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"Harry Potter is good, but he's no Mandrake the Magician."

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Harry Potter is an immensely popular series of fantasy novels by British writer J. K. Rowling. It depicts a world of witches and wizards, the protagonist being the eponymous young wizard, Harry Potter. Since the release of the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (retitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the United States) in 1997, the books have often been criticized for their content, as well as praised for their literary merit. Despite this, the series has succeeded in gaining immense popularity and commercial success worldwide, spawning films, video games, and a wealth of other items. The books have sold more than 300 million copies and been translated into 47 languages, more than any other book except the Bible.

Most of the narrative takes place in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, focusing on Harry Potter’s journey toward manhood over the course of his education, relationships, and adventures. At the same time, the books explore the themes of friendship, ambition, choice, prejudice, courage, love, and the perplexities of death, set against the expansive backdrop of a magical world with its own complex history, diverse inhabitants, unique culture, and parallel society.

In 1990, J.K. Rowling was on a crowded train from Manchester to London when the idea for Harry simply “fell” into her head. That evening, the author began the pre-writing for her first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, a semi-detailed plan that would include the plots of each of her seven envisioned books, in addition to an enormous amount of historical and biographical information on her characters and universe. Eventually Rowling relocated to Portugal, where in 1992 she married her first husband, and in 1993 had her first child, Jessica, all the while continuing her writing of Stone. When the marriage dissolved, Rowling returned to Britain with her daughter and settled in Edinburgh to be near her sister, famously continuing her writing of Philosopher's Stone in local coffee shops. Bringing in only £90 a week (of which £70 was from income support) and unable to secure a place for her daughter in a nursery, the sleeping infant Jessica would be a constant companion to her mother as Rowling laboured to finish the book that she had at this point begun to fear would never be completed.

In 1996, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was completed and the manuscript was sent off to an agent. The agent sent the manuscript back saying writing 80,000 words made it much too long for a children's book. The second agent she tried, Christopher Little, wrote back immediately to say he liked it and wanted to take her on. He sent the manuscript to Bloomsbury. At Bloomsbury, at the time a fairly small independent publisher, Philosopher's Stone landed in front of the uninterested eye of Nigel Newton, the chairman of the company. The unenthused Mr Newton took the manuscript home but did not read it, giving it instead to his eight-year-old daughter, Alice. Showing great excitement over what she had read, Alice would go on to 'nag' her father for months wanting to see what came next. Bloomsbury, after eight other publishers had rejected Philosopher's Stone, offered Rowling a £2,500 advance.

On the eve of publishing, like Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) and S. E. Hinton (The Outsiders) before her, Joanne Rowling was asked by her publishers to adopt a more gender-neutral pen name, in order to appeal to the males of this age group, fearing that they would not be interested in reading a novel they knew to be written by a woman. She elected to use J.K. Rowling (Joanne Kathleen Rowling), omitting her first name and using her grandmother's as her second.

The first Potter book was published in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury in July 1997 and in the United States by Scholastic in September of 1998, but not before Rowling had received a six-figure sum for the American rights — an unprecedented amount for a children's book. Fearing that some of its intended readers would either not understand the word "philosopher" or not associate it with a magical theme, Scholastic insisted that the book be renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for the U.S. market.

By 2000, the series had become very high-profile due in part to marketing strategy by Rowling's publishers, but also due to word-of-mouth buzz among readers, especially young males. The latter is notable because for years, interest in literature among this demographic had lagged behind other pursuits like video games and the Internet. Over nearly a decade the books have garnered fans of all ages, leading to two editions of each Harry Potter book being released, identical in text but with one edition's cover artwork aimed at children and the other aimed at adults. The series is also immensely popular around the world in its many translations and has been the recipient of many publishing accolades.

