Steve Kloves is ready to lie lower than his most famous screenwriting gig allows. He's thinking that maybe he'll finish that script he was working on 13 years ago, before hitching on to the biggest movie franchise ever. • In the last dozen or so years, Kloves' career has been spellbound, as screenwriter for seven of the eight Harry Potter movies, including the dual Deathly Hallows finale. Since 1998, Kloves has lived and breathed J.K. Rowling's creation. Over the past decade fans have thanked or cursed him for what he did to her stories. Kloves is a rare screenwriter to hear his name screamed by red carpet gawkers, signing autographs alongside actors Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson. • "I think I've been sort of hiding in plain sight," Kloves said during a telephone interview from Los Angeles. "Now I'll get back to what I really should be doing."
What that will be is hard to say, with the Potter distractions likely to linger through awards season. Maybe that script set aside when Kloves said the first Harry Potter book "fell in my lap" for a possible adaptation. Kloves accepted after reading only 30 pages, sensing his brand of reality amid the fantasy.
"It spoke to many things that had been in all my work. The boy in the cupboard, the misfit in dark family situations is very much in my work," Kloves said. "But it obviously had a kind of scope and scale that I had not done before. That was appealing. I tend to be attracted to things I feel are impossible.
"Like when I (adapted) Wonder Boys, a book that a lot of people had read in Hollywood. A half-dozen times after I said I'd do it, people came up to me saying: 'That's a brilliant book; it's not a movie.' I'd say thanks, I think. Maybe they were right. It was released twice and nobody went, twice."
Not a problem with the Potter flicks. The franchise has grossed more than $7 billion worldwide. Nice work if you can get it, although Kloves never considered it work.
"It was the hardest thing I ever did, but if you do what I do it's what you want," he said. "You want that challenge. And when the challenge isn't there, that's when it becomes work. I know that sounds kind of mental, but it's the truth."
Harry Potter couldn't have come along at a less convenient time for Kloves, with his Wonder Boys screenplay piquing interest at studios and later among Oscar voters. His next script would be an equally intimate drama, he thought. Perhaps he'd direct, for the first time since The Fabulous Baker Boys and Flesh and Bone.
Then that other wonder boy came along, with a saga and a multimillion-dollar offer. Kloves was handed the keys to Rowling's kingdom of wizards and wonders, with the lone exception of Order of the Phoenix. Kloves had written 30 pages — "some of the best Potter I ever wrote" — but was replaced by Michael Goldenberg.
"Certain things don't make sense to me in my life and that's one of them," Kloves said. "Jo was very upset when I left. I'm glad they asked me back, because I wouldn't have wanted to miss this."
The gig has been rewarding, although Kloves was cheating on his own muse with Rowling, then getting sidetracked by rewrites for The Amazing Spider-Man and the sci-fi adventure Akira. But Kloves really misses his nonfantasy roots, where real characters have real problems and solve them in real fashion. And moviegoers don't know enough about the plot to complain about his version on fan sites and through e-mail.
"I got unbelievable e-mail initially," Kloves said. "Then you open up something that's disturbing, so I really haven't been able to read anything since Chamber of Secrets.
"(Rowling has) gotten the same thing: incredible hate mail attacking her for decisions she made in the series, and how she resolved things in the last book. She told me she can't read stuff now. There's something really sad about that. I'm willing to have discussions with anybody about decisions I made. But not if you say you're going to put a bullet through my head. That's a nonstarter for me."
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.