Before Chris Columbus was hired to direct the first Harry Potter movie, another name was in consideration, none other than Steven Spielberg. Arguably the greatest living director Spielberg’s name is synonymous with great family movies so it makes sense why Warner Bros would approach him, and he spent six months developing the fantasy movie.
Eventually, Spielberg decided the film wasn’t right for him and dropped out of the project. Why? Well, in 2012 Spielberg told BBC Breakfast he didn’t really want to make a kids movie. “I’ve had [the] chance to make a lot of movies that went on to be big hits with other directors and other studios because I can’t do everything,” he explained. “I was offered Harry Potter. I developed it for about five or six months with Steve Kloves, and then I dropped out.”
“I just felt that I wasn’t ready to make an all-kids movie, and my kids thought I was crazy,” he continued. “And the books were by that time popular, so when I dropped out, I knew it was going to be a phenomenon.”
Of course, this is just one version of history. There are conflicting reports that Spielberg wanted to make Harry Potter an animated movie, and when Warners said no, he decided to leave the film.
So what did Spielberg make instead? Well, he went and made the science fiction movie A.I.: Artificial Intelligence with Haley Joel Osment. This decision sounds strange with the benefit of hindsight but makes perfect sense if you take into consideration the history of that particular film.
A.I. began life as a Stanley Kubrick picture, but the auteur never got the film off the ground and died in 1999 before he could make it. Spielberg was then hired as director to replace him – although Kubrick had actually tried to pass the film to Spielberg in 1996.
Following Kubrick’s death, Spielberg announced A.I. was his next movie and reportedly stuck very closely to his friend’s script. According to Ian Watson, who worked on the story with Kubrick and Spielberg, the Jurassic Park director didn’t add any schmaltz.
The film is, of course, dedicated to Kubrick, and we’re sure that while A.I. wasn’t the hit Harry Potter was, Spielberg made the right decision to honour his friend by making a film he’d dreamt about for years.