It’s been five years since the release of the final Harry Potter film and still ‘The Boy Who Lived’ lives on - not only on J. K. Rowling’s own Pottermore site which has well over a million members but also, overwhelmingly it seems, in the form of Internet memes and fan fiction.
It’s been a sad start to 2016 for the Potter fandom after the loss of one of the most distinctive actors from the original Harry Potter series, Alan Rickman, known for his iconic portrayal of Severus Snape - but it’s still set to be a big year with both the opening of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London’s West End in July and the release of the new spin-off film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in November.
Here are 10 mind-blowing facts you probably didn’t know about the HP movies.
1. They were originally set to be cartoons
Yep, the entire Harry Potter series was set to be made using CGI animation - until J. K. immediately rejected the idea. Worried that the child actors would age faster than the production team could keep up with, Warner Bros.’s initial pitch was to turn the books into an animated series.
In the end of course, they succumbed to J. K.’s wishes and agreed to film each of the movies back-to-back, but if they hadn’t? The magical world we know and love today could have looked very different - and with all of the fan art circulating the Internet, it’s not too difficult to imagine how.
2. 4 Privet Drive really exists
The very first scenes for Privet Drive were filmed on location at an actual residence in Picket Post Close, Winkfield, Bracknell. The only reason it wasn't used for the whole series was because the film crew weren't allowed access for the re-shoots. As a result, they built an additional set at Leavesden Studios, which you can visit on 'The Making of Harry Potter' studio tour.
3. Filming caused a religious upheaval
In their search for the perfect interior for Hogwarts’s corridors, the filmmakers fell in love with Canterbury Cathedral and approached the Dean of Canterbury himself to request permission to use the cathedral as a filming location. Unfortunately, the Dean candidly refused to allow the filming to take place, stating that “it was unfitting for a Christian church to be used to promote pagan imagery.”
Luckily for the team, the Dean of Gloucester came forward and admitted to being a fan of the books, offering Gloucester Cathedral as an alternative location; however, local newspapers received an influx of letters claiