The Secrets of Grindelwald Screenplay: Three Quick Notes about its Publication

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Through the TRL Daily Prophet’s reports, I have been following the news since December about the publication of a Secrets of Grindelwald screenplay. Only last week did an aside in a news release about the new Secrets trailer confirm that there would be a published screenplay — and announce that it would be available to readers on 19 July, three months after the movie premiere. “The screenplay of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore will be published in the English language by Little, Brown (U.K.), Scholastic (U.S.) and Pottermore Publishing (ebook) on 19 July 2022″ (Hat tip to Beatrice Groves). 

The TRL Daily Prophet noted:

The publication date for the original screenplay has been announced too: July 19th. Yes, you read that right: almost 3 months after the release of the film. Why? It hasn’t been explained (maybe they will wait to see the success of the film to know how many copies to print?). I hope the fact that the film will be well known by the fans at the time of the book release would make them include some extra material (maybe deleted scenes?)

Three Quick Notes:

(1) Why the Delay? The only idea I have heard that makes sense was one floated by the TRL Daily Prophet in January, namely, that MinaLima, the artists that designed the first and second Beasts screenplays, were not engaged in time and were working on other projects (including this one for the Beasts franchise). The subject of why this project did not result in the simultaneous publication of the book and the release of the film highlights the oddity of the whole exercise and the change of direction in Secrets of Dumbledore with respect to the screenwriting.

First, Rowling does not number the published screenplays among books she has written (see her October 2020 interview with Graham Norton for that list). She is openly acknowledging that, though she does the original plotting of the movie, the two Davids who run the show for Warner Brothers are going to, as she said Steve Kloves explained to her, “fit the woman to the dress,” i.e., re-write her story so it conforms to block-buster movie formula. This has resulted in a host of filmed scenes never being used or even included in deleted scenes (see this list with an addendum or two for the first film), relatively incoherent final products, and disappointing box office, for Wizarding World films at least. There may be no big push from Team Rowling to get the screenplay out there because it’s not her product.

Second, Steve Kloves, always a person in the works for re-writing Rowling’s original work and seemingly a trusted partner, was given co-writer status in Secrets of Dumbledore. Rowling is insisting on or at least allowing it to be revealed that she is not doing all the work in writing this film and should not be held solely  accountable for it as she has been in the past. Again, if Kloves is getting half the credit and a substantial part of the money made by the book, what motivation does Rowling have to review and sign off on the dog mess made of her original story?

(2) The Hopeful View

Which co-writing business brings us to the real point. The two previous Beasts books have been sub-titled “The Original Screenplay” because “original” in Hollywood parlance means it is not an adaptation of a work published as a story first. They are, sadly, nothing at all like the “original screenplays” we know Rowling wrote or even the original shooting script that was filmed, but transcripts of the edited and re-packaged final product. Might the delay in publishing the third screenplay mean we’ll get something more than another transcript of the Warner Brothers bowdlerized version of The Presence’s craft as screen writer and story-teller?

This is the most hopeful view, I think, namely, that the book version of the movie is being published after the movie has left the theaters because it may be substantially different than the film as butchered cut in the editing room. Patricio Tarantino opined that maybe they’d include deleted scenes, which is to say, the parts of the story from the shooting script that didn’t make the final version. That’s a reasonable expectation, if not especially ground-breaking because we’d get those scenes in the DVD extras eventually.

My hoped for end-game with the Fantastic Beasts franchise is that, when the five films are finally finished, Rowling will publish her stories as five novels so we get her “original screenplays.” Not the shooting script compromises or the final cut-up version’s transcript, but what she wrote from the start and from which the Warner Brothers hacks adapted to the visible medium from the imaginative one of its author.

We won’t know if Rowling will do that, of course, until we have Beasts 5. What I can hope for in the meantime and in light of this bizarro delay in publishing the third screenplay is that we will get much more of Rowling’s original work in the book sub-titled “The Original Screenplay,” Kloves or no Kloves. 

(3) The Less than Hopeful View

My most hopeful view is naive, I know. Think of it, please, as less of a prediction or expectation than a desire to be optimistic rather than cynical.

When I go the cynical route, I wind up asking the obvious question about the delay and the project: “Why screw with CAPS LOCK SUCCESS?”

These transcript-screenplays are easy money and proven winners. It’s beyond strange that they’ve elected to try a new model or method mid-stream. I cannot remember another film series or screenwriter whose work has been published as Rowling’s has thus far — novelizations of films, yes, screenplays, no — and I struggle to think of legitimate reasons for the publishers not to be insisting that their knock-off title not be given the benefit of piggy-backing on the monster marketing campaign for the film’s release.

The negative view of this situation is that Warner Brothers, CAPS LOCK WOKE, is doing everything it can to disassociate Rowling from this series because of the transgender controversy. The actors, actresses, producer, and director have all made public statements saying that they disagree with Rowling’s heroic stance in defense of women’s rights to safe spaces and in protection of troubled adolescents. I expect that none of them will appear with Rowling in promotional events or that she will be invited to the red carpet premiere (or that she would choose to go if invited). She has not tweeted anything about this new film to date, a real departure from the first two movies. Both parties seem to have chosen to part company beyond contractual obligations.

Viewing the publication delay in light of this trans-elephant in the room, a pachyderm throwing a lot of shade, we should expect the Kloves screenplay “written from an original story by J. K. Rowling” to be just another final cuts version transcript, only one that is another step removed from the real story. The delay may be nothing more than a distancing tactic meant to shield the hysterical parts of fandom from the awareness that they are paying to watch a movie sort of written by an author they believe sans evidence and reason to be a transphobe, bigot, and, egad, murderer.

If this is true, shame on the publishers for agreeing to it and on Warner Brothers for their part in it. If it was Rowling’s idea, because she wants no part in the effort to link herself with the franchise beyond her obligations as co-screenwriter and Executive Producer, fine. I’m confident we’ll never know the back story of this decision.

So we’ll watch the movie in April and make what sense of it that we can — and then read the “original screenplay” in July and repeat that process. I hope you’ll join us in both efforts and that you’ll share your thoughts about the three month delay of publication in the comment boxes below.




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