As the July 15 release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2″ draws closer, the funeral dirge has grown louder and a preemptive state of mourning has set in among the franchise’s legions of fans. However, nobody will be more sad to see HP 7.5 come and go than the bespectacled magician’s Hollywood foster parents, who have already begun mourning the loss of the magic money-making machine that’s been spewing galleons and keeping the movie business in the black since the release of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” a decade ago.
The one proven way to take the edge off that grief is to find someone else. And today, Harry Potter producer, David Heyman, seems to have found his rebound literary boy wonder in Oscar Pill, the title character in the trilogy of French fantasy novels about a thirteen-year-old everyboy who discovers he’s a member of a secret order of beings imbued with the power to inhabit other people’s bodies. Today Heyman and Warner Bros. picked up the rights to the series, which bears more than a passing resemblance to “The Boy Who Lived.” Young Oscar is a tween outcast, whose nebishy red hair (much like Harry’s spectacles) is his defining characteristic and a constant visual cue that this is not a kid who might have ordinarily gravitated to the hero booth on Career Day. Like Harry, Oscar lost a beloved parent, his father, who was a powerful force for good in the otherworldly order that has called upon Oscar to solve the mystery of his dad’s death and defeat the forces of darkness known as Pathologus. Of course, where would wee Oscar be without a posse of Potter-like pals — Valentine and Lawrence — to help him navigate through the dark and labyrinthine recesses of the human body to root out evil?
By placing his chips on Oscar Pill, a series relatively unknown to readers outside France, Heyman has added a surprise twist in the high-stakes race to find Harry Potter’s heir apparent. For the past year or so, Hollywood has been aswirl with the names of young-adult fantasy franchises. Somehow, Pill was nowhere near that list. Prior to today, the literary sagas most frequently mentioned as potential Potter replacements included: Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer’s adventure tale involving some very bad-ass fairies; Cherub, a spy series populated with underage agents by Robert Muchamore; Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series about a race of teen demon-hunters; the supernatural futuristic prison Incarceron series by Catherine Fisher; Phillip Reeve’s post-apocalyptic Mortal Engines Quartet; Pamela Sargent’s Seed Trilogy about a generation of test tube kids who have come of age in space on a ship sent to colonize a new planet; and The Wardstone Chronicles about the spooky creatures who inhabit the dark and the kids who see them. Hovering high above all these contenders for young adult phenom of the next decade is The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins’ chronicle of young revolutionaries who emerge out of a gruesome teen death-match.
Then again, wasn’t Percy Jackson and the Olympians supposed to explode into the pop culture stratosphere? Ditto Inkheart and City of Ember. So even the biggest literary hits don’t guarantee a cinematic bonanza. And it’s also important to remember that nobody knew a thing about Harry Potter when Warner Bros first scooped up the rights to Sorcerer’s Stone in galley form, before it had hit bookshelves. It’s still too early to tell whether Oscar Pill will become the panacea for Hollywood’s financial woes. But it’s as good a bet as any, considering Heyman‘s near-perfect track record in finding the writers and directors with the iconoclastic spark to ensure a book’s subversive magic isn’t lost in adaptation.