Late in 1997, film producer David Heyman's London offices received a copy of the first book in what would become Rowling's series of seven Harry Potter novels. The book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was relegated to a low-priority bookshelf, where it was discovered by a secretary who read it and gave it to Heyman with a positive review. This fateful act influenced Heyman, who had originally disliked "the rubbish title", to read the book himself. Highly impressed by Rowling's work, he began the process that was to lead to one of the most successful franchises in movie history.

Heyman's enthusiasm led to Rowling's 1999 sale of the film rights for the first four Harry Potter books to Warner Brothers for a reported £1 million (US$2,000,000). A demand Rowling made was that the principal cast be kept strictly British, allowing nevertheless for the inclusion of many Irish actors such as the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and for casting of French and Eastern European actors in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where characters from the book are specified as such. Rowling was hesitant to sell the rights because she "didn't want to give them control over the rest of the story" by selling the rights to the characters, which would have enabled Warner Brothers to make non-author-written sequels.

Although Steven Spielberg initially negotiated to direct the first film, he declined the offer. Spielberg wanted the adaptation to be an animated film, with American actor Haley Joel Osment to provide Harry Potter's voice. After Spielberg left, talks began with other directors, including: Chris Columbus, Terry Gilliam, Jonathan Demme, Mike Newell, Alan Parker, Wolfgang Petersen, Rob Reiner, Tim Robbins, Brad Silberling, and Peter Weir. Petersen and Reiner then both pulled out of the running in March 2000. It was then narrowed down to Silberling, Columbus, Parker and Gilliam. Rowling's first choice was Terry Gilliam. However on 28 March 2000 Columbus was appointed as director of the film, with Warner Bros. citing his work on other family films such as Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire as influences for their decision.

In 2000, after a seven month search, lead actor Daniel Radcliffe was discovered by producer David Heyman and writer Steve Kloves seated just behind them in a theatre. In Heyman's own words, "There sitting behind me was this boy with these big blue eyes. It was Dan Radcliffe. I remember my first impressions: He was curious and funny and so energetic. There was real generosity too, and sweetness. But at the same time he was really voracious and with hunger for knowledge of whatever kind."

Radcliffe had already established himself as an actor in the 1999 BBC television production of David Copperfield in which he played the title role's childhood years. Heyman convinced Radcliffe's parents to allow him to audition for the part of Harry Potter, which involved Radcliffe being filmed. Rowling was enthusiastic after viewing Radcliffe's filmed test, saying she didn't think there was a better choice for the part of Harry Potter. Also in 2000, the unknown British actors Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were selected from thousands of auditioning children to play the roles of Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, respectively. Prior to their being chosen, their only previous acting experience was in school plays. Grint was eleven years old and Watson ten at the time they were cast.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

coverHarry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the first volume in a planned series of seven books written by British author J. K. Rowling, and featuring Harry Potter, a young wizard.

Harry Potter, a seemingly ordinary eleven-year-old boy, is actually a wizard and survivor of an attempted murder by the evil Lord Voldemort when he was one year old. Surprisingly, Voldemort coverwas successful in killing Harry's parents but not the baby. Harry lives his life in an ordinary household with his aunt, uncle and cousin, under the impression that his parents died in a car accident and that he is just any other boy. On his eleventh birthday he finds out that he is actually famous in the wizarding world for surviving the attack, and is requested to attend a wizarding school named Hogwarts.

Harry goes to the school, learns magic across the year, and makes friends and enemies. But a plot is brewing to grant immortality to Voldemort, since thrown into a near-death state by his surprising inability to kill Harry. Harry and his two friends end up in a forbidden corridor, and find a three-headed dog guarding a trapdoor. They must pass this trapdoor, and a number of other tests, to stop Voldemort.

