Why Steven Spielberg Dropped Out of Directing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Franco Origlia, Getty Images
Franco Origlia, Getty Images / Franco Origlia, Getty Images

The world of cinema wouldn’t be the same without Steven Spielberg. The legendary director has brought life to some of Hollywood's most beloved movies, from Jaws to Jurassic Park, none of which would not have been the same without Spielberg’s touch.

But one very important movie franchise apparently wouldn’t have been the same with Spielberg’s creative input. Spielberg declined the chance to work on one of the most magical film series of them all: the Harry Potter films.

It takes a lot of guts to hop off the Hogwarts Express just as the Wizarding World was blowing up among muggles, but Spielberg did just that after working on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for a few months.

"I've had [the] chance to make a lot of movies that went on to be big hits with other directors and other studios, because I can't do everything,” Spielberg said in a 2012 interview with BBC Breakfast. "I was offered Harry Potter. I developed it for about five or six months with Steve Kloves, and then I dropped out."

Spielberg admitted that many people—including his own kids—were surprised when he decided to leave the project. "I just felt that I wasn't ready to make an all-kids movie and my kids thought I was crazy," he said. "And the books were by that time popular, so when I dropped out, I knew it was going to be a phenomenon."

Spielberg ultimately turned down the Harry Potter gig to work on 2001's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence instead.

"[I] don't make movies because they're gonna to be phenomenons. I make movies because they have to touch me in a way that really commits me to a year, two years, three years of work,” the three-time Oscar winner went on to explain.

Spielberg could have also dropped out of the project due to creative differences, however. In a 2010 interview, Warner Bros. president Alan Horn confirmed that Spielberg had been offered the director position, but the filmmaker had a vision that was not in line with what the studio had in mind.

Spielberg’s big idea was to combine some of the books and actually make them into animated films, something that would’ve produced a very different outcome from the films we know and love today.