Movie Trivia: 30 Essential Facts About the Harry Potter Series
Hard to believe it has been almost two decades since Daniel Radcliffe first put on Harry Potter's glasses, but next year we'll celebrate the 20th anniversary of HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, which was released in November 2001. The seven movies that followed became the coming-of-age films for an entire generation. Even if you didn't grow up with Harry Potter, the chances are good that you've seen most of the movies, if not all of them.
So how much do you really know about the HARRY POTTER movies? Here are 30 essential facts and pieces of trivia about the entire series of eight movies, from HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, all the way through both parts of THE DEATHLY HALLOWS.
30 Essential Bits of Harry Potter Movie Trivia
1. Producer David Heyman was scouting for a young adult book to turn into a movie; his staff suggested the first Harry Potter novel. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, now best known as the producer of the TRANSFORMERS movies, was then an exec at Warner Bros. Pictures. He made a deal with Heyman and J.K. Rowling for the rights to the first four books. That ended the first tage of Rowling's long process of negotiating to get movies made based on the books. Before that, "I said no to a lot of things," Rowling said in 2015, including a musical version produced by Michael Jackson.
2. You probably don't think about teeth when thinking about child actors, but the HARRY POTTER producers had to. They made casts of each actor's teeth so that if any of them lost a tooth during the shoot, a replacement could be made.
3. Both Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were found via auditions held all over the UK, but Watson seemed like the one person in her school who did not want to audition. Her teacher convinced her to try out, and she was the last person at her school to be seen.
4. The stars of the movies don't look quite like the characters as descibed in the books, but efforts to bridge the gap between page and screen did not work out. Daniel Radcliffe could not wear the contacts made to turn his eyes green to match Harry's in the books, while Emma Watson struggled to speak clearly while wearing the dentures created to match Hermione's buck-toothed description in the original novels.
5. J.K. Rowling chose Alan Rickman to play Snape — and in fact she did a lot more than pick the actor. She told Rickman all about Snape's life story, giving him far more information about the character than any other actor had about theirs. Some of what Rowling told Rickman was not publicly revealed until the final novel was published.
6. Prior to the first film being made, Warner Bros. considered adapting Harry Potter as an animated movie, and also thought about combining books to make a much shorter film series. J.K. Rowling said no to those ideas, preventing a heavily-truncated story on the big screen.
7. Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling never made a cameo in any of the movies — but she was asked to play Lily Potter for a brief scene in HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, but said no.
8. Robin Williams wanted to be in the movies; reportedly he was interested in playing Hagrid. Since J.K. Rowling wanted the cast to be entirely British or Irish if possible, Williams was not cast.
9. When Harry, Hermione and Ron first enter the Great Hall at Hogwarts, their gobsmacked reaction was entirely real. They had not seen the set before shooting the scene.
10. While Rowling mandated British and Irish actors for the movies, two Americans did make the cut: Verne Troyer, playing Griphook. His voice was dubbed over by Warwick Davis. Eleanor Columbus, the daughter of director Chris Columbus, also cameoed in the Sorting Hat scene.
11. For HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, Hugh Grant was originally cast as new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Gilderoy Lockhart. He had to step away from the role due to scheduling conflicts, however. He was replaced by Kenneth Branagh.
12. John Williams wrote scores for the first three HARRY POTTER movies, but CHAMBER OF SECRETS was difficult thanks to the composer's packed schedule. In 2002, he was also doing STAR WARS EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES, MINORITY REPORT and CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, so his new work for the second Potter movie was limited. William Ross re-arranged themes from the first movie to fit with the suite of new music written by Williams.
13. HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN was directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who had just made the very much not-for-children Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN.
14. Cuarón's team actually built the tall Knight Bus, and shot it with nearby cars moving at a fraction of normal speed. When sped up, the footage created the illusion that the bus was racing at incredible speed.
15. As with the Knight Bus, Cuarón hoped to use puppets to bring the Dementors to life with practical effects. In the end, while the Dementors were created with CGI, their movements were based on the original puppet designs filmed while submerged in water.
16. Perhaps the biggest development in THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN was the use of location shooting, and the connection of sets to allow the Hogwarts environment to feel more real than ever before.
17. THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN features one of the most-discussed plot details in the series. The Marauder's Map shows all of Hogwarts, and the people in it. Fred and George Weasley possessed the map for years before giving it to Harry — and yet they somehow never noticed that Peter Pettigrew, who was disguised as Ron's rat Scabbers, was often hanging out near their little brother.
18. Most of the movies in the series feature characters who appear in subsequent chapters, but HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE stands apart as the movie which features the most new characters who appear only in a single movie.
19. THE GOBLET OF FIRE is notable for being the first big-screen appearance of actor Robert Pattinson.
20. The Weird Sisters, aka the band playing at the Yule Ball, is a true British all-star affair. Members include Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey of Pulp, Jonny Greenwood and Phil Selway of Radiohead, Jason Buckle of All Seeing I and Steven Claydon of Add N to X.
21. HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is the first and only movie in the series not written by Steve Kloves. He passed on the job after the adaptation of THE GOBLET OF FIRE was unusually challenging. Michael Goldenberg wrote the script.
22. Dolores Umbridge, played by the magnificent Imelda Staunton, was dressed in progressively more garish shades of pink as the ORDER OF THE PHOENIX story progressed, to reflect her increasingly fervent mindset in the movie.
23. As seen in THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, the Ministry of Magic was inspired by the dingy and somewhat futuristic bureaucracy of Terry Gilliam’s movie BRAZIL.
24. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is the first movie in the series made after all the books were published.
25. In THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, Jim Broadbent gets one of the best scenes as Slughorn, who recounts the experience of realizing that Lily Potter had been murdered. The tear-jerking scene was written specifically for the movie.
26. Despite their best efforts, director David Yates and his team were unable to create the proper phoenix lament.
27. In HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1, Daniel Radcliffe performed almost 100 takes for the scene in which all his friends take his form — and which gave Radcliffe the chance to act in the style of all his co-stars.
28. When Harry encounters the snake Nagini, a number of elements, from the swinging lamp to the tone of Alexandre Desplat’s score, nod to Alfred Hitchcock's classic PSYCHO.
29. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 primarily takes place in one day, making it the most contained movie in the series.
30. Kate Winslet was offered the role of Helena Ravenclaw, and later said that her agent turned down the offer without ever consulting Winslet — and that she would have loved to play the cameo role. Kelly McDonald was cast instead.
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All images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.