The film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, released in the United States and India as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, was directed by Chris Columbus and based on the novel of the same name by J. K. Rowling. The film was the first of the Harry Potter film series. It was written by Steve Kloves and produced by David Heyman. The story follows Harry Potter, a boy who discovers on his eleventh birthday that he is a wizard, and is sent to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to begin his magical education. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, with Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry's best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. The adult cast features Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman and Ian Hart. Warner Bros. bought the film rights to the book in 1999 for a reported £1 million. Production began in 2000, with Columbus being chosen to create the film from a short list of directors that included Steven Spielberg and Rob Reiner. J. K. Rowling insisted that the entire cast be British or Irish, in keeping with the cultural integrity of the book and the film. She also approved the screenplay, written by Steve Kloves. The film was shot at Leavesden Film Studios and historic buildings around the United Kingdom. The film was released in the United Kingdom and United States in November 2001. It received a mostly positive critical reception, made more than $974 million at the worldwide box office and was nominated for many awards, including the Academy Awards for Best Original Score, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

coverHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling, is the sequel to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It is the second book in a series of seven Harry Potter books. The book was published on July 2, 1998. Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts for his second year, but a mysterious chamber hidden in the school is opened and Muggle-born students are petrified by an coverunknown agent. Harry and his friends discover the entrance of the chamber and defeat Tom Marvolo Riddle, who was actually Voldemort.

A film was theatrically released in November 2002. Most of the major cast and crew from Philosopher's Stone (also known as Sorcerer's Stone) returned for Chamber of Secrets, including child stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint and director Chris Columbus. New key actors included Kenneth Branagh as Lockhart and Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy. However, it was the last appearance by Richard Harris as Dumbledore who died in 2002 of Hodgkin's disease. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Dumbledore is played by Michael Gambon. Patrick McGoohan (TV's The Prisoner) was originally offered the role before Harris but turned it down due to health reasons.

The only significant deviations from the literary canon are the effects of the Polyjuice Potion, and the absence of the Deathday Party of Sir Nicholas that Harry, Ron, and Hermione attend. In the book, the Potion causes the drinker to assume the exact appearance of the target, including their voice and any disabilities (such as poor eyesight). In the film, while the potion alters Harry and Ron's appearance, their voices are left unchanged to reduce confusion.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

coverHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third book in the Harry Potter series of books by J. K. Rowling. The book was published on July 8, 1999. A film based on the book was released on May 31st, 2004, in the United Kingdom (released early due to popular demand) and June 4th in the United States and many other countries and is another grand slam for the Harry Potter franchise.

coverDemonstrating remarkable versatility after the arthouse success of Y Tu Mamá También, director Alfonso Cuarón proves a perfect choice to guide Harry, Hermione, and Ron into treacherous puberty as the now 13-year-old students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry face a new and daunting challenge: Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban prison, and for reasons yet unknown (unless, of course, you've read J.K. Rowling's book, considered by many to be the best in the series), he's after Harry in a bid for revenge. This dark and dangerous mystery drives the action while Harry and his third-year Hogwarts classmates discover the flying hippogriff Buckbeak (a marvelous CGI creature), the benevolent but enigmatic Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), horrifying black-robed Dementors, sneaky Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall), and the wonderful advantage of having a Time-Turner just when you need one. The familiar Hogwarts staff returns in fine form (including the delightful Michael Gambon, replacing the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and Emma Thompson as the goggle-eyed Sybil Trelawney), and even Julie Christie joins this prestigious production for a brief but welcome cameo. Technically dazzling, fast-paced, and chock-full of Rowling's boundless imagination (loyally adapted by ace screenwriter Steve Kloves), The Prisoner of Azkaban is a Potter-movie classic.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

coverHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the fourth book in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Published on July 8, 2000, the release of this book was surrounded by more hype than any other children's book in recent times — outdone only by its successors, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. At 636 pages (hardback British edition) it was fairly large for a children's book. The book attracted a lot of attention owing to a pre-publication warning from J.K. Rowling that one of the characters would be murdered in the book. This started a stream of rumour and speculation as to who the murdered character would be. The publication of Goblet of Fire caused unprecedented heights of Pottermania to be reached internationally. This novel won a Hugo Award in 2001.

