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Forget Harry Potter, here’s a real fantasy: Poppy Montgomery as J.K. Rowling.

February 18, 2011

J.K. Rowling

Here’s a great idea! Let’s make a movie about J.K. Rowling, but without Jo’s participation. Let’s cast an Australian actress. Let’s substitute Canada for Scotland. Let’s call it “Strange Magic.” Cue the Electric Light Orchestra! It’ll be a smash!

Or as children of my acquaintance, now grown, would say: First Hollywood ruins the books, now the life….

The Guardian reports that Australian actress Poppy Montgomery will play J.K. Rowling in an unauthorized TV biopic about the English author’s rags-to-riches life. Doubtless we’ll also get a generic rehash of Rowling mythology: Her unhappy failed marriage to a Portuguese journalist, how the idea for Harry Potter came to her on a train from Manchester to London, her struggles as a single mum on the dole in Edinburgh, where she

Poppy Montgomery

wrote the first Potter book in a coffee shop.

Of course there’s some truth to this account of events, but it’s been run through the publicity blender. For one thing, while Rowling may have briefly received public assistance, she was always close to her supportive family. She was never in danger of being unable to feed her daughter.

Montgomery doesn’t really look like Rowling — but then she doesn’t look much like Marilyn Monroe, either, but she did a good job in the 2001 TV adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel, Blonde. It’s too bad Helen Mirren is too old to play Rowling, if the filmmakers wanted her gravitas to be sexy, or Emma Thompson if they desired dowdy dignity.

I would have picked Kelly McDonald, the Scottish actress you might know as Josh Brolin’s wife in No Country for Old Men, but once again no one asked. Sheesh. Maybe in my next life I’ll be a casting agent. MacDonald, by the way, does have a Rowling connection: She’s been cast as Helena Ravenclaw for Part 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I expect Montgomery, most familiar from her years on the TV series “Without a Trace,” will be the best thing in a poor effort,

Kelly MacDonald --imagine her blonde.

just as she was in “Blonde.

Rowling, famously protective of her privacy, has declined to comment on the biopic, but I’d guess she’s not pleased. My suggestion to Potterites: Boycott this exploitative project when it airs, and read a book instead.

If you’ve outgrown young adult novels, then let me suggest Dr. Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, if you like your fantasy with some literary heft and moral ambiguity. If you want something less demanding, then Deborah Harkness’s brand new A Discovery of Witches will probably be just the thing. A witch and a vampire fall in love — talk about magic! How can it miss?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Bobbi permalink
    February 18, 2011 4:35 pm

    “If you’ve outgrown young adult novels…” Chauncey, there’s no such thing as outgrowing a really good young adult novel.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 18, 2011 9:13 pm

      That’s true for those of us well into adulthood, but I was addressing young people who may have more recently graduated to fully adult fare. But your point is taken, indeed.

      • Bobbi permalink
        February 19, 2011 1:21 pm

        Ah, that makes sense. It does take time to come back to enjoying young adult and even children’s lit.

  2. Marla permalink
    February 19, 2011 10:02 pm

    A witch and a vampire fall in love? Ahhhhh … long ago memories of the fantasy-soap Dark Shadows come to mind. I wonder … was this idea borne from a book – I have no idea – so I’ll ask the expert. And if you have no idea – don’t worry about it!

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