Industry looks beyond 'Harry Potter' franchise
Though the final installment in the “Harry Potter” film series doesn’t come out for another two years, British film execs are already eyeing nervously the end of the wildly successful franchise.Nowhere is the impact of a post-“Potter” world likely to be felt more than among major U.K. tenpercenteries such as Independent Talent Group and its clients. Independent reps a particularly large number of “Harry Potter” stalwarts, including Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Alan Rickman, who have been able to rely on steady income for the best part of a decade. The 2011 release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II” ends that gravy train. “It leaves a huge hole in the market which possibly might not ever get replaced,” says Independent topper Duncan Heath. “It’s unlikely that a phenomenon like this will come around the U.K. for a while, but it’s been an incredibly positive experience for us. We wish it could go on forever, but we can’t just sit around on our asses. All agents are going to have to be more proactive.” While it is difficult to place an exact dollar figure on the “Harry Potter” franchise’s contribution to the U.K. film industry — it easily runs into the tens of millions of dollars — such is the extent of the cultural phenomenon that even agents with no direct involvement in the series are bracing themselves. “We’re not going to be directly affected because we have no clients in the films, but it’s definitely going to be bad for the industry,” says Troika’s Conor McCaughan. “The films have been a keystone employer of technical talent, and they’ve helped drive standards up in this country.” One example of Heath’s attempts to stimulate work for his clients is the alliance he forged last year with Brilliant Films. The shingle, set up by producer Joe Abrams in 2007 with private equity, is developing a number of projects with Independent-based helmers Mike Newell, Duncan Jones and Pete Travis, among others. While none of those projects is likely to become a “Potter”-size hit, the efforts reflect U.K. agents’ attempts to get more involved with the production sector. Independent is far from the only company set to feel the pinch when the boy wizard battles with the evil Lord Voldemort for the final time. The three “Potter” principals are repped by different agencies: Daniel Radcliffe by Artist Rights Group; Emma Watson by Markham & Froggat; and Rupert Grint by Hamilton Hodell. Their agents are working to forge long-term strategies for their clients, who have grown up onscreen, as they attempt to make the difficult transition from child stars to mature thesps. Radcliffe, who starred in an adaptation of Peter Schaffer’s “Equus” in London’s West End and on Broadway, is developing “The Journey Is the Destination” with Julia Roberts’ shingle Red Om. Project is a biopic of photojournalist Dan Eldon. Watson is attached to star in “Napoleon and Betsy,” about the French emperor’s last years in exile and romance with a young English girl. While that project remains very much in the development stages, along with another U.K. project that she is eyeing, Watson has already said she intends to go to college rather than pursue a full-time acting career once the “Potter” series comes to an end. “She’s an extremely bright young lady, and she’s aware of the difficulties in making the move professionally from childhood,” says Watson’s agent, Alex Irwin. “At the end of the day, it’s her life, and she’ll make those choices. A large part of being an actress is knowing what are the right artistic choices to make and not just doing what’s commercially viable.” Grint’s agent refused to comment on his client’s future. However, the thesp is carving out a non-“Potter” acting career for himself. He starred in Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn’s “Cherrybomb,” which preemed at the Berlin Film Festival in February, and has just finished work on Jonathan Lynn’s “Wild Target,” starring Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt and Eileen Atkins. While franchises by their very nature come and go, what is causing concern among Brit film circles is the lack of an obvious replacement. James Bond remains a boon for the biz, and high hopes are placed on Working Title’s sequel “Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang,” which features a number of “Potter” regulars, including Ralph Fiennes and Maggie Smith, as a potential new franchise maker. The failure of U.K.-based tentpoles such as “The Golden Compass,” “Inkheart” and “Stormbreaker” to generate a franchise is a reminder of just how rare the sustained success of the “Harry Potter” films is. “Most of those attempts don’t work, but we can’t simply go into a bunker,” says Heath. “Will the business carry on without Harry Potter? Or course it will, and we will survive…hopefully.”
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