The fourth film in the Harry Potter saga could be retitled Fast Times at Hogwarts, where finding a date to the winter ball is nearly as terrifying as worrying about Lord Voldemort's return. Thus, the young wizards' entry into puberty (and discovery of the opposite sex) opens up a rich mining field to balance out the dark content in the fourth movie (and the stories are only going to get darker). coverMike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) handily takes the directing reins and eases his young cast through awkward growth spurts into true young actors. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe, more sure of himself) has his first girl crush on fellow student Cho Chang (Katie Leung), and has his first big fight with best bud Ron (Rupert Grint). Meanwhile, Ron's underlying romantic tension with Hermione (Emma Watson) comes to a head over the winter ball, and when she makes one of those girl-into-woman Cinderella entrances, the boys' reactions indicate they've all crossed a threshold. But don't worry, there's plenty of wizardry and action in Goblet of Fire. When the deadly Triwizard Tournament is hosted by Hogwarts, Harry finds his name mysteriously submitted (and chosen) to compete against wizards from two neighboring academies, as well as another Hogwarts student. The competition scenes are magnificently shot, with much-improved CGI effects (particularly the underwater challenge). And the climactic confrontation with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, in a brilliant bit of casting) is the most thrilling yet. Goblet, the first installment to get a PG-13 rating, contains some violence as well as disturbing images for kids and some barely shrouded references at sexual awakening (Harry's bath scene in particular). The 2 1/2-hour film, lean considering it came from a 734-page book, trims out subplots about house-elves (they're not missed) and gives little screen time to the standard crew of the other Potter films, but adds in more of Britain's finest actors to the cast, such as Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody and Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

coverHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the fifth book in the Harry Potter series of books by J. K. Rowling. The book was published on 21 June 2003 in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, and several other countries. It sold almost seven million copies in the United States and the United Kingdom combined on that day. It has 38 chapters, and is about 255,000 words long. Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizadry. He is desperate to get back to school and find out why his friends Ron and Hermione have been so secretive all summer. However, what Harry is about to discover in his new year at Hogwarts will turn his whole world upside down.

But before he even gets to school, Harry has an unexpected and frightening encounter with two Dementors, has to face a court hearing at the Ministry of Magic and has been escorted on a covernight-time broomstick ride to the secret headquarters of a mysterious group called 'The Order of the Phoenix'. And that is just the start. A gripping and electrifying story, full of suspense, secrets, and - of course - magic.

In the firth film Harry is deeply traumatized from having witnessed Cedric Diggory's murder, but he will soon find that this was just another chapter in the continuing loss he will endure. Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned and, in an attempt to conceal this catastrophe from the wizarding public, the Ministry of Magic has teamed up with the wizard newspaper The Daily Prophet to smear young Potter and wise Dumbledore (Michael Gambon)--seemingly the only two people in the public eye who believe the Dark Lord has returned. With no one else to stand against the wicked Death Eaters, the Hogwarts headmaster is forced to revive his secret anti-Voldemort society, the Order of the Phoenix. This welcomes back characters like Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), kind Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), fatherly Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), and insidious Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), and introduces a short list of intriguing new faces. In the meantime, a semi-psychotic bureaucrat from the Ministry (brilliantly portrayed by Imelda Staunton) has seized power at Hogwarts, and Harry is forced to form a secret society of his own--lest the other young wizards at his school be left ill-equipped to defend themselves in the looming war between good and evil. In addition, Harry is filled with an inexplicable rage that only his Godfather Sirius seems to be able to understand.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

coverHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, released on July 16, 2005, is the sixth novel in J. K. Rowling's popular Harry Potter series. There are seven novels planned. Set during Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts, the novel explores Lord Voldemort's past, and Harry's preparations for the final battle amidst emerging romantic relationships.

In 24 hours, the book sold 6.9 million copies in the United States alone, or 287,564 books per hour, making it the fastest selling book in history. It generated over $100 million in sales on its opening weekend, outpacing even the combined take of the top movies at the box office that same weekend. Bookseller Barnes and Noble reported sales averaging 105 copies per second in the first hour of sales.

