Director’s Chair Introduction: David Yates

by Tony Cogan · April 4, 2022 · Director's Chair · No Comments

Deadline: 7th May 2022

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Hello everyone, it’s time to reveal who the featured director for April will be and this month, given the release of the new Fantastic Beasts film, I’ve decided to highlight the work of David Yates.

Yates got his start with the short film When I Was a Girl, which he shot in Swindon, which was named Best Short Film at the 1988 San Francisco Film Festival, resulting in Yates getting into the National Film and Television School and being hired to direct the short drama film Oranges and Lemons for the BBC. During film school, he continued to make short films, going more into TV after graduating, including directing episodes of police procedural The Bill and a few documentaries.

Yates made his feature debut with The Tichborne Claimant, with Stephen Fry and Robert Hardy, in 1998, with this being shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival. After this, Yates returned to TV, directing three episodes of The Sins and the adaptation of The Way We Live Now, with Yates winning a BAFTA for Best Drama Serial for this. A year later, Yates next short film, Rank, was nominated for Best Short Film at the 2005 BAFTAs.

In 2003, Yates made his highest profile show up to that point with State of Play, which is often regarded as one of the best dramas produced by the BBC in the 2000s, winning a Peabody Award and multiple BAFTAs, along with it being adapted into a film in 2009.

The success of State of Play allowed Yates to direct more high profile TV shows, including Sex Traffic for Channel 4 and The Girl in the Cafe for BBC, along with getting him involved in a film adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. His TV work also brought him to the attention of Warner Bros and producer David Hayman who hired Yates to direct the fifth Harry Potter film, after people like Mike Newell, Guillermo Del Toro, Mira Nair and Matthew Vaughn turned it down. Whilst there was criticism over the amount of stuff cut out, with the longest Harry Potter book being turned into the shortest film, it was a critical and commercial success, with Yates being hired to direct the sixth film due to the positive reception Warner Bros had to the material during post-production.

With Half Blood Prince, Yates and DP Bruno Delbonnel wanted to make a darker and more artistic film, being inspired by Rembrant for its look, with this resulting in it being the only Harry Potter film to be nominated for Best Cinematography at the Oscars. During production of Half Blood Prince, the decision was made to split the final Harry Potter book, Deathly Hallows, into 2, with Yates being brought back to direct both parts.

Yates decided to make each part of Deathly Hallows more artistically unique, with Part 1 being more of a road movie and Part 2 being the more bombastic operatic film. The release of both films was highly anticipated, with both parts coming out within the space of a year. Part 2 in particular was highly praised, becoming the third highest grossing film of all time, up to that point. At the 2011 BAFTAs, Yates, along with other cast and crew members of Harry Potter, accepted the Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema award for the Harry Potter series.

After the end of the Harry Potter series, Yates had a few projects floating around, including a biopic of Al Capone and a purported film adaptation of Doctor Who (although this was shot down by the showrunner of Doctor Who at the time, Steven Moffat). Yates return to film after Harry Potter was a new version of Tarzan, with Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan. The film received mostly negative reviews upon release, with the dark nature of the film, which included a depiction of the abuses during the Belgian occupation of the Congo Basin under King Leopold II, was criticised, along with a white saviour narrative in the film, although it was a moderate financial hit.

During the time that his Tarzan film was in production, Yates was also hired to direct a spin-off to the Harry Potter series, inspired by one of the in-universe books, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The film marked the debut of JK Rowling as a screenwriter and was the start of an initially announced three film, now five film, series. Showing more of the Wizarding World outside the UK, being set in New York in the 1920s, the film acted as the start of a prequel series to Harry Potter, and it was a critical and commercial success on release, being nominated for Best British Film at the BAFTAs and winning the Oscar for Best Costume Design, becoming the first film in the Wizarding World series to win an Oscar.

The follow up film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald, was a more direct prequel to the events of the Harry Potter series, being more focused on the growing conflict between Dumbledore and Grindlewald. Upon release, it received more negative reviews, criticising the overcomplicated plot that felt more focused on setting up sequels, and it is currently the lowest grossing film in the Wizarding World series.

The next film in the series, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, has had a pretty rocky production. Whilst it has not been confirmed to be the case, the reception of The Crimes of Grindlewald is likely responsible for Warner Bros deciding to bring back Steve Kloves, who wrote the Harry Potter films, to work with JK Rowling on the script for the new film. Additionally, following the loss of his libel case against News Group Newspapers (mainly focused on The Sun), Johnny Depp, who played Grindlewald in the previous films, was replaced with Mads Mikkelsen after shooting one scene. Further delays came about due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the start date for the production moving from March 2020 to September 2020. Right now, even with the film about to come out, there is still difficulties surrounding it, including the recent arrest of one of the stars, Ezra Miller, and the transphobic comments of JK Rowling. At the time of writing no reviews have been released, but it is projected to have a fairly decent opening and there are still two further films in the series planned, with Yates on board to direct both of them.

As a reminder, the films of Yates’ that you can cover are listed below.

  • The Tichborne Claimant
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
  • The Legend of Tarzan
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

I look forward to reading what you send me.