What does Harry Potter and “Doctor Who” have in common? Besides being born and raised in Great Britain, the two franchises now have a new link: David Yates.
Yates, who most recently directed both parts of the finale “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” told Variety that it will be he — not Russell T. Davies or Steven Moffat — bringing “Doctor Who” to movie theaters. And because of that, his version of the Time Lord and his Tardis will be much different from what fans have been watching on BBC.
Chances are, however, that movie theaters won’t see the “Doctor Who” film in time for the franchise’s 50th anniversary in 2013.
“We’re looking at writers now,” Yates said. “We’re going to spend two to three years to get it right. It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena.”
It’s not that Yates doesn’t respect what Davies and Moffat have done with the franchise. In fact, it is the efforts of those two showrunners to bring “Doctor Who” into the 21st century that he is using as a model to translate the concept onto the big screen.
“Russell T. Davies and then Steven Moffat have done their own transformations, which were fantastic,” Yates said. “But we have to put that aside and start from scratch.”
But who will write this movie? Yates said he is looking for British writers, but pointed out that Americans can bring English sensibility into their work. Just look at Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves. Although Kloves has focused mainly on adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s novels, he has crafted original screenplays as well, including next year’s “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
And Kloves might be available to work on the “Doctor Who” project if Yates decides to pick him up. Kloves most recently adapted a screenplay for the controversial live-action remake of “Akira,” and has no announced projects after that, at least according to Internet Movie Database.
Creating a film version of a popular television franchise without paying attention to the source has become the latest craze in Hollywood. But will it work?
Bryan Singer is pushing his “Battlestar Galactica” project forward, which is tied more to the 1970s series than the critically acclaimed 2003 version that aired on Syfy. Dean Devlin has more than once broached the idea of following up his 1994 film “Stargate,” planning to ignore the television franchise that spawned three series in the process.
And don’t forget attempts to bring “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” back to theaters, ignoring the popular series with Sarah Michelle Gellar.
There are still some concerns about how these film projects will succeed without confusing audiences familiar with stories that were told in recent memory.
The “Doctor Who” film could have some additional issues: It’s likely that by the time Yates finishes his film and releases it, the television series will still be on the air. At least for Singer and Devlin, there are no current television shows creating episodes of their respective franchises, especially now that it appears the “Battlestar Galactica” prequel “Blood & Chrome” will likely never make it to television.
Yates got his break in the late 1980s and early 1990s filming shorts, before making his way into British television with shows like “The Bill” and miniseries that included “The Sins” and “The Way We Live Now.”
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” was his first feature film project in 2007, and he went on to direct “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.” He is currently working on “St. Nazaire,” a film dramatizing the raid of that French hamlet in 1942.
“Doctor Who” has been an iconic piece of British entertainment history since its debut in 1963. Although it went off the air in the late 1980s, BBC did work with the Fox network in the United States to try and revive the show (unsuccessfully) in 1996.
Davies, who made his fame through shows like “Queer as Folk,” resurrected the series in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper, turning the show back into a smash success. Eccleston was replaced with David Tennant in the second season. He would later step aside for Matt Smith, the current Doctor, who stars with Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill.
Talk had developed even back with Davies still at the helm that he would create a big-screen version of “Doctor Who.” However, Davies and later Moffat swept aside such talk, saying their focus is squarely on television.
Believe it or not, this wouldn’t be the first time “Doctor Who” has made it to the big screen. And those past attempts are not considered a part of the television canon either.
“Doctor Who and the Daleks” premiered in 1965, followed by “Doctor Who: Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.” in 1966. Both starred Peter Cushing as an American version of The Doctor. He would later gain fame as Gran Moff Tarkin in “Star Wars: A New Hope.” He died in 1994.