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BBC Hires Harry Potter Director David Yates to Develop Doctor Who Film Franchise

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 14, 2011 at 2:27PM

Well, it took them long enough. But at long last the successor to the mighty "Harry Potter" franchise might just be venerable sci-fi BBC series "Doctor Who," which is finally getting its big-screen launch with four-time "Potter" director David Yates at the helm. Yates told Variety that he is developing the first film--which will introduce the space-traveling Time Lord and his iconic red telephone booth blue police box time machine to those not already familiar with the global hit TV series--with the BBC's Jane Tranter, who worked with Yates on "State of Play." The question is, which of the many doctors will play the role? My favorite is not current doctor Matt Smith but the last one, the sexy and resourceful David Tennant. But will they go for a major movie star? This is a serious franchise opportunity for the right actor with a working British accent. Doctor Who is ageless, light-on-his-feet, athletic, witty, wise, admirable while not perfect, and always replaceable. Colin Firth, Ewan McGregor, Hugh Grant and Hugh Jackman could all fit the profile. Any suggestions? UPDATE: I like one idea a lot: Benedict Cumberbatch ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"). Casting is a ways off. Yates told Variety he is starting from scratch on the movie adaptation with new writers who could come from anywhere: "We're looking at writers now. We're going to spend two to three years to get it right," he said. "It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena…The notion of the time-traveling Time Lord is such a strong one, because you can express story and drama in any dimension or time."
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Doctor Who's David Tennant
Doctor Who's David Tennant


Well, it took them long enough. But at long last the successor to the mighty "Harry Potter" franchise might just be venerable sci-fi BBC series "Doctor Who," which is finally getting its big-screen launch with four-time "Potter" director David Yates at the helm. Yates told Variety that he is developing the first film--which will introduce the space-traveling Time Lord and his iconic red telephone booth blue police box time machine to those not already familiar with the global hit TV series--with the BBC's Jane Tranter, who worked with Yates on "State of Play."

The question is, which of the many doctors will play the role? My favorite is not current doctor Matt Smith but the last one, the sexy and resourceful David Tennant. But will they go for a major movie star? This is a serious franchise opportunity for the right actor with a working British accent. Doctor Who is ageless, light-on-his-feet, athletic, witty, wise, admirable while not perfect, and always replaceable. Colin Firth, Ewan McGregor, Hugh Grant and Hugh Jackman could all fit the profile. Any suggestions? UPDATE: I like one idea a lot: Benedict Cumberbatch ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy").

Casting is a ways off. Yates told Variety he is starting from scratch on the movie adaptation with new writers who could come from anywhere: "We're looking at writers now. We're going to spend two to three years to get it right," he said. "It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena…The notion of the time-traveling Time Lord is such a strong one, because you can express story and drama in any dimension or time."

The original BBC series, which started in 1963 and lasted through 1989, was rebooted by Tranter and Russell T. Davies ("Torchwood")  in 2005 and later by Steven Moffat ("The Adventures of Tintin"). Two films were adapted from the early TV series, starring Hammer "Dracula" star Peter Cushing, and in 1996 there was a forgettable "Doctor Who" TV movie.

This article is related to: News, IN THE WORKS


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.