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'Harry Potter' Director David Yates To Helm Big Screen Reboot Of 'Doctor Who'

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by Oliver Lyttelton
November 14, 2011 2:45 PM
42 Comments
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You might only be barely aware of his existence, but mathematically speaking, David Yates is the most successful film director in history. Sure, James Cameron might have made more successful films, but Yates has consistency on his side; his last four films have grossed a grand total of $1.032 billion. Of course, those four films are the final four in the gigantic "Harry Potter" franchise, but still, that's not a bad way to start your career (and to be fair, Yates has a string of tiny-grossing Britflicks in his past that bring the total average down).

Now that J.K. Rowling's franchise is done, there's been much speculation as to what the director could end up doing next; he turned down the Stephen King adaptation "The Stand," was linked to an adaptationof fairy tale comic book "Fables," and is developing the gangster flick "Cicero," with Tom Hardy set to star as legendary gangster Al Capone. But it looks like he's also planning to continue a certain theme in his career, with the shock news this afternoon that Yates is going to take on another massive British science-fiction fantasy franchise.

Variety reports that Yates is starting work on a big-screen version of long-running TV favorite "Doctor Who," which of course, revolves around a benevolent alien time-traveler who journeys, and mostly saves, the universe, in a ship disguised as a blue British police box, and named the TARDIS. 

Amazingly, the show's been running since 1963, with eleven actors to date portraying the Doctor in the official canon (the character can regenerate, changing apperance and even personality when he dies). Other than a much-derided 1995 TV movie made in conjunction with Fox, the show was absent from screens for fifteen years or so, but was revived in 2005, with Christopher Eccleston taking the part, and "Queer as Folk" writer Russell T. Davies shepherding the show, and it's been a consistently massive hit in the U.K. ever since, as well as earning an ever-growing audience on BBC America. 

Eccleston gave way for David Tennant, who in turn gave way to current incarnation Matt Smith, with "The Adventures of Tintin" writer Steven Moffat serving as showrunner, but Yates says that he'll be ploughing his own furrow, and breaking from the show's continuity. He tells the trade that "Russell T. Davies and then Steven Moffat have done their own transformations, which were fantastic, but we have to put that aside and start from scratch."

The director also seems to get the appeal of the character, saying that "The notion of the time-travelling Time Lord is such a strong one, because you can express story and drama in any dimension or time" -- which is, after all, the reason that the show's been running for so long. We wouldn't expect this to be the director's next film, however; Yates says they're currently looking for writers, and intends to spend two or three years to get the script right, saying "It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena."

This isn't the first time the Doctor's tried to head to the big screen; two films, "Doctor Who and the Daleks" and "Doctor Who: Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD" were made, starring Peter Cushing, in the 1960s, while the BBC have been trying to adapt the project for some time now; we know for a fact that two years ago, Davies was in L.A. trying to write a big-screen version, which apparently didn't go anywhere. Still, exciting news -- as far as we're concerned, Yates is as good a choice for the project as anyone, and clearly has the cache to get the film made. Look for "Doctor Who" in theaters likely around 2014 or 2015.

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42 Comments

  • Guest | February 26, 2014 8:51 AMReply

    How does someone who never directed a big movie before get to direct 4 potential big block buster movies,can someone please explain?Why was David Yates even allowed near harry potter.This guy just ruined 4 movies and gets praise for it.He cannot direct its as simple as that,theres no emotion in his movies (did anyone feel anything when someone died?am i suppose to cringe at romantic scenes? )He cannot bring tension (when the music starts to build in some of the movies,nothing spectacular happens where you go wow that was awesome,each scene just fails miserably)He cannot tell a good storyline,theres just too many plot holes.please start explaining scenes that just randomly happen and not have the audience thinking wtf is going on.Why is there so many awkward scenes and wooden acting? For some reason he changed every major scene that was in the books,left out other major scenes and added in pointless ones.You dont have to change every single thing from the book.Theres a reason these movies failed big time,you hire crap directors who cant even follow a book.And now hes off to ruin another movie

  • bmumble | November 22, 2011 9:46 PMReply

    if they seriously make this movie, i hope they get Benedict Cumberbatch to play the Doctor... although i must say, as a long-time fan of Doctor Who, i definitely don't think this is a good idea....

