Spielberg pursues Harry Potter deal

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The Independent Online
HOLLYWOOD'S BIGGEST directors, including Steven Spielberg, are fighting over an 11-year old English boy. They all want to be the one to turn the publishing phenomenon that is Harry Potter into a film.

A script will not be ready until Christmas, but already Spielberg, Jonathan Demme, who made Silence of the Lambs, Rob Reiner, director of Sleepless in Seattle and Chris Columbus, who directed the Home Alone films, are among the directors who want to bring the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, to the big screen. The film's producer confirmed yesterday that even more directors had expressed interest in the film.

Film rights to the book are owned by UK-based Heyday Films, which has a deal to offer its projects to Warner Brothers first. Steve Cloves, the writer whose credits include the film The Fabulous Baker Boys, is adapting the book.

Harry Potter fever has swept the United States and the first book is number three in the bestseller list with 1.6 million copies in print. The second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is number two with 1.8 million copies in print and the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which in the UK knocked Thomas Harris' Hannibal off the top of the bestseller list, is already at number one, despite the fact that it is not officially released in the US until September 26. A total of 5 million copies of the book are in print in America.

As with the book, the film will be based in Britain, regardless of its huge American success. "The intention is to be as faithful to the books as possible," says David Heyman, the producer, and that means keeping many of the scarier elements.