Are we about to see the dawn of a new era in the wizarding world of Harry Potter?
Rumours are rife in both London and Los Angeles that Warner Bros — which has a new boss after merging with Discovery in the spring — is closing in on a deal with J.K. Rowling over new filmed entertainment.
But my sources in London say that a deal was done at least six months ago and that writers are already toiling on a Potter-related TV series, most likely destined for Warner’s streaming service HBO. ‘The Potter spin-off is being talked about as a fact by people who work for HBO,’ I’m told.
Meanwhile, Hollywood is buzzing with rumours that Rowling is seriously eyeing up the possibility of starting another Potter film franchise, with the Fantastic Beasts series having lost some of its magic after three movies.
Suits at Warner Bros deny both stories and are reluctant to even confirm a meeting between boss David Zaslav and Rowling.
JK Rowling (pictured on the red carpet in London in 2013) is reportedly eyeing up more Potter
The company’s corporate spokesman refuses, rather aggressively, to comment on any ‘private meetings’ which Zaslav (known as ‘Zas’) may have had. All most peculiar, given that the ‘meeting’ would concern the largest asset Warner has — the intellectual property (IP) covering all things boy wizard — and would thus not really be personal at all. Rowling controls the Potter ‘IP’, and every decision has to come through her, whether it’s about merchandising, theme parks, video games or anything else.
Warner Bros would have to be blind not to want to follow the example of Disney, which has pumped out successful TV spin-off series from its Star Wars and Marvel film franchises including Loki, Obi-Wan Kenobi, WandaVision, The Mandalorian, Ms Marvel and Moon Knight.
The Potter franchise has huge value outside of filmed entertainment, with a Forbidden Forest experience about to open in New York, in addition to ones in Virginia and Cheshire. Next year will see the release of a Hogwarts Legacy video game.
WBD CEO David Zaslav (pictured in June) met JK Rowling in June and it went well, I’m told
It is a matter of record that Zas, a lawyer, set off on a listening tour after joining the company in April. In May, the Wall Street Journal profiled him and said he was planning to meet J.K. Rowling imminently. I’m told they did meet and it went well.
Last year, Warner Bros issued a mealy-mouthed response when the row over Rowling’s stance on trans rights first blew up.
Meanwhile the young cast of Potter, especially Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe, made highly critical comments about her, prompting talk of a rift.
However, after the changing of the guard, Warner Bros is now standing four square behind her. Rowling reacted with horror on Twitter to the stabbing of novelist Salman Rushdie last week — resulting in her receiving a death threat.
Warner’s statement ran: ‘Warner Bros Discovery strongly condemns the threats made against J.K. Rowling. We stand with her and all the authors, storytellers and creators who bravely express their creativity and opinions . . . the company strongly condemns any form of threat, violence or intimidation when opinions, beliefs and thoughts might differ.’
Rowling’s seven-book series was adapted into eight feature films which grossed £6 billion.
The young cast of Harry Potter, including Emma Watson (left), Rupert Grint (centre) and Daniel Radcliffe (right), have made critical comments of JK Rowling, prompting talk of a rumoured rift
Lovelorn star looking for a Hulk of a man
Disney are having a lot of fun with their new TV series She-Hulk: Attorney At Law.
They have set up a pretend Tinder profile for their green, 6 ft 7 in, lovelorn heroine.
Tatiana Maslany stars as Jennifer ‘Jen’ Walters – or She-Hulk – in the Disney+ series
And scenes in the new show picture her despairing of ever swiping right and finding a match.
She-Hulk actress Tatiana Maslany (right as She-Hulk) says that if she had to choose a superhero to date it would be ‘Batman from the Adam West series’.
Her on-screen best friend Ginger Gonzaga reckons that Groot — the sentient stick from Guardians Of The Galaxy — would be a better fit.
‘Groot seems like he needs a bit of love.’
Danish Dracula gets his teeth into delicious black comedy series
Claes Bang has always made a good baddie — think of Dracula — despite having a reputation for being one of the nicer actors on the circuit. He says the secret of his success as a villain is that he isn’t afraid to reveal his inner dark side.
Claes Bang said he is playing himself in black comedy Bad Sisters, out today on Apple TV+
‘I am sorry to say that I am sort of playing myself,’ he says. ‘It is a question of allowing all those dark sides that we all have, perhaps the sides of myself that I’m not too proud of, to emerge.’
The Danish star (left) is the villain of the piece in the delicious black comedy Bad Sisters, out today on Apple TV+.
He plays JP, rotten husband of one of the titular sisters, who is [spoiler alert] buried in the opening scenes.
Eve Hewson — Bono’s daughter — plays the youngest of the five siblings suspected of bumping off JP. She says: ‘It opens with his funeral, and then you learn through the season why they want him dead.’
