What a load of codswallop. It's Tolkien's ending that is far longer and more interminable than anything in the film. If anything, your criticism says Jackson should not have honored Tolkien's conclusion. Good call asking someone to direct the Potter conclusion and yet expect him to run roughshod on the ending of the entire franchise. Seriously clueless.

Gallivant said...

You know what ... I disliked BOTH endings, novel and film. But I couldn't care less if an adaptation is totally true to the text - what I want to see is a good, well-made film, which captures the spirit of the source text. I don't expect, or even want, true fidelity.

Anyway, thanks for your comments.