As director of the first two Harry Potter films, Chris Columbus helped create everything people love about the iconic franchise. Now, as he gets ready to release his new movie Pixels, the writer of The Goonies and Gremlins once again has an idea for everyone’s favorite boy wizard.
“Personally, I would always consider going back and doing one between the last movie, and jump 25 years ahead, when Harry was married,” Columbus said. “I’ve always been curious what happened between those moments, you know? The final scene when they were still kids and the moment where he was thirty. There has to be a great story in Harry’s life at that point. Hopefully [J.K. Rowling] will maybe think about doing that. Even if I wouldn’t make a movie, I’d still like to read those stories.”
He’s not the only one. And though Rowling is busy going backwards in Potter-lore with 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, if anyone could bring a new Potter story to life, it’s Columbus, a filmmaker who has been bringing us great stories for a long time.
From his screenplays in the eighties (The Goonies, Gremlins), to his comedy hits of the nineties (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire), and his big budget fantasies of the aughts (the first two Harry Potter movies), it’s hard to overstate the impact Chris Columbus has had on movies. Now with Pixels, he’s attempting to mash all those elements into one movie.
“People have said to me over the years, ‘Why don’t you ever direct anything that you would’ve written in the 80’s, like Gremlins or The Goonies’?” Columbus said to io9. “Something that had an ‘Amblin’ quality to it. Well, there was never really that opportunity until I read this script. And when I read the script I felt that I could potentially create the same kind of feeling we all have when we sat down in the theater in 1985 and we watched those movies. That’s what I set out to accomplish. I wanted the audiences for a summer film or superhero movies and sequels to see something original. Something that they haven’t seen before, but to still have that Amblin feeling.”
Pixels, which opens Friday, stars Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad and Michelle Monaghan in a film where aliens attack the Earth disguised as classic video game characters. To defeat them, the government recruits some of the best gamers of the eighties to lead the charge.
“I just really fell in love with those characters,” Columbus said. “The fact that these were the characters who had to come back and save our planet. These were the only ones who knew how to play these games as well as they do. I was really taken with that, and that was the reason I wanted to do it.”
Of course, a film about video game characters hinges on many things, one of which is the official licenses for these games. Pixels was fortunate enough to clear the licenses for dozens and dozens of classic games, from major ones like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Centipede, to a slew of smaller ones like Paperboy and Burger Time. Many of the shout-outs are obvious, while others are just put in the frame as Easter Eggs.
“I designed the final sequence in Washington, DC kind of like an old Mort Drucker Mad Magazine panel,” Columbus joked.
Unfortunately, some of the film’s biggest surprises were revealed in the film’s marketing. Columbus, like many filmmakers these days, was not happy about that.
“One of the biggest moments in the film was the Professor [Toru] Iwatani [who created Pac-Man] moment, which has, quite frankly, been spoiled in the trailer,” Columbus said. “Unfortunately I don’t spend enough time looking at numbers or trying to figure out why they do what they do.” Columbus also wanted to keep the film’s final boss a secret, but that’s ruined in the trailers too. “It was ou goal all along to save [redacted], and that’s what we thought would happen right up until the day we saw the first trailers.”
But Columbus still feels the film has lots that a trailer simply can’t ruin. “I don’t think any of the sequences have been spoiled because they’re so much bigger, and also because the film was designed to be seen in 3D,” he said. “There’s nothing more spectacular than seeing those sequences in 3D, in an IMAX theater.”
In addition to telling us his aforementioned ideas for a Harry Potter sequel, Columbus had more to say about the most famous franchise he’d worked on. Columbus told me that he was surprised that actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint ended up being as great as they were.
“I’d be lying if I said I knew by movie seven they would have turned into the people that they did,” Columbus said. “We cast them because they felt really so perfect for the roles.” He said the first movie has a lot more cuts than the rest because the kids had such a hard time crafting a performance. The second film fixed that though and then, when Columbus stepped back to produce the third film, everything clicked into place. “By the time we got to three they had really developed into terrific actors,” he said. “I was very proud of that. I look back on it and I’m extremely proud of it, and I don’t tend to go back and think about old stuff that much.”
And though he doesn’t look back at his old stuff too much, one thing he’s been looking back at for a long time is The Goonies. Fans have clamored for and discussed a sequel for decades.
Recently, I even got my hands on a fake Goonies 2 script, that was credited to Columbus. A script I quite liked, but know he didn’t write.
The fake script picks up immediately following the end of the 1985 film. A slew of crooks have jumped into smaller boats and gone blazing after One-Eyed Willy’s ship. When the first person daringly gets on board, a new booby trap goes off, blowing everything to bits. From there, it jumps ahead thirty years and we meet the old characters, grown up. Unfortunately, the script ends a few pages later which, along with Columbus’ name on the front page, were just a few of the attempts to make the fake script look like an authentic leak.
“Well two things,” Columbus says. “First of all, would you send me that? Because I’d love to see it. I’m not kidding, if it really is that good. They’ve been struggling with it for years. I’m kind of overseeing [a sequel] but I’m very skeptical because I don’t want to go back and hurt something that so many people love. But I’d love to see that script if it’s good, I mean, we haven’t read anything particularly great over the last few years.”
Bad news on that front, though. For legal reasons, Columbus’ team wouldn’t let him see the script. The good news is his hesitance to jump into continuing that story is just another reason why, even when he has a misstep, Chris Columbus will always be a filmmaker to give a shot.