Harry Potter Manque: The Long List of HP Filmmaker Also-rans

Estimates for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'" weekend haul are now hovering around $135 million, driven by yesterday's jam-packed midnight screenings, which conjured over $35 million in ticket sales and another $1.4 million in IMAX grosses. Not a bad first act in the teen wizard's epic swan song. Clearly the franchise has benefited from the kind of careful, doting custodians looking out for its best interests that Harry himself so sorely lacked.

But the laws of entropy governing any creative endeavor dictate that there will always be missed opportunities and missteps along the way. So we've zeroed in on the one variable most responsible for each film's success or failure: the filmmaker. And in the interest of exploring some of those alternative universe versions of J.K. Rowling's beloved septet, we've assembled a selection of some of the most interesting directors to have circled various Harry sequels and our thoughts on how those versions might have turned out. So go ahead and join us in a bit of armchair blockbuster producing and weigh in with your own fantasies (or nightmares) of woulda, coulda, shoulda versions of the most successful book and movie franchise of all time.

Terry Gilliam's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Backstory: The Monty Python alum, known for creating visually baroque alternate realities in films like "Brazil" and "Twelve Monkeys," was J.K. Rowling's first choice to direct her first-born installment of Potter saga but Warner Bros. vetoed her suggestion in favor of the more mainstream and safe choice, Chris Columbus ("Home Alone"). Revisionist Harry: Imagine Gilliam taking all the Dursley sequences -- particularly the one in which Hagrid rescues Harry from the Dursleys and gives young Dudley a pig's tail -- to their absurdist Python-esque extremes. Nobody does malevolent buffoons better than Gilliam; and this Potter is full of them, from Draco Malfoy and his devious dad, Lucius, to the spineless Dark Artist Quirrell. And just imagine the ghoulishness of Gilliam's three-headed dog.

Steven Spielberg's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Backstory: Spielberg had discussed directing an animated version of the book with Haley Joel Osment (the kid from "The Sixth Sense") playing Harry, but he ultimately decided not to pursue the project. Revisionist Harry: Big sweeping scores, a very photogenic, adorable Harry, and Quidditch games full of kids shot in silhouette as they fly in front of a full moon.

Tim Robbins' Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Backstory: By far, the biggest wild-card candidate in the bunch, Robbins was still riding the momentum from his Best Director nom for "Dead Man Walking," five years earlier. Revisionist Harry: Ultra verite, improvised scenes depicting Harry's persecution by the Dursleys. Robbins' Harry is very in touch with his anger, which he channels into kicking ass at Quidditch and protecting himself and his two best buddies. In Robbins' hands, Harry Potter becomes an orphan's redemption story set to a score by Tom Waits and Richard Thompson.

Guillermo Del Toro's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Backstory: Del Toro was offered the gig and turned it down claiming the story was insufficiently dark and twisted to spark his interest. Revisionist Harry: Del Toro's Dementors would have been so heart-stoppingly scary, half of the kids in America would have been sleeping with their lights on for the next three years. And judging by what Del Toro did with "Pan's Labyrinth," that journey into the Whomping Willow: A tense trek into the sinisterly beautiful heart of darkness from which our three heroes would have likely not recovered for quite some time.

Kenneth Branagh's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Backstory: The British actor-director best known for his visceral, accessible Shakespeare adaptations like "Henry V" and "Much Ado About Nothing," was also in the running for the Potter in which the Hogwarts trio first hits puberty. Revisionist Harry: More time spent exploring the complexities of a triangular friendship than battling werewolves and Dementors.

Jean Pierre Jeunet's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Backstory: The French filmmaker, best known for fanciful surrealist allegories like "Amelie" and visually stunning action flicks like "Alien Resurrection," turned down the job claiming he prefers to work with more creative freedom than a big tent-pole like this one would allow. Revisionist Harry: Jeunet's take might be full of stark contrasts between dark and light, sinister and sweet. Luna Lovegood would be the kind of captivatingly mysterious sylph who bewitches audiences for days after they leave the theater. And yet the battle of Death Eaters would be so bone-rattlingly intense, the film might come with special rating cautioning audiences about potential sensory overload.

M. Night Shyamalan's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. Backstory: Shyamalan ("The Sixth Sense," "Signs") expressed interest in taking the helm of this, the second-to-last Harry Potter sequel. But  Warner Bros. was committed to British TV director David Yates, who had directed both "Order of the Phoenix" and "Half-Blood Prince." Revisionist Harry: It would be impossible to know who to trust in this extended-play denouement of the entire series, and even more so as played out through the prism of Shyamalan's eerie sensibility. Whatever happens among the trio of teens and the friends and foes they encounter in their efforts to evade Voldemort, Shyamalan will find some way to throw in a confounding twist at the end. Wait, you mean Harry is Voldemort?

