'Harry Potter' Producer David Heyman Eyes ‘The Night Circus’; Boards the Gravy Train

by Sam Price
July 14, 2011 2:44 AM
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Producer David Heyman is fond of telling the story of how in the late '90s he spearheaded the production of a small children’s title from a relatively inexperienced publisher and a completely unknown author, and it ended up becoming the megaton juggernaut film franchise we all know and love today as “Harry Potter”. Though his production company, Heyday Films, presumably had more than a little help at the time from Warner Bros., a decade and kajillion dollars later, it’s a gambit that’s not so much paid off as exploded through the stratosphere into blanket cultural ubiquity. With the franchise bowing out in spectacular fashion this weekend – and typically looking to do stellar box-office – Heyman’s stock has never been higher and, as such, Variety is reporting that the producer is in negotiations to snaffle a producing role on an adaptation of Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel “The Night Circus,” a project set up by Summit Entertainment back in January after the book was the toast of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Though he’s yet to officially sign on to the project, it’s a move that makes sense -- not least because the book revolves around two budding magicians. Heyman’s on the verge of being beatified in his native U.K. for services to the British film industry – the series was anointed by BAFTA under the catch-all banner ‘Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema in 2011’ earlier in the year -- and with author J.K Rowling finally hanging up her dress robes and speeding off to pastures new on her Nimbus Two Thousand, it’s little surprise that Heyman is looking to replicate his success elsewhere. The producer has obviously shown canny nous in this area before, to put it extremely mildly, and if he can demonstrate the same commitment to servicing the material that he did with The Boy Who Lived from 2001 onward (though it arguably took he and Warner Bros. a while to hit their most consistent sweet spot with director David Yates in 2007), it's hard to think of a more fitting choice, though he's obviously produced films both big and small ("Is Anybody There?", "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas") alongside his work on 'Potter.'

Whether or not the novel is looking to court the young adult fantasy fiction genre that's been on what seems like an eternal hot streak is up for debate. Even with the relative failure of “I Am Number Four,” “The Hunger Games” looks set to inspire a fresh wave of fanatical zealotry when it’s unleashed on the movie-going public, and Veronica Roth’s recently published “Divergent” was also picked up for adaptation by Summit earlier in the year. Set in the 19th century and unfolding in an “enchanted circus,” Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus” seems on the face of it to be a relatively more sedate, grown-up affair. Its plot obviously recalls Susanna Clark's 2004 novel "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" -- itself long-mooted for a film adaptation -- as well as “The Prestige” and Neil Burger’s “The Illusionist,” which both battled for audience’s attentions back in 2006, though a laudatory Audrey Niffenegger quote on the book’s dust jacket also ominously threatens, “precocious kittens, hyper-elegant displays of beauty and complicated clocks”. Though “The Night Circus” won’t be published until mid-September, expect to be hearing a lot more about it in the coming months, particularly if Heyman is on hand to sprinkle his unique brand of magic over the proceedings.

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