When American director Chris Columbus started pre-production on 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' in 2000, he planned to direct all seven films based on the Harry Potter books himself. "Be faithful to the book" was his mantra and his goal was to buy British ? all British cast, all British locations. When the first film was released, Potter fans were both pleased and a bit disappointed. Yes, the first movie was faithful to the story but pickier viewers wondered why Columbus hadn't upped the artistic ante and improvised a little.
With movie No. 2, 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' (2002), Columbus kept to his game plan. Stick to the book. No deviations. Again a slight sniff of disappointment from film buffs. The strain of putting a faithful recreation of the world of witchcraft and wizardry on the screen exhausted Columbus and the Potter magic wand passed to Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, whose screen sensibilities were decidedly different. Film No. 3, 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' (2004), took liberties with the book. Its colors were bleak and its denizens looked ragged next to the Ivy League approach of Columbus. The story seemed leaner and meaner, the three kids ? Harry, Ron and Hermione ? more in touch with the down and dirty world of their real-life teen-age counterparts. Cuaron's work got rave reviews. "It's a myth for our times," he announced. But he also understood that a myth can be told in a number of ways. While the main themes are set by author J.K. Rowling, like jazz improvisations, the director gets to add his own riffs.