Photo courtesy of © 2010 Warner Bros. Ent.
Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R.

  • Mick

    Man, I so wish Guillermo Del Toro had had a shot at the later ones. Weirder, deeper and more for the truly young *adult* than anyone else. He would've been great. Pan's Labyrinth is like an HP film taken to its logical conclusion.

    Francis Ford Coppola was never up for it (I think). But that would have been fascinating. Harry as a Kurtz sort of gent...

    Fun to ponder...thx.

  • jacqueline

    I think Tim Burton would have been a great addition to this article. I think if he would have taken the liberty to at least make one HP movie, it would be so fantastic and eerie, just like his other films.

    • dude

      i second that

      • Terra

        I third that! I was just about to say that. I think Tim Burton would have done HP right.

      • delysmarye

        absolutely Tim Burton would it done it perfectly more interesting hp is interesting but with Tim there is much more darkness and detail to love ,more realistic scenes.

    • amber

      agree with that... it's the best thing i've ever thoguht of and heard of. 🙂

    • Candice

      I disagree I think it would have ruined it....I like Tim Burtons films but they are always so annoyingly predictable. Not only that but he needs to take a break. I am getting tired of seeing produced by Tim Burton or directed by Tim Burton ever time I watch a movie. Sorry for sounding like a witch..but Im glad he didn't do any of the movies.

  • Sam

    I believe M. Night Shyamalan would've made a great HP and Deathly hallows

    • alberto Villagomez

      lmfao shyamalan directing,LMFAO, him directing is like trying to get an astronaut on the sun alive, its just not possible

    • Cathy

      I would have not even gone to this one - since "Sixth Sense" Shyamalan would have made a vague, long, drawn-out film that none of us would have realized was Harry except for the name! Snape would have been an allegory for the dark, Dumbledore would have been a simpletton - and Hermione would have been lovely but helpless maiden...

      Del Toro for me also!

  • i dont know

    I'm sooooooooo glad that Shayamalan did not do this movie. He would have did the same thing he did to The Last Airbender.

  • dude

    umm i would have like to see tim burton take it on...

  • I'm actually happy that neither Tim Burton nor M. Night Shayamalan directed any of these movies. Burton's take would have been too visually bizarre without much substance - not to mention the fact that he probably would never have read the books. Shayamalan, in my opinion, is a bit of a hack.

    Del Toro would have done a fantastic job, I think.

  • carlos aleman

    i have all your rock

  • Kevin Fumerola

    I agree with Avarra. Tim Burton would be a little bizarre and Shayamalan wouldn't have a clue. I think Guillermo would have been true to the story and Rowling's interpretation of the characters. What I was pondering, "What if John Williams was the composer for the sound track of any (or all) of the Potter series?" Not taking away from the wonderful music they have had, but Williams would have taken it to the next level.

  • Shan

    Both Spielberg or Shyamalan would have ruined Harry Potter. The series of movies of Harry Potter as directed are perfect as is.

  • Bardia

    I think it would have been better to be directed by Steven Spielberg!!!Because he is more experienced and he's made alot of sci-fic movies!!!Chris Colombus ruined harry potter books...

    • David

      Spielberg wanted a CGI Potter film, blending the first two books in a single movie, in a Hollywood institute, with Haley Joel Osment as Harry. That would have ruined the books, not Colombus who did the weakest HP films, but he's the one who established the HP world.

  • Joy

    I also wish they had found better actors to play the kids. I know good child actors are hard to come by, but I know they are out there.

  • for all of the HP films in my eyes they all brought something from every one's imagination, i am not saying all of the directors could have added more time on the screen and more of the actual things that happened in the book because every one has an idea to bring out in to this world, the books were epic hands down and the book will always be better than the movies but if some one can sit through a star wars movie any one can sit through a HP movie that is all i have to say other than that i give props to all of the actors directors extras, stunt people and the people that worked behind the cameras it was great too bad all the films were only like 2hrs short

  • ionalchemist

    Peter Jackson would have been a good choice for the deathly hallows.

    All in all, I agree with guadalupe, each film was unique in its own way, but they did a great job maintaining the theme and feel throughout. Obviously the producers did not change from film to film, and were definitely calling the shots.