Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter will go down as one of the most successful franchises of all time. Sure, it didn’t have Robert Downey Jr., but Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint had everything under control. Author Rick Riordan wanted nothing more than 20th Century Fox to create that same magic with his Percy Jackson series. In a report by Indiewire, Riordan recollects how things didn’t go as planned.
The studio produced two films in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, The Lightning Thief (2010) and Sea of Monsters (2013). Neither was a box-office success, even with Harry Potter veteran Chris Columbus directing the first film.
Riordan recalls a series of emails he sent to the studio regarding their changes. The first being Percy’s age. Similar to Harry, Percy was to age from 12 to 16 throughout the series, but the studio STARTED the series with him at 16.
“As no one wants to see this film succeed more than I do, I hope you’ll let me share a couple of reasons why this is a bad idea from a money-making point of view. First, it kills any possibility of a movie franchise,” Riordan explained. “The series is grounded on the premise that Percy must progress from age twelve to age sixteen when according to a prophecy he must make a decision that saves or destroys the world. I assume [Fox] would at least like to keep open the option of sequels assuming the first movie does well. Starting Percy at [sixteen] makes this undoable.” If the situation calls for it, we’re all for “skipping to the end” Spaced style, but it doesn’t here.
Riordan was also afraid of losing the critical demo in changing Percy’s age. “The core readership for Percy Jackson is age 9-12,” he wrote, “There are roughly a million kids that age, plus their families, who are dying to see this film because they want to see the pictures in their imagination brought to life. … They are keenly aware that Percy is twelve in the first book. By making the characters seventeen, you’ve lost those kids as soon as they see the first movie trailer.”
Finally, Riordan went onto criticize the script and dialogue. Not only did he say fans would be disappointed in the finished product because of all the deviations from the novel, but he also went on about the use of “edgy” dialogue the characters used that didn’t need to be there. “There is nothing radical, fresh or interesting about biyotch, ass, or sh*t,” he wrote. “[This language] has been overused to the point that it doesn’t even rate a cheap laugh anymore.”
It's disappointing knowing that the author was fighting so hard to make the perfect vision of his stories come alive for fans on the big screen, and having it fall on deaf ears. Collaboration can always lead to good things. It could have here as well.