A darker book than any in the series thus far with a level of sophistication belying its genre, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince moves the series into murkier waters and marks the arrival of Rowling onto the adult literary scene. While she has long been praised for her cleverness and wit, the strength of Book 6 lies in her subtle development of key characters, as well as her carefully nuanced depiction of a community at war. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, no one and nothing is safe, including preconceived notions of good and evil and of right and wrong. With each book in her increasingly remarkable series, fans have nervously watched J.K. Rowling raise the coverstakes; gone are the simple delights of butterbeer and enchanted candy, and days when the worst ailment could be cured by a bite of chocolate. A series that began as a colorful lark full of magic and discovery has become a dark and deadly war zone. But this should not come as a shock to loyal readers. Rowling readied fans with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by killing off popular characters and engaging the young students in battle. Still, there is an unexpected bleakness from the start of Book 6 that casts a mean shadow over quidditch games, silly flirtations, and mountains of homework. Ready or not, the tremendous ending of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will leave stunned fans wondering what great and terrible events await in Book 7 if this sinister darkness is meant to light the way.

The film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was directed by David Yates. It is the sixth installment in the popular Harry Potter franchise as well as the second film to be directed by Yates, who helmed the previous movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. David Heyman and David Barron produced the film and the screenplay was written by Steve Kloves, the screenwriter of the first four entries. Filming began on September 24, 2007, with the film being released in cinemas worldwide on July 15, 2009, one day short of the fourth anniversary of the corresponding novel's release. Half-Blood Prince opened to critical acclaim along with instant commercial success, breaking the record for the biggest single-day worldwide gross of all time. In five days the film made $394 million, breaking the record for biggest five-day worldwide gross.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

coverHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the seventh and final book of Harry Potter novels written by British author J. K. Rowling. The book was released on July 21, 2007, ending the series that began in 1997 with the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. This book chronicles the events directly following Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005), and leads to the long-awaited final confrontation between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort.

Deathly Hallows is published in the UK by Bloomsbury Publishing, in the USA by Scholastic Press, in Canada by Raincoast Books and in Australia and New Zealand by Allen & Unwin. Released globally in ninety-three countries, Deathly Hallows broke sales records as the fastest-selling book ever, selling more than eleven million copies in the first twenty-four hours following its release. The previous record, nine million in its first day, had been held by Half-Blood Prince.

coverThe final film in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a 2010/2011 two-part epic directed by David Yates, written by Steve Kloves and based on the novel of the same name by J. K. Rowling. The film is produced by Rowling along with David Heyman and David Barron. The two parts form the seventh and final instalment in the Harry Potter film series, with the story following Harry Potter on a quest to find and destroy Lord Voldemort's secret to immortality – the Horcruxes. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe in his final performance as Harry Potter, alongside Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry's best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. The film also features Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter and Alan Rickman.

Principal photography for both parts began on 19 February 2009 (2009-02-19) and was completed on 12 June 2010 (2010-06-12), with the final day of reshoots on 21 December 2010 marking the franchise's closure of ten years of filming. Part 1 was released in IMAX formats on 19 November 2010, and Part 2 will be released in 3D, along with 2D formats, in IMAX on 15 July 2011 (2011-07-15).

In its opening weekend at the North American box office, Part 1 grossed $125 million, breaking the record for the franchise's largest opening, and became the second-highest grossing November opening, the second-largest opening of 2010 (behind Iron Man 2), and the sixth-highest of all-time. Additionally, the film's worldwide three-day opening of $330 million became the fifth-highest of all-time. With a worldwide gross of $954 million, Part 1 is the third-highest grossing film of 2010, behind Toy Story 3 and Alice in Wonderland. It is the highest grossing Harry Potter film in terms of foreign totals, surpassing Philosopher's Stone, the 10th highest-grossing film of all-time and the second film in the series to reach $950 million worldwide.


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