  • Annie | November 17, 2011 11:10 PMReply

    I have been watching Dr Who since it started on PBS in Houston, TX...the first PBS station ever-no, I'm not quite that old, but the show may have started that long ago there-, and actually own a copy of every one made starting just before the end of John Pertwee on....plus as many of the earlier ones that I can get my hands on. They showed every one still viewable from start to end there and I foolishly waited to start recording them until they got close to my personal favorite, Tom Baker. The point is I have some experience (and please don't go there with the antiquity of it all...). There is a VERY hard core base of fans out here who can get pretty darn hysterical about anything to do with this franchise. I think there is a wealth of material to explore and exploit with the Time Lords and Gallifray alone, not to mention some of the good suggestions here. It can definitely be done into a movie...the bigger the better for me, but I agree that breaking all continuity would be missing the whole POINT!!!! For the sake of all that is holy, how can you separate Dr. Who from Dr. Who?!?!?! It should be very interesting to watch this develop, and the fan hysteria with it, but if they honestly think they can take the story line away from itself, it will be just some movie, ya know? Why would anyone think this is a good idea, if looking at this from the point of view of someone who has actually WATCHED the series....at all? There is serious stuff here, along with the most magical cheese ever. I didn't think they could update it and make it work, but the new shows have been really excellent! Some even honestly, totally creepy (I will never look at a statue of an angel the same way again). BUT, they do still have the Doctor as himself. I just can't wait to see what this all means. On another note, I really wish SOMEone would just please explain WHY they just took the Doctor off the air without any warning or explanation like cowardly hooligans in the dark of the night.
    And PS: To use such incredibly strong, vile terms to describe the Harry Potter movies is really the best way to get me, and others, to stop listening. Please. There is just no way possible to replicate the books to everyone's satisfaction, but I thoroughly enjoyed them all. As for HHG2tG, I will watch anything from this story made....anything. Why isn't anyone making movies based on Disc World by Terry Pratchett? Come ON!! They are hysterical! I know, the Doctor and Beeblebrox can join up with Granny Weatherwax and maybe one or two of the wizards to create total chaos amongst the elephants at the edge of the disc. Mind Boggling!!!

  • Ed | November 17, 2011 4:35 PMReply

    I think a film of the Doctor, could be quite good. I mean, recently, the stories have played out in 2x 45 minute episodes at most, where the 'old series' was 6x 30m. So a 'film length' story, could work quite well.
    But that's with a caveat - that Dr Who is NOT about epic stories. It's about smaller scale tales. The very best of them, have been more horror stories than epic sci-fi - in which the world doesn't end, because we all know in our hearts, that it won't. But that characters MIGHT, because they're expendable. Maybe not the Doctor, but the rest of the cast... they're valid targets.
    The real problem I have with this announcement is the idea of 'departure from canon'. Not because rebooting the universe is a particular problem - that's already been done, at least once if not many more times. But because that to suggest it, implies that the whole point of what makes Dr Who good, has been missed entirely - the Doctor is a mysterious character - powerful, smart and wise - with a long history. He's been reincarnate with personality variances several times, and ... well, travels in time, and has rewritten history on several occasions.
    Given that, why do you need a reboot? A new regeneration of the doctor, and set it... almost whenever, in his timeline, will be fine. Just resist the temptation to make EPIC - and instead go for some decent storytelling.

  • Sambo | November 16, 2011 6:18 AMReply

    Whats the bet that the movie will be related to the Daleks? I'd go see the movie no matter what (like come on, it's doctor who) but it would be nice that of they decide to make it completely off track to the tv show, that they at least reference them, and that there should be a new, ultimate enemy that we haven't seen.

  • Rena Moretti | November 15, 2011 12:26 PMReply

    @Hannah: I second your Shia LaBoeuf. The perfectly awful, uninteresting, bereft of talent actor for a perfectly awful, uninteresting, bereft of talent project.

  • Rena Moretti | November 15, 2011 12:24 PMReply

    @ Ray Martin: We do have choices and the choice I make is not to go see that movie ever. The other choice I make is to slag the morons who want to make that nonsensical caricature of a bad project.

    Feel free to say what you want. Just don't tell me what I can or cannot say, even if what I say vexes Hollywood.

    Hollywood keeps doing the worst projects and is confused when people express justified disgust with their lack of ideas. Maybe they should try making quality projects instead of adapting Lego, the stupid stereo-thingy and Waldo!

  • Rena Moretti | November 15, 2011 12:20 PMReply

    Steven Moffatt has made a masterpiece out of Doctor Who, so of course, let's make a movie that ignores all that he achieved!

    The pretension and lack of talent of all things Hollywood today is staggering.

    The only reason to make a big screen Doctor Who is to continue and expand the Tv world with the same characters and most importantly the same writer.

