11 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets from the ‘Harry Potter’ Films

Warner Bros Pictures

If you’re like me, you don’t even want to know people who claim to not have read or seen the Harry Potter series. It’s not possible that someone can claim such a thing and still have good taste in, well…anything. Right?

If you’ve clicked on this link, though, you’re clearly good people. You want to know everything there is to know about the world of Harry Potter, and maybe at least a few of the 11 secrets listed below will add to your canon of knowledge!

#11. Steven Spielberg was the “wrong fit.”

Yeah, you read that right. Producers knew they had a huge potential hit on their hands (more like a can’t miss thing) and asked Spielberg for his ideas on the project. He suggested the series be animated, with Haley Joel Osment providing the voice for Harry, but it was eventually decided Spielberg wasn’t the best fit for the project. Rumors as to why have been tossed around – was it his lack of interest in a project that wasn’t a challenge, or did J.K. Rowling claim creative differences? The world might never know the whole story, but I can’t help but think they made the right decision for Harry!

#10. Directorial changes went smoothly.

Photo Credit: Giphy

With 8 movies that spanned 10 years, it’s no surprise that a single director wasn’t able to commit to the entire franchise. The Harry Potter movies saw 4 different directors (Chris Columbus for 1 & 2, Alfonso Cuarón for 3, Mike Newell for 4, and David Yates for 5-8). Luckily, each man communicated with the director stepping up after him to ensure that continuity and the feel of the films flowed properly. I think it was kind of fun to see slightly different takes every couple of years!

#9. Casting those kids was not easy.

Casting was one of the things Harry Potter did so well – somehow, they managed to conjure actors and actresses who not only corresponded perfectly with the descriptions from the books, but who aged into their parts beautifully, as well. Well, perfection comes at a cost: After thousands of auditions, casting director Susie Figgis left the production, complaining that Columbus was too picky after he stated that none of the thousands of children were “worthy.”

How glad are we?!

Daniel Radcliffe was discovered by producer David Heyman when they were seated near each other in a movie theatre. Heyman stated, “There sitting behind me was this boy with these big blue eyes. It was Dan Radcliffe. I remember my first impressions: He was curious and funny and so energetic. There was real generosity too, and sweetness. But at the same time he was really voracious and with hunger for knowledge of whatever kind.” Heyman had to convince Dan’s parents to let him audition for the part.

#8. Which would it be: Philosopher’s Stone or Sorcerer’s Stone?

The original title of the first book/film was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but since Scholastic (Rowling’s publisher) had concerns over whether American children would be familiar with the word, they decided on the alternate title of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Due to this, all the stars that had lines saying “philosopher’s stone” filmed identical re-shoots saying “sorcerer’s stone” instead for American versions of the film.

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Photo Credit: Warner Bros

#7. Working with so many children caused occasional issues.

Many concessions were made, both by J.K. Rowling and by the British children’s labor commissions, to get these films into theaters in a timely manner. For one, British film industry officials agreed to add a few more working hours per week and made the timing of on-set classes much more flexible. In some of the classroom scenes, the children are working on their real schoolwork to double up on time!

Other concessions were Harry’s eyes being blue instead of green (the contacts irritated Daniel) and Hermione not having buck teeth because Emma Watson struggled to deliver lines wearing veneers.

#6. Ad-libbing made it into the films…sometimes.

Rowling was very involved with the making of the films, and oversaw much of the filming and scriptwriting. Even so, some of the ad-libbed moments were too good not to keep! The whole exchange between Harry Potter and Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) in this scene from The Chamber of Secrets was improvised, and who could forget the hilarious moment when Draco Malfoy says to Harry (dressed as Goyle), “I didn’t know you could read!”

It turns out he’d forgotten his real line, but it amused everyone so much that it stayed in the final version.


#5. Harry missed out on dance lessons before the Yule Ball.

Photo Credit: Giphy

Before Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, most of the cast had weeks of extensive dance training to get ready for the big scene – The Yule Ball. But because of Daniel Radcliffe’s heavier filming schedule, he was only able to squeeze in a few days of training. The result (if you’ve seen it enough times, you might have already noticed!) is that he’s largely only shown dancing from the waist up. Book readers will likely think this isn’t a big deal, though, since Harry is said to be a bumbling dancer, anyway.

#4. To film in the restricted section, they broke the rules!

The scenes in the restricted section of the Hogwarts library were filmed at the legendary Duke Humfrey’s Library. The historic library has a strict “no flame” policy, but allowed Harry to break the rule as he held up a lantern in a scene for the film – the first time the rule has been broken in hundreds of years!

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Photo Credit: Warner Bros

#3. While tasty looking, feasts with real food make a mess.

Photo Credit: Giphy

In the first films, director Chris Columbus wanted all of the scenes to look as real as possible and be as close as possible to the descriptions in the books. When it came to the feasts in the grand hall, that meant that all of the food was real – which looked great, but after a few hours under the hot lights, didn’t smell so wonderful. For future films, they made molds of the food so that it still looked real, but didn’t smell or create so much unnecessary waste.

#2. Dudley Dursley lost too much weight.

Photo Credit: Giphy

Sure, in the books, Dudley manages to transform from a pudgy kid to a muscular bully…eventually. Actor Harry Melling threw everyone for a loop when he returned for Prisoner of Azkaban too tall and lean, forcing the makeup and costume people to spend months creating molds to pack the pounds on his face and a fat suit for the rest of him. Even so, the majority of the close-up scenes with Dudley had to be cut.

#1. These movies made some real wreckage.

Photo Credit: Giphy

They destroyed a lot of props in 10 years! The list includes (but I’m sure is not limited to!) 14 Ford Anglias that were wrecked by the whomping willow in Chamber of Secrets, 160 pairs of prop glasses, and 60-70 wands. In addition, the props department had to make 17,000 wands to decorate the walls of Ollivander’s, and each vial of “memories” in Dumbledore’s office. They also made 250 body casts for different characters to account for all of the death, petrification, and stunning spell scenes. Whoa.

That’s all we’ve got! Go forth and create magic in the world, Potterheads!

h/t: Fame10

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