A J. K. Rowling ‘Beasts’ Revenge Theory

On the thread discussing ‘J. K. Rowling Still writing Fantastic Beasts 3 Screenplay,’ David Llewellyn Dodds, wrote, “What about the possibility of an analogue of ‘director’s cut’ in the form of ‘Rowling novels following movies’?” I started to write a reply but it soon became post length. In brief, I think this is a wonderful possibility and at least as unlikely as it would be both delightful and characteristic of Rowling the Subversive.

I trust David to correct me if I misunderstand what he is suggesting, which in my version goes something like this:

Novelists have their popular stories ‘adapted,’ which is to say ‘transformed, changed, and diminished,’ by movie makers. The original creators usually have little say in these medium metamorphases which are done by a screenwriter or a team of such, and, much more often than not, the new story is what most people remember of the work rather than the original creation and point which was the book. Nabokov was asked to write the screenplay for the first Lolita adaptation, he complied, they ignored his work (!), and he eventually published his ‘adaptation.’ Only Nabokov scholars, of course, have read it or are even aware of it.

So what do novelists get? They get a huge payday both in the form of payment for movie rights and from royalties (a successful film even if a bad or distortive adaptation, and, again, due to the opposing nature of the media, imaginative vs straight sense perception, all adaptations are inherently distortive and diminishing – will revive interest in a book indefinitely).

What they lose is larger public understanding of their work. Readers who come to the original work after seeing the film inevitably ‘see’ the film imaginatively in light of the screened images they have already consumed which supplants their capacity to envisage what the author has written. Hence the resistance of some novelists and their estates — think J. D. Salinger and Catcher in the Rye and the Tolkien estate — to Hollywood perversion of their creative visions.

Is there a way out of this bind except refusing the Tinsel Town galleons? Not really, especially if the author is beholden to charity commitments as Rowling is, or if the film rights to a work have been sold long ago as with Fantastic Beasts (with little thought perhaps given to its adaptation), or if an Estate faces family members who crave film gold and royalty revival (I think, forgive me, of the C. S. Lewis group, alas).

David’s suggestion, though, is that Rowling has a way of exacting creative revenge. Her reverse play, if I understand David, would be to take part in the screenwriting collaborative process and submit to all the changes and cuts the director and various Executive Producers insist are necessary. Something approximating her original vision makes it to the screen and she (her brand as well as her Volant and Lumos charities) gets a huge payout.

Then — and this is the defamiliarizing twist on the usual formula — Rowling publishes the novel versions of these stories. This publication-post-film-making has the following effects:

(1) A Dickensian ‘New Edition’ Payday: Dickens famously sold his novels in three chapter bundles as he wrote them, then repackaged and sold the complete book, and then came out with various ‘Collector’s Editions,’ all of which issues of the same book gave him a new income stream. Rowling, by publishing her truly original novels after the film screenplay collaborations, gets paid twice for her work. And, forgive me, these novels would sell the way the Harry Potter books did because they are Wizarding World stories from the hand of the One and Only.

(2) Exposure of the Screenwriting ‘Sausage Making’ Process: By giving us the true story, readers who have seen the movies (which, frankly, is ‘all readers’) will inevitably be saying as they read, “Oh, wow! That was isn’t the film! Why did they cut that out? That’s really important….” Rowling will exact revenge for all novelists who cannot believe what was cut from their stories in the film making and what made up in conformity with film-making formula (“A chase scene or two! In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe!”) but who cannot complain because they took Babylon’s money in exchange for rights to their work. Writing or just publishing the true stories, ‘true’ in the sense of fidelity to the original vision of the author of course,after the films shows just how little of that vision survives the inane demands and story-butchery of film making. Which is genius, frankly, and a characteristically Rowling-esque subversive twist on the power holders. Think Hermione and The Quibbler.

(3) Revelation to Film Devotees of Media Reality: The follow-up novels, more importantly if much less obviously, might also expose to the more thoughtful reader the inherently diminishing and distortive effects of film adaptations. Movie lovers are — without exception in my limited experience — blissfully unaware of the iconoclastic quality of the medium they prefer, a story-telling medium that serves and reflects the materialist and inherently secular ideas defining the historical period in which we live. By reducing by transforming imaginative immersion to sense perception, all that films can communicate in the end is fear or emotional sentiment, hence the importance of physical beauty and the inevitable chase. Rowling’s reverse-play, by giving the reader of the true story a much greater experience than the film version, would be revealing the paucity of the movie medium.

Unfortunately, this last falls victim to the same trap that the usual sequence of novel-to-film gives readers. Rowling’s feast for the reader imagination and the much broader spectrum of interior experience and transformation in Newt Scamander stories will inevitably all be restricted in reader minds to their mental pictures from the films of what Newt, Jacob, Queenie, Tina, Gellert, Albus, and Company look like and behave.

There’s really no winning here, in other words, on that score; the Salinger Option is the only way to retain control and its ascetic quality is all but anathema in this time period.

But what a delight if Rowling would publish her Scamander-Grindelwald stories as novels ex post facto the film versions! We readers would get the real thing and Warner Brothers would be exposed as the corporate story prostitution factory that it is. I have to doubt very much Rowling will do this as characteristic a rwist as it certainly would be, but I can imagine few more exciting possibilities. Thank you, David, for the idea — and forgive me if this idea is not what you meant!

 

Rowling Still Working on Beasts3 Script

Eddie Redmayne told a reporter at the Toronto Film Festival last week that “the script is still being worked on.”

ET Online: Do you have a Fantastic Beasts 3 update for us?
Eddie Redmayne: We’re meant to start shooting in the beginning of next year. The script is still being worked on. There’s nothing – I’m literally giving you nothing!

