J. K. (short for Joanne Kathleen) Rowling was born on July 31, 1965 in Yate, England. As a child, she would write fantasy stories that she often shared with her younger sister. Among her reading choices in her youth were works by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Rowling would eventually graduate from the University of Exeter in 1986.
In 1990, while she was stuck in a several hours-long delay during a train trip, Rowling came up with an idea of a story of a young wizard attending school. Upon her arrival home, she began to write the story down. Roughly three years later, the story was still unfinished when she settled in Edinburgh, Scotland. There, Rowling continued writing and began taking a teaching course at the University of Edinburgh's Moray House School of Education. Soon, her life would go on a controversial and momentous journey.
The character that Rowling originally thought of in the train would be named 'Harry Potter'. Harry was orphaned as an infant and left in the care of his unkind aunt and uncle. After reaching eleven years of age, he discovers that he apparently inherited powers from his parents and is invited to attend a boarding school known as Hogwarts to learn how to use and control them.
In this newly-discovered world, Harry makes several new friends, the most notable of them being Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. However, he also learns that his parents were murdered by the most feared wizard of all and that an attempt was also made on his life. The effects of the attack include leaving him with a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. His survival and the fact that the fearsome wizard disappeared afterwards make Harry a celebrity in the 'Wizarding World' and a target for other villains.
The first book of the franchise, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was first released to the United Kingdom in 1997 by Bloomsbury. Scholastic Corporation would very soon after purchase the publication rights for the United States for $105,000, then an unprecedented amount of money for a book of its kind. The book was released in the U.S. in 1998, featuring a controversial title change and several edits of the terminology to make certain phrases more easily-understood for many American readers. In both countries (and elsewhere in the world), the novel became a sweeping success, both commercially and critically.
From 1998 to 2007, six more novels would follow. Featuring elements such as plot twists and humor, all would become smash hits similar to the first. Released in 2000, the fourth installment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, received the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2001.
Also in 2001, the companion books Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages were released. Serving as 'books within books', both had first been referenced in the original novel, with the first being a textbook used by students and the second being a popular choice among some as a history guide of 'quidditch', a famous sport in the Wizarding World. The majority of the profits from these books have been donated to charity.
The seventh novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, had been thought to be the final chapter of the franchise that would be released. In 2008, Rowling wrote short prequel story for a charity auction. Also that year, in another 'book within a book' scenario, The Tales of Beedle the Bard was released to the public with proceeds going to a charity that had been co-founded by J. K. Rowling. This book had been a crucial aspect of the plot for Deathly Hallows. Additional original content would later be revealed following the launch of the interactive website Pottermore in 2011.
In 2013, it was announced that a stage production was in development. Serving as an official eighth installment of the franchise, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was co-written by Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne and opened as a two-part play in 2016. An early version of the play's script was released in book form quickly after the play's official opening.
Several aspects of Rowling's life would become part of the stories. This includes the presence of a turquoise-colored Ford Anglia (her best friend at the time owned one when Rowling was a teenager) and the prominent featuring of King's Cross railway station in London (her parents first met there while on a train bound for Scotland).
Unhappy parts of her life would also go on to play a role in the books. Many of the details of Harry's feelings on the death of his parents were based on Rowling's own feelings about her mother's death following a long battle with multiple sclerosis. Other examples of this include the creatures known as Dementors. Introduced in the third book, the Dementors were inspired by Rowling's struggles with severe clinical depression.
For several reasons, in addition to the enthusiasts, the series has also had a number of detractors. Perhaps the most highly-publicized of these are certain Evangelical groups who have objected to content featured in the stories. However, other similar groups have praised the series, viewing them as promoting Christian values. This was strengthened as Biblical references were especially prominent in the seventh novel. A practicing Christian, Rowling was a Presbyterian congregant while writing the original series and would later identify as Episcopalian.
Other controversies include the disapproval of many Potter fans about the eventual romantic pairings in the stories. Rowling herself has indicated that she regrets choices she made on these issues.
Movie adaptations of the series were distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and were released from 2001 to 2011. In what would turn out to be an influential move, the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be split into two parts. After similar decisions were made with the finales of the movie adaptations of the Twilight, The Hunger Games and the Divergent series of novels, the comic book movie genre would make its own mark on the idea.
Directing the first two movies would be American filmmaker Chris Columbus. Mexican-born director Alfonso Cuaron would take the position for the third before Englishmen Mike Newell and David Yates finished the series out. David Heyman served as a producer on all eight. J. K. Rowling was heavily involved in the making of the movies and was credited as a producer for the two-part finale. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint would become the headline cast members. Others who played Hogwarts students include Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis, James and Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Evanna Lynch, Katie Leung and Robert Pattinson. Additional members of the sizeable cast include Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Fiona Shaw, Richard Griffiths, Gary Oldman, Julie Walters, Jim Braodbent, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs, Helena Bonham Carter, David Tennant, Helen McCrory, Bill Nighy and Kenneth Branagh.
Like the books, the movie adaptations would be sweeping successes. Box office profits would total well over $7.7 billion. The first, fourth and eighth installments were each the highest-grossing movie to be released in the world in their respective years. In addition, the first movie became the second highest-grossing ever released at the time, while the second, fourth, fifth and eighth movies became the fifth, eighth, sixth and third highest-grossing movies in history for the times.
Recognitions the series received include twelve Academy Award nominations, multiple awards and nominations from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Accolades for music featured in the series include five Grammy nominations. In 2008, Empire ranked the third installment as #471 on its list of all-time greatest movies.
Among the attractions that would be inspired by the movies are Harry Potter-themed ones at Universal Parks & Resorts and a special tour featuring authentic props and sets at the site in Leavesden, England where most of the shooting took place.
Alfonso Cuaron, David Heyman and Warner Bros. Pictures would later collaborate on another major project. Released in 2013 and starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, Gravity was also a critical and commercial success. Accolades the movie would receive include seven Academy Awards, six BAFTA Awards and a Golden Globe.
In 2016, the first installment of a trilogy based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is scheduled to be released. Featuring a screenplay written by J. K. Rowling, many who worked on the earlier movies also returned. Cast members include Eddie Redmane, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Jon Voight and Zoe Kravitz.
Amazon Price: $86.93 $47.79 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 12, 2016)
Amazon Price: $62.80 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 12, 2016)