The world changed on June 26, 1997, the day that J.K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the UK. Wizards, witches and the fantasy they inhabited would go on to inspire six more books, seven films, theme parks, a play in London’s West End and a spin-off book and film adaptation that will more than likely produce an entirely new series. Today’s parents, many of whom grew up reading the Harry Potter books as kids, are passing on Rowling’s words to their children, a process that will doubtlessly lead to a new generation of fans. In a way, they and other Potter fans have actor Haley Joel Osment‘s vocal distaste for the movies to thank. If The Sixth Sense star had been picked for the titular role instead of newcomer Daniel Radcliffe, the cultural impact of Rowling’s novels would have looked much different.
After Rowling sold the rights to Warner Bros. in 1998 for a healthy amount of money, the studio began scouring the ranks of known Hollywood talent. This made sense, as a project as big as Harry Potter was sure to attract a lot of attention (and box office returns), so executives preferred experience. Hence, one of the first names to enter consideration for the director’s chair was Steven Spielberg.
Yet as Alan Horn, current Walt Disney Studios chairman and former Warner Bros. president and COO, told the Los Angeles Times in 2010, Spielberg and Harry Potter weren’t meant for each other. Why? Because the director’s ideas for the adaptation weren’t agreeable to what the studio had in mind:
“I did think it would be worthwhile for Steven Spielberg to direct,” Horn said. “We offered it to him. But one of the notions of Dreamworks’ and Steven’s was, ‘Let’s combine a couple of the books, let’s make it animated,’ and that was because of the [visual effects and] Pixar had demonstrated that animated movies could be extremely successful. Because of the wizardry involved, they were very effects-laden. So I don’t blame them. But I did not want to combine the movie and I wanted it to be live action.”
What’s more, Rowling — who’d been given full access to the studio’s handling of her intellectual property — had stipulations that didn’t mesh well with Spielberg. When asked about the possible pressures Hollywood was exerting on her in a 2000 interview, the author scoffed at the idea:
“At the moment, in all honesty, they don’t. Maybe they did in the beginning but then they saw the popularity of the books as they are. At the moment they are giving me a huge amount of influence. It will be filmed in Britain, with an all-British cast.”