    All we are left with is yet again one more pointless Hollywood movie in the vein of Lego The Movie.

    Pathetic!

  • Melody | November 15, 2011 6:16 AMReply

    No he cant it will ruin saturday nights without the show and with movies i mean like sure id watch it but not enjoy it as much and tv rocks with 45 minutes of doctor who and confidential ( save confidential) but movies i mean great in cinemas but yeah it would be alright but at least get the same Actors like matt smith and alex kingston so no dont do it

  • Kate | November 15, 2011 6:06 AMReply

    NO!!!Don't let him do it!

  • Ryan | November 14, 2011 7:35 PMReply

    I'd be very excited for a Dr. Who feature film starring some or all of the recent Doctors, but a franchise reboot? While the TV shows are at the height of their popularity? Seriously?!?

    NOT INTERESTED!

  • Ray Martin | November 14, 2011 6:28 PMReply

    Seriously, some people need to just breath and see what happens. Fact; none of you own The Doctor. I've been watching (and loving) Doctor Who since 1963, through it's many low points and fewer triumphs. I never particularly liked Eccleston much, despite some great writing. Tennant made it his own, as has Matt Smith. In fact Smith is my favourite Doctor ever.
    The point is, you all have choices. You can choose to see the movie or not. If you go to see it, it may be great and it may be horrible. Either way, it's just a movie and it won't take away your childhood, or anything else. I hated the 2005 Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy - absolutely hated it - but it hasn't ruined the TV series for me, nor the radio series. Stop whining.

  • Sue L. | November 16, 2011 11:56 AM

    Your Comment
    Good god - someone with common sense and a grip on reality. Thank you.

  • dara | November 14, 2011 6:14 PMReply

    i've been watching some of the earlier one off tv bits for dr. who. if they make it something like that rather than a "reboot" it might just work.

  • ZX Beccy | November 14, 2011 6:01 PMReply

    SO... we're about to hit the 50th anniversary of the show and he plans on winning over the fanbase with 'Were going to reboot and scrub all thats gone before'

    Yeah.... that will work.

    Methinks we will be getting another oddity like 'Dr Who and the Daleks' - or even 'Abducted by the Daleks' Yeah.... don't go looking for the latter...

    Look for Doctor Who in the theaters likely around 2014 or 2015... and DVD bargain bins soon after.

  • Jerry | November 14, 2011 6:00 PMReply

    I have to say that I have been watching the Doctor since 1975 and have seen all of the older episodes also. There is the possibility that you can start with a clean slate, but you have to have some continuety simply because this series is iconic. There have been 11 doctors, but they have never eliminated the TARDIS, the companion (always at least one), the darleks, cybermen and even references to Galifray. I agree that writing about a different timelord may be the best way to go. Write about the Master and how he ended up at the end of the universe after the war. Or - write about the war from the point of view of the council of timelords. There are many different spins you can use, just don't let this mediocre director ruin another iconic series. He totally screwed Harry Potter and now he wants to mess with a show that has been on for almost 40 years?? Please - just walk away!

  • Tav-El | November 14, 2011 5:38 PMReply

    I hate retcons. If you're going to do it then make a 12th doctor. But don't sidestep what's already been created.

  • Scott Hedrick | November 14, 2011 5:34 PMReply

    How about a few more adventures with #8? There's that whole Dalek "time war" thing. Let's NOT have a repeat of Peter Cushing, which clearly did NOT involve The Doctor. Peter Cushing did not play The Doctor, he played an eccentric human named Dr. Who.

    Also, let's have some practical effects and not concentrate so much on the CGI. Spend the money to do it right or don't do it at all. Really, we're looking at 60-100M$. While I happened to like the old low-budget cheese (anybody got a green "Standard BBC Gastropod" t-shirt?), it won't work for a movie.

  • xony | November 14, 2011 5:32 PMReply

    DOOOOOOOOOOOOON'T! He ruined Harry Potter, don't let him ruin the Doctor! Yates: Why do you hate us so much? Why would you destroy everything we love?!

  • Steve | November 14, 2011 6:48 PM

    I question whether "necessarily omitted" is the best way to put it. I mean, we had the death of a handful of important characters reduced to a pan shot that lasted ten seconds and a two minute focus on a volley of spells shooting towards a spherical barrier surrounding the school in order to showcase the 3D of the film. I would say that "necessarily omitted" isn't necessarily the best way of phrasing the choice to focus on spectacle over story.

