It's difficult to think of a young adult franchise more beloved than J.K. Rowling's #HarryPotter. The fantasy novel series burst onto the scene in the mid-'90s and has gone on to spawn cinematic franchises, games, spin-off books, theme parks, and more merchandise than you can shake a wand at.
In 2013 the books sold more than 500 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling series ever, and the movies were the largest grossing franchise in cinema history until they was overtaken by the #Marvel Cinematic Universe a few years ago. The books have also been translated into 73 languages, beginning life published in English, written by Rowling in England, where the story is based.
And an integral part of the attraction of the series — especially in the US — is the Britishness of it all. British media has found a captive audience in the US with the likes of Doctor Who, Sherlock and, of course, Harry Potter.
The fictionalized version of the UK that these media portray has a great fanbase abroad, presenting steam trains and boarding schools all wrapped up in a quintessentially British paradigm. Even the name Harry Potter itself has British roots, with Harry coming from the Medieval English form of Henry, and Potter having roots in English, Dutch, and North German anthroponyms.
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So it's hard to imagine what it would've been like had the Harry Potter books been Americanized for the cinematic adaptations. There has of course been talk of an American version of the franchise for a long time, which found its home in the New York based Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and likely will remain set in America for the sequels too.
But, believe it or not, when Harry Potter was first optioned for a film series, it was in fact considered as a straight-up American adaptation of the books.
Sensing that they were probably going to turn out to be a big deal, British producer David Heyman acquired the film rights to the first four books back in 1999 and took them to US-based company Warner Bros. for production.
Speaking to The Independent, Heyman described how the studio executives he met with considered turning Harry Potter into a "US teen drama" when they bought the rights to production. Thankfully, this didn't happen:
"In some of the first talks with writers in America there was talk of moving it to the States, you know, cheerleaders and the like. That just never really rang true because it really was culturally so British. Yet, thematically, it was universal."
Despite some pressure from the American writers, Heyman stood his ground during discussions. As he explained, while thematically the story is universal — good vs. evil, friendship, coming-of-age — as a cultural institute Harry Potter is an essentially British one. Transplanting the gothic structures and charm of Hogwarts into a modern-day America just wouldn't have worked as well.
Thankfully, this idea didn't gain much traction, but if it had it likely would've been nixed by Rowling herself. She fought against having the movies filmed in the US, and insisted on an almost purely British cast — Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone only features two American actors.
She wasn't even happy with the name change for the American release, which changed the original title Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, though she did eventually concede on that point. If nothing else, Rowling knows how to pick her battles.
What do you think an American version of Harry Potter would look like? Sound off in the comments, and check out our video below to find out how to make your own Polyjuice Potion Cocktail!
(Source: The Independent)