I’m trying to do that thing of talking about it and saying nothing, because of the fear of getting told off. But no, it’s happening, and it’s really exciting.

The man sounds positively petrified of saying something he shouldn’t (or is that just his response to a reporter asking him about a film other than the one he is supposed to be talking about?). Regardless of Redmayne, we now have to add that answer to the pile of possible answers to the question, “What is The Presence doing if she’s not tweeting every day?” The speech for the Robert Kennedy Do-Gooder Award ceremony in December can’t be a full time job, can it?

For those of you following the Beasts film franchise, the good news is that Redmayne’s comments do not suggest any delays in the filming or release dates for Beasts3. That last is a year after the elections here in the US… (did you know that Moaning Myrtle’s real name is ‘Elizabeth Warren’?)

In more exciting news. here is the trailer for the film Fast Eddie was in Toronto to promote, The Aeronauts, an historical fiction due in theaters or via Amazon Prime this December.

Two New (Sort of!) JKRowling.com Posts

Yesterday Rowling broke her Twitter platform silence of eight months with a post and a retweet of a PotterMore posting about the new logo and tagline for ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ (‘J. K. Rowling Returns to Twitter‘).

She also reposted a January 2017 post, ‘Cursed Child Film Rumours,’ at her JKRowling.com website about rumors of a Daniel-Emma-Rupert film production of ‘Cursed Child.’ She says this rumor is “rubbish:”

I have no idea how these stories emerge, but to set the record straight once and for all: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a stage play, it was conceived and written as a stage play, it was always intended to be a stage play and nothing else, and there are absolutely no plans for it to become a movie, a novel, a puppet show, a cartoon, a comic book series or Cursed Child on Ice.

And she posted another link, much like her Twitter re-tweeting, to the PotterMore story about the Times Square logo-and-tag-line unveiling: ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Takes over Times Square.’ That posting included this video.

Three short notes:

(1) The excitement about these events which even we are obliged to note are of no importance whatsoever, the change in logo-tagline of a Broadway play and an author’s return to a social media platform (!), testifies to the currency and vitality of Harry Potter’s status as the global shared text.

(2) If any conclusions are to be drawn from the JKRowling.com twin postings on top of the return to Twitter, my first guesses would be (a) it’s a business decision to use the tweeting platform with more than 14 million followers to highlight marketing events representing no little investment (how much do you think it cost to pull off that Times Square event about essentially nothing beyond reviving interest in a smash hit that may be showing signs of jumping the shark? To make the logo square with books and film logo?) and, (b) Rowling herself may be not totally on board with this. That reposting on her website of the 2017 denial of a movie production in the offing (2026?) sounds a bit like a ‘note to self’ (and to the world) that she is not really a prisoner of Rowling, Inc.’s mercenary concerns.

(3) Does anyone out there doubt that eventually, perhaps as with Tolkien “well after the author’s demise,” this play will be adapted into a movie and that there will be a Harry Potter movie re-booting, as well as a television series, opera, and Ice-Capades? If Christopher Tolkien couldn’t stop it, Rowling won’t be able to, and, given her charity concerns and commitments, I have to wonder at how long she will hold out against pressure externally from Warner Brothers and internally from Lumos and Volant.

Emma Watson as Meg March: New “Little Women” Trailer Debuts

The trailer for the new Little Women movie has made its debut, and Harry Potter fandom is abuzz over Emma Watson playing the role of all-American protagonist Meg March. She apparently wasn’t the first choice for the role, and some have questioned whether she can pull off an American accent. Still, she looks beautiful, as always, and I have read comments comparing her pink ball gown to her Yule Ball attire.

What surprised me when I heard she was in the movie was her age.  Emma Watson is 29 years old, and playing a character who is roughly the same age as Hermione was in Deathly Hallows, which filmed a full decade ago.  When I first heard she was in the film, I thought, wow, she’s pretty young to be Marmee. Yes, Emma proved she could still do the young girl thing in Beauty and the Beast. But this is one of the biggest cinematic age mismatches since 33-year-old Stockard Channing played Rizzo in Grease.

Though since 39-year old Shirley Henderson pulled off Moaning Myrtle, and 11-year olds Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy are being played by actors in their mid-20’s onstage, I guess anything is possible.

I think it is interesting–and refreshing– that Emma Watson is continuing to embrace her wholesome young girl persona, when so many former child actresses are eager to move on to more adult (read: sexually explicit) roles.

While we wait for the Christmas season movie, let’s go back and read John Granger’s post on Harry Potter’s, and JKR’s connection to Little Women. 

Literary Alchemy and the Mythic Context ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ Episode 25

 

From the MuggleNet podcast page:

In this episode, Katy and John do a deep dive into the symbolism and transformative power of J.K. Rowling’s work. First, John describes the concept of literary alchemy and how literature can effect an alchemical transformation on readers. Then, special guest Evan Willis (University of Dallas) explains how Renaissance alchemical symbolism intertwines with classical myth in Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike. From the Orestes myth to Castor and Pollux and Leda and the swan, we learn about the well of myths Rowling draws from in her literary creations. Willis particularly directs us to the importance of a Hermes/Mercury figure to serve as the invisible force behind the uniting of opposites. Who is this mysterious figure in Harry Potter and in the Strike books? Listen to find out the surprising answers!

Does literary alchemy work on us the same way when we’re watching films? We tackle this issue in light of the classical references in the Fantastic Beastsmovies. We also try to predict the next developments in Strike and Fantastic Beasts based on our understanding of the deep mythic context in both series. We’ll help you sort out the stories of Leta and Theseus, Dumbledore and Grindelwald, Cormoran and Robin, and Shanker and Rokeby and anticipate where they might be headed.