  • Ray Martin | November 14, 2011 6:17 PM

    Ruined Harry Potter? Seriously? I hope you're not basing that on what was necessarily omitted, because each movie would have been about 7 hours long, otherwise. J.K Rowling appears to have a different opinion to you.

  • rosa | November 14, 2011 5:28 PMReply

    NO! just no please don't ruin Doctor Who by making it into a movie. Doctor Who was made for tv not the big screen.

  • Mazen | November 14, 2011 5:18 PMReply

    Please, don't...

  • Dan | November 14, 2011 5:15 PMReply

    "Emile Hirsch as the Doctor"! How dare you suggest an American for such a British icon. That would be like having a Brit play an American icon like Batman, Superman or Spiderman. Wait a minute. Strike that.

  • bob | November 14, 2011 5:15 PMReply

    All depends how they do it, if instead of writing out the continuity and instead setting the story before the series, with a younger version of the first doctor. Sure you wouldn't get to use the daleks or cybermen but hell it might be fine to make the movie of Doctor who a prequel to the series, and with that you get a lot of other stories... needless to say they probably won't do that, or if they do they will do something utterly ridiculous but one can hope

  • Baywolfe | November 14, 2011 5:15 PMReply

    Let's go with a slightly older Doctor. I think David Thewlis could successfully pull it off.

  • Ed | November 17, 2011 4:46 PM

    I'd be hoping for Sir Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, or perhaps Patrick Stewart. Because the Doctor is a wizard, in a sci-fi setting.

  • Mazen | November 14, 2011 5:19 PM

    I agree with the idea of an older Doctor again. I don't like that they're getting younger and younger. The next will be a teen!

  • Amy | November 14, 2011 5:14 PMReply

    NO NO NO. if you want to use the concept of a time travelling TimeLord, that's fine with me, but not the Doctor. Choose to do the story of some other TimeLord from before they got shut away. Show us some bit of the war, but you can't screw up the the whole story/timeline of the Doctor just because you want to make some money. Just look back at the first horrid hollywood attempt at a Doctor Who movie.

  • Mazen | November 14, 2011 5:20 PM

    I agree with you there. Another Time Lord would be much more interesting and less dangerous.

  • Devon | November 14, 2011 5:14 PMReply

    DO NOT WANT. If they insist, however, they've gotta make him ginger.

  • Haplo | November 14, 2011 5:12 PMReply

    Benedict Cumberbatch, he would be awesome! If ya don't know who he is, watch Sherlock!

    But I agree, a clean slate is not the way to do it, but I also think he may be talking about doing the change up from how the 9th and 10th were presented, and how it did change with 11th took over, they were more sublte than a total reboot, but they were a clean slate!

  • Mazen | November 14, 2011 5:21 PM

    I'd wish they had chosen Cumberbatch instead of Smith. He'd have been much better.

  • Brianna | November 14, 2011 5:09 PMReply

    Oh no. I want to cry! They cannot make a movie! This is NOT going to be a good thing. :(

  • Karl Moss | November 14, 2011 5:05 PMReply

    The best person to play the Doctor is David Tennant but no doubt the studios will pick someone completely and utterly wrong. Johnny Depp, might just pull it off.

  • Lee | November 14, 2011 4:59 PMReply

    NO! Don't let this happen. How arrogant of someone to come along and say they're going to wipe the slate clean of a show that's been running since 1963 (successfully!) and do another Hollywood reboot.
    Please please please BBC, don't let this happen.

  • buntyhoven | November 14, 2011 3:10 PMReply

    Eh, boring. But at least they've got a sizeable selection of British stars to choose from. Could do worse than Colin Firth, or if they're going younger, someone like Ben Whishaw.

  • Hannah | November 14, 2011 3:03 PMReply

    Shia LaBeouf, Zac Efron, Anton Yelchin, Ed Westwick, Penn Badgley, Adam Brody, Chace Crawford or Emile Hirsch as the Doctor

  • Sean | December 30, 2011 12:45 AM

    Is this a joke?

    Absolutely ONLY British people should play the Doctor. From your list that leaves only Ed Westwick, which I would hate equally as much.

    I think, as mentioned in another comment that David Thewlis would make a fine Doctor.

  • Sue L. | November 16, 2011 12:00 PM

    Your Comment
    They're all kind of too young - don't you think?

  • julia | November 14, 2011 5:29 PM

    Those r terrible ideas..... The doctor has to be wise and the actor has to be able to play someone that has the whole world on their shoulders

  • chocolateislove | November 14, 2011 5:14 PM

    You're kidding, right?

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