EW Managing Editor Jess Cagle reflects on the series' past, present, and future

By Jess Cagle
Updated July 01, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

When screenwriter Steve Kloves took the job of adapting the first Harry Potter book, author J.K. Rowling was a little skeptical. ”I was really ready to hate this Steve Kloves, actually — this was the man who was gonna butcher my baby,” Rowling told EW. ”The first time I met him, he said to me, ‘You know who my favorite character is?’ And I thought, ‘You’re gonna say Ron. I know you’re gonna say Ron.’ But he said Hermione. And I just kind of melted.”

So did we. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone hit theaters in November 2001 and lived up to just about every artistic and commercial expectation. Arriving two months after 9/11, Harry’s timeless coming-of-age journey — rich with themes of loyalty, courage, and good versus evil — took on even deeper subtext and resonance for American audiences. But mostly, of course, it was the start of a really good yarn, produced by Rowling’s awe-inspiring imagination and skill, and given full justice by a series of talented filmmakers in eight movies. Miraculously, there’s not a lemon in the bunch. (Also miraculously, the original cast is still intact, and not one of them has ever pulled a Lindsay.) EW’s 16th Potter cover is a celebration of the movies, the actors, the directors, and all the creative forces behind one of the greatest franchises in Hollywood history. The final Potter movie (get out your handkerchiefs) opens on July 15. But will this be our final Potter cover? I hope not — if only because Harry still has one more cover to go in order to tie Julia Roberts’ record. Go for it, Harry!