Warner Bros. Planning Merlin Origin Story From Former Oprah Script Reader

When the credits role on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II in July, Warner Bros. will be out of the magic business -- but not for long. Faster than you can scream, "Accio, a new wizarding franchise!" the studio has commissioned a screenplay for an origin story -- and possible franchise -- about Merlin.

In a twist that would make J.K Rowling proud, Ed Whitworth -- a former journalist who spent ten years as a script reader, most recently for Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions -- has been hired to adapt The Lost Years of Merlin, the first book in the fantasy series by T.A. Barron. That's a little like going from living in a room under the stairs at the Dursleys to defeating the most powerful evil wizard in the world. Merlin was previously set up at Paramount, with writer Simon Kinberg (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) attached, but Warner Bros. snatched it up after the option ran out. The rest, as they say, is history (written by Bathilda Bagshot).

Said Whitworth to THR about his somewhat improbable journey from office drone to tentpole screenwriter: "Everyone tells me it'll never happen this easily again." Well, not unless he finds the Elder Wand. Sorry, wrong wizarding story.

· Warner Bros. Conjures 'Merlin' Tentpole With Novice Screenwriting Wizard (Exclusive) [THR/Heat Vision]