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This story first appeared in the Oct. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Holy Hogwarts! Despite writing the source material for one of the most successful film franchises in history, J.K. Rowling has so far received a tepid response from Hollywood for the follow-up to the seven-book Harry Potter series.
Since its release Sept. 27, nary a studio has nibbled at Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, her first tome aimed at adults, which chronicles the quaint English town of Pagford’s unraveling following the death of a popular town councilman. U.K. tabloid the Sunday Express reported that a $1.6 million deal with Warner Bros. — the studio behind the eight-film Harry Potter franchise — is imminent.
But a Warners source calls the story “100 percent fabrication,” and a Rowling insider stresses that “no discussions have taken place regarding film rights for The Casual Vacancy at this time.” Although the Rowling source insists there has been significant interest in the book, studios weren’t allowed to preview the book in advance of its release (as is typical for hot new titles), and reviews so far have been mixed.
The Wall Street Journal called it “a positively propulsive read,” but New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani panned it as “so willfully banal, so depressingly cliched that [it] is not only disappointing — it’s dull.”
Rowling, 47, probably didn’t help her cause when she told USA Today that the book is not very filmable. “I think it’s a very novelly novel in that a lot of what goes on happens internally,” she said. “And film isn’t necessarily the best medium to portray that.”
Rowling, who Forbes says is worth more than $1 billion, certainly doesn’t need to jump at the first offer.
Nonetheless, with the Potter films having grossed $6.37 billion worldwide and the new book selling a solid 500,000 copies in the U.S. and U.K. in its first six days of release, chances are a Hollywood player eventually will option the property.
The Rowling insider notes, “She wrote the book for print publication but is open-minded about film or TV exploitation.”
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