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If you were going to create a checklist for how to make a current Hollywood blockbuster there are a few things you want to be sure were on it. First, you want to base it on an already existing piece of fiction, preferably a book. It would be even better if it were a series of books, about a character people were already familiar with. It would need to be able to have big fantasy action set pieces too. Then you want to bring in a production team that was involved in one of the previous fantasy action franchises based on a series of books, because that stuff looks great on a trailer. It looks like Disney just checked off all their boxes as they just brought in an Academy Award winning screenwriter from The Lord of the Rings to pen the screenplay based on a 12 book series about Merlin the magician.
Philippa Boyens is known, almost exclusively, as one of the writers behind the incredibly successful films based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The only other scripts she’s worked on were other Peter Jackson films, King Kong and The Lovely Bones. Now that her time in Middle Earth is finally over she’s been looking for something new to do and she appears to have found it in The Merlin Saga. Disney has the rights to the series of books, which tells the story of Merlin’s youth prior to his more well-known period alongside King Arthur in Camelot.
It’s clear that Disney is looking at potential big franchise here, though it’s not clear if they’d be looking to turn all 12 books into films. Well, it would be 13 films because they’d have to split the last one into two, right? Boyens certainly knows a few things about big franchise series so she’s likely the right person for the job. Deadline says snagging Boyens was a lucky moment for Disney who happened to be looking for a writer and about the same time that Boyens was looking for her first project outside of working with Jackson. The character and the world of the Merlin Saga appeals to her.
Camelot is a popular place for inspiration these days. Guy Ritchie has Knights of the Round Table coming next year. While that film is apparently happening without a Merlin character in the mix, it has been reported that there will be a Merlin inspired character in the film. This also isn’t the first time that Merlin’s youth has been used as an idea. The BBC ran a Merlin series for five seasons, though the original books predate the series.
A film series following the youth of a soon to be powerful wizard. A great idea or a little too Harry Potter? What do you think?