Harry Potter fans will know that the Marauders were four famous Gryffindor classmates: Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black, and Harry’s father, James Potter. Well known as mischief-makers, they created the Marauder’s Map, but would all go on to fight in the First Wizarding War and join the Order of the Phoenix – before one betrayed them all. Fans have also long ‘shipped’ a gay relationship between two of them. Explaining why she had created this new project, producer Megan Mckelli said: “I think it is very clear that we can not trust Rowling or Warner Bros with this storyline or these characters.” This follows on from the ongoing storm raging around Rowling’s statements about trans women.
It already appears that the ongoing Fantastic Beasts film franchise has started to distance itself from the author by downplaying her name’s visibility on trailers, while the author only appeared briefly in the recent Sky 20th Anniversary Harry Potter reunion. She was shown in previously recorded soundbites and not interacting with any of the reuniting cast or crew, some of whom have spoken out against her comments
Mckelli said: ‘We aim to reflect the diversity of the fanbase in its beloved characters, introducing people of colour, queer storylines, and characters of differing faiths.”
Most notably, she promised the portrayal on-screen of Wolfstar: “We could not make this without what is arguably the fandom’s most beloved ship… ‘Will there be Wolfstar?’ is far and away the number one question we have received about this series… For us, Wolfstar was always the endgame.”
Wolfstar is the fans’ name for a ‘fictional’ love affair between Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. But the casting notes have revealed Harry’s godfather will look very different from how he has appeared so far.
Played in the main film franchise by Gary Oldman, the new casting requirements stipulate Sirius Black must be played by a non-white actor. They go even further with Pettigrew who must be played by “a gender non-conforming, non-binary, trans male.”
James Potter must be played by anyone who is: “Asian, black, African descent, ethnically ambiguous, multiracial, Indigenous peoples, Latino, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Indian, Southeast Asian or Pacific Islander.”
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In a series of online video posts, Mckelli explained major leading character roles would involve five weeks of shooting through May and June in the Pacific North West of the US, with supporting roles taking two to three weeks. Casting opened on January 5 and runs until January 22. All applicants have to be over 18 and demonstrate mastery of British accents. All cast members will be flown in and accommodated if they are coming “from out of town.”
The line-up of characters includes the youthful versions of many familiar faces from the Warner Bros films, including Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black, Lilly and James Potter, Bellatrix Lestrange, Lucius Malfoy, Neville’s parents Alice and Frank Longbottom, as well as Marlene McKinnon and Dorcas Meadowes.
Immediate reactions to this announcement have pointed out that JK Rowling is unlikely to give permission for her proprietary characters to be used in any way.
Mckelli seems confident, however, saying: “I think this is something that is very feasible. I have been brushing up on media law, fair use, parody, fan content rights and I think this is totally doable.” Her posts have included the disclaimer: “This fan project is not for profit and is not affiliated with WB or the author.”
She also promises “incredible quality. I’m talking visual effects, casting, locations, costume design.” She adds she has been taught visual effects by some people who “worked on Lord of the Rings.”
The Marauders series is planned to be streamed as a web series. Whatever happens, it is yet another facet of a raging battle between the author and her readers over characters she created but increasingly alienated fans now feel they must seize control of.
It’s worth noting, of course, that colour-blind casting has been an integral part of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on stage ever since Noma Dumezweni debuted in the role of Hermione Grainger. Rowling herself hit back at “idiot racists” who protested the casting and pointed out that there is nowhere in the books that explicitly says she is white.