And for his final trick, Harry Potter will split himself in two.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book from J.K. Rowling's mega-selling series, will be made into not one, but two, movies.
As first reported Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I will hit theaters in November 2010, to be followed six months later, in Kill Bill and Matrix fashion, by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II in May 2011.
As relayed in the Hollywood Reporter, Arabic, not Roman, numerals will be used in the titles, à la Part 1 and Part 2.
Warner Bros., which formally announced its plans Thursday, shed no light on what nomenclature would involved. The studio merely said part one of Deathly Hallows would be released in "Holiday 2010," meaning the Christmas season, and part two in Summer 2011.
However you number it, reaction from the Potter faithful has been, in the words of Melissa Anelli, Webmistress of the leading fan blog, The Leaky Cauldron, "hugely positive."
"This has been rumored for a long time, and even the rumor was getting fans excited in a good way," Anelli wrote in an email Wednesday. "The fans' number one complaint with the movies always has been that there isn't enough time to give the rich detail and colorful characterizations in the work the full berth to flourish...Now we can have some time for that without losing some of the most beautiful scenes in the whole series."
Longtime Potter producer David Heyman expressed a similar sentiment to the Times.
"I swear to you it was born out of purely creative reasons," Heyman told the newspaper from the London production offices of the currently shooting Potter film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Heyman said Rowling's finale, published last year, is so packed with important details that "unlike every other book, you cannot remove elements of this book."
Daniel Radcliffe, who by the time the final film is released will have logged nearly 10 years as the big-screen boy wizard, agreed.
"I think it's the only way you can do it without cutting out a huge portion of the book," Radcliffe said to the Times.
The first five Potter films have combined to gross $1.4 billion in U.S. theaters, and some $4.5 billion worldwide. The sixth installment, The Half-Blood Prince, is due out in November.
To Anelli, if Warners was simply out to milk Potter fans for more money by making two movies out of Death Hallows, then the studio could have "easily" taken the 784-page, two-and-a-half-pound source material, and made five movies.
As planned, Anelli wrote, "it's a rare win-win-win situation—[Warners] gets to honor the spirit of the books, the fans get more detail and a better product, and the extra profits from a second film not only make it possible, but preferable, to the studio."
David Yates, who is directing Half-Blood Prince and, before that, directed 2007's The Order of the Phoenix, will be back for the two Deathly Hallows installments. Steve Kloves, who has already written five of the six Potter screenplays, will write the last two, as well.
One big decision still awaits, though. As Heyman told the Times, "The question will be, where do you break [the two movies]?...Do you break [them] with a moment of suspense or one of resolution?"
Not that anyone asked him, but Han Solo, for one, would like it very much if he didn't get flash-frozen this time out.
(Originally published Mar. 12, 2008 at 7:05 p.m. PT.)