There's A World Where Steven Spielberg Directed The Harry Potter Movies, But It Sounds Like They Would Have Been Really Different

There's A World Where Steven Spielberg Directed The Harry Potter Movies, But It Sounds Like They Would Have Been Really Different

I love Hollywood history stories where very popular movies or franchises stand at a crossroads. If one decision gets made, it sends a wildly popular series down a different direction, changing the course of the industry, possibly for decades. As Hollywood prepares to once again attempt to being JK Rowling’s wizarding world to life, this time in a limited series form, we are reminded of how close Steven Spielberg came to helming one of the early Harry Potter movies… and how different they would have looked had the E.T. director kicked off the series.

When Warner Bros. was trying to get the Harry Potter series off the ground, all sorts of iterations were discussed. We have heard over the years that Spielberg was circling the opportunity, and he has talked about why he passed on it. But now we are hearing from Haley Joel Osment what he knows regarding the situation. And it matter because Osment was part of the movie that Spielberg left Harry Potter to do. 

In 2001, Steven Spielberg released the sci-fi masterpiece A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, which was his attempt to complete a movie inspired by an idea pitched by Stanley Kubrick. While appearing as a guest on the new Spielberg podcast The Spiel, Osment opened up about his memories regarding Spielberg, Harry Potter, and his casting for A.I. Osment told the hosts:

I’m trying to remember how much we knew ahead of time before the meeting… I think I met with him in November or December of 1999. The awards season thing hadn’t even happened yet. Because at the time, in that first meeting – I was there with my dad – and he said ‘I’m deciding between the Harry Potter movies and a project I’ve been developing with Stanley Kubrick.’ So that was really cool information to get at the time. … He did not tell me this directly, I read later that I think his concept for the Harry Potter movies was to do it with animation, and they wanted to do a live-action (version). And that’s one of the factors that contributed to him going with A.I. And I’m really glad he did go with A.I.!

An animated take on the Harry Potter franchise would have been fascinating. In theory, it eliminates the concern that producers and directors no doubt had at the time regarding actors aging faster than the films could be made. The cast was hired at a very young age, and it’s a cinematic miracle that they all stayed in character range for the duration of the shoot. Animating the classic characters from the get go would have meant that the issue might have been avoided. Just ask the Stranger Things producers how they feel about this as their adult cast heads into Stranger Things Season 5.

But, Spielberg helming an animated Harry Potter wasn’t meant to be, and instead, the first two movies fell to a Spielbegr protege in Chris Columbus. He set the tone for the film series, with Alfonso Cuaron then elevated in the best Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Are you glad that Spielbegr made A.I. instead of an animated Harry Potter? Which would you have preferred to see?