Eve Hewson (left) and Sharon Horgan (right) play sisters accused of bumping off JP (Bang)
Hewson has a romantic subplot with Daryl McCormack. Sharon Horgan (right with Hewson), who wrote the series and stars in it, said: ‘As soon as we saw the first rushes of them together, everyone got excited. I think it’s the best meet-cute, even if I say so myself. When you see them look at each other, hate each other, but instantly be attracted to each other. They’re really great.’
As for Bang, he will continue his sinister streak by playing the Nazi lover of Coco Chanel in The New Look for the same network.
His character, Hans Von Dincklage, was a prominent Nazi official who spied for the Reich in Paris before World War II. He and Chanel lived together at the Ritz during the Nazi occupation.
Actress Milly Alcock, 22, is pictured on the red carpet in Amsterdam last week
The Stark truth about Game Of Dragons Milly
Australian actress Milly Alcock, 22, is on posters across the globe thanks to her starring role as Rhaenyra Targaryen in House Of The Dragon, the blockbuster prequel to Game Of Thrones.
She plays the leading role for the first half of the series, which starts on Monday.
In London this week, Milly said that she is missing the white-blonde wigs she was glued into, in a 90-minute daily process, as she thought they lent her a distinctive otherworldly air. ‘When I take off the wigs I realise ‘Oh . . . this is my face’,’ she said with an air of disappointment. Asked which family in the fantasy world she would like to belong to she replied: ‘The Stark family. I like the accent.’
She’s in good company. Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner spent years attempting to sound like Yorkshireman Sean Bean, who played their father Ned Stark in Game Of Thrones. Apparently, it was one of their favourite ways to pass the time.
Milly said she is missing the white-blonde wigs she was glued into (pictured in character)
Emily Maitlis in battle of the blondes to sign up Grant
The repercussions from Prince Andrew’s car-crash Newsnight interview continue.
Interviewer Emily Maitlis and her former friend, interview-fixer Sam McAlister (far right) are locked in a rivalrous race to the screen with their versions of events.
And in a new twist, it seems that actor Hugh Grant is the common object of their passions. Sources say that Grant, 61, and Maitlis, 51, are ‘old friends’ and it’s thought that informal approaches have been made about Grant playing the Duke of York.
Representatives for former Newsnight presenter Maitlis (right with the actor) deny that Grant has been shown a script — yet. But others connected to the project say there is already a connection between the A-list actor and the A-list interviewer, not hurt by Maitlis’s choice of the production company Blueprint to make her three-part TV show about the interview.
Blueprint also made A Very British Scandal, in which Grant played Liberal MP Jeremy Thorpe.
Hugh Grant and Emily Maitlis (left), A-list actor and A-list interviewer, are pictured together at a drinks reception in 2013. Right: ex-Newsnight producer Sam McAlister has sold the rights to Scoop, a rival series about the duke interview
It was announced last month that Sam McAlister’s book Scoops had been optioned and is being made into a film called Scoop, written by Peter Moffat. It was speculated that Grant was on the wishlist to play the Duke of York. Asked if he was involved, Grant said on Twitter: ‘No, I’m not. Never heard of it.’
However, a month later, it seems that he is considering taking on the role in a rival project.
Maitlis’s work is in the development stage. Her team say it will be a three-part TV show, to go out on a ‘major streaming service’, and will have a ‘Bafta-winning writer’.
Prince Andrew discussed his friendship with the late convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein in the 2019 Newsnight interview. A source tells me: ‘Sam and Emily are two very alpha females. They were mutually supportive until the moment when all this happened. They are now no longer in contact with each other.’
Neither Maitlis nor McAlister were available for comment yesterday.
Well, Paddington might just be ruined for ever. Hugh Bonneville is — no spoilers — a tremendously bad person in the tense, bloody, Hitchcock-inspired Netflix film I Came By.
Netflix’s Fiona Lamptey says: ‘People will come to this film with a perception of who Hugh’s character is, namely this guy you are familiar with from Downton and Paddington, and you’ll feel safe.’
Hugh comments: ‘It’s when the plastic sheeting comes out that you should start worrying.’
George MacKay and Kelly Macdonald also star in the film, which is in cinemas from today and available to be streamed at home from the end of the month.
See How They Run is a whodunnit set during the production of Agatha Christie’s famous whodunnit, The Mousetrap.
The film was inspired by the true story of an impresario who won the rights to make a movie of the book — with the proviso that he could only do so six months after the production closed. It has, of course, run continuously (bar Covid) since 1952.
Most of the film was shot during lockdown, in London theatres that were forced to close. Ruth Wilson, who plays impresario Choo Spencer, said: ‘Even though they were empty and it was make-believe, we were on the stage.’
Saoirse Ronan stars with Sam Rockwell in the film, in cinemas from September 9.
Murder mysteries must be having a moment. Knives Out sequel Glass Onion, with Daniel Craig; and Amsterdam, about three friends who witness a murder, starring Margot Robbie, Christian Bale and Anya Taylor-Joy, are also due out this year.