By Pedro Martins and Vinícius BonaféVinícius Bonafé, consulted by Evandro Lira

David Yates fell in love with J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. Director of the last four Harry Potter and the first two Fantastic Beasts films, he won’t pull away from this universe so soon. Not if it depends on David Hayman, producer of all Wizarding World films.

“It would be great to have David [Yates] in all the [five] movies in the franchise,” said Heyman to POTTERISH at The Crimes of Grindelwald filming set. “He is the only one who seems to have energy enough to handle it,” he explained, recalling the other Harry Potter directors. “Chris Columbus, [director of the first two Harry Potter movies], was so tired that he could not continue. That was the reason why we hired Alfonso [Cuarón, to the third movie]. We loved his work, but he was exhausted. So we hired Mike Newell, who was also spent after directing the fourth.”

David Yates has enough energy. He was finishing The Legend of Tarzan while working on the pre-production of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – both released in 2016. “This time around, he’s working in only one film, so the possibilities are endless,” says the producer. “I would love if he continued in the next ones, but let’s see how he will feel and where the story goes.”

David Yates with Jude Law (Dumbledore) in the Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald filming set (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures/Distribution)

Before Yates became responsible for Harry Potter, the franchise went through another three directors. Learn more about each of their stories:

Chris Columbus
The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets

Chris Columbus’ enthusiasm with J.K. Rowling’s magical world was determinant to his hiring. He insisted on being the last one to be interviewed in a list of more than 25 directors, including Steven Spielberg and Mike Newell, future director of The Goblet of Fire. Columbus was introduced to Harry Potter by his daughter, a big fan of the books. Therefore, he was already involved with the characters and their journeys when he was hired.

Columbus made history after establishing elements of the visual identity of Harry Potter, which became the third most rentable franchise of all time. “Before Chris, no one knew what a wand was like, a spell, […] not even imagined how to play Quidditch,” says Mike Newell in an interview to the book Harry Potter: Page to Screen. “Chris, Stuart [Craig, the art director] and all the others involved [in the first movie] took this world to screen and passed it on us.”

Chris Columbus in the Philosopher’s Stone filming set

Alfonso Cuarón
The Prisoner of Azkaban

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón took over the third Harry Potter after Chris Columbus got mentally and physically exhausted and preferred to be relocated as producer. Not very familiarized with J.K. Rowling’s world, Cuarón accepted the job after being encouraged by his friend Guillermo del Toro, winner of the Academy Award for The Shape of Water (2017).

Delighted by the political aspect of the books, he made important decisions to the plot of the following movies. With new photography, exchanging warm and bright colors for colder and darker tones of blue and grey, the story started to assume a worrisome and gloomy atmosphere. Cuarón added a touch of realism to the Harry Potter cinematographic universe, through details such as the costume design, and established Hogwarts as the big and vivid setting it should be.

Alfonso Cuarón in The Prisioner of Azkaban filming set

Mike Newell
The Goblet of Fire

Mike Newell had been invited to direct the first Harry Potter but wasn’t available. “I was very interested, […] but, in one of the most catastrophic decisions in my professional life, I said to David [Heyman] that sadly I couldn’t accept the invitation,” he recalls. Years after, he was able to accept it, becoming the first British director of the franchise.

Newell’s ideas to The Goblet of Fire were inspired by the Bollywood style. Even though he kept Cuarón’s aesthetic decisions, Newell left his mark with extravagant and glamorous elements, like the Quidditch World Cup, the Yule Ball, and the Triwizard Tournament. In the filming sets, he got close to the actors, then he broke a rib in a fight with Oliver Phelps (George Weasley) while teaching him and his brother how they should fight after not being able to cross the Age Line cast by Dumbledore to protect the Goblet.

Mike Newell in The Goblet of Fire filming set

David Yates
The Order of the Phoenix, The Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows – Parts I and II

After Mike Newell left, David Yates was a surprising choice to take the director chair. At that time, he had directed only one movie and a few TV projects, but his politic vein was exactly what the producer David Heyman was looking for. In The Order of the Phoenix, he had to deal with a negligent and authoritarian Ministry of Magic, a monitored and manipulative press and a group of wizards led to rebellion.

During his first year as a director, Yates, along with screenwriter Michael Goldenberg – who was also in Harry Potter for the first time – humanized the plot and characters. Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge is an example of it: it’s evident that fear is the reason why he is acting in a dictatorial way. “David Yates always referred to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as a political movie with a lowercase ‘p’,” says the screenwriter. “No one was interested in an openly political approach. It was the context.”

David Yates in the The Deathly Hallows – Part I filming set

The J.K. Rowling factor
J.K. Rowling played an important role in her books’ adaptations. Although she wasn’t connected to the production, she met with each director to introduce the elements of her Wizarding World, as well as explaining how each one worked in her imagination. Even though many respected most of her suggestions and observations, some preferred to merge them with their own creative decisions.

“Even though I was hired, I knew that if my first meeting with Jo didn’t go well, I would never direct the movie,” says Chris Columbus. “Warner Bros. and David Heyman told me I had to explain to her what kind of movie I wanted to make.”

Alfonso Cuarón, the director with the most creative freedom during the adaptation process, was in frequent contact with Rowling. They discussed from architectural details of Hogwarts to the character’s personalities. “I used to ask, […] and sometimes she said it made total sense, […] saying she didn’t think of that in the books, but it was fantastic and we should keep on doing it. In other occasions, she preferred we didn’t go through with something, because it would contradict her sixth book.”

David Heyman, J. K. Rowling and David Yates in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them filming set

Did you know?
The Shrunken Heads that guide the Knight Bus and decor the Three Broomsticks are Alfonso Cuarón’s creation, not J.K. Rowling’s. Besides approving the idea, Rowling admitted wishing she had come up with that before the director. Later, in The Half-Blood Prince, Rowling mentions them: the students are searched by Argus Filch when they arrive at Hogwarts and Vincent Crabbe has a Shrunken Head confiscated by the caretaker.

Written by [J.K. Rowling], Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald premieres on November 16th. If you are excited for the movie, read the articles about our set visit:

+ Back to the Harry Potter universe
+ Get to know 5 new creatures from Fantastic Beasts
+ The Crimes of Grindelwald | Why is the film set in Paris?
+ Callum Turner changed J.K. Rowling’s plans for Theseus Scamander
+ The day we visited the Fantastic Beasts filming set

Translated into English by Nuara Costa
Edited by Michael Costa, Beatriz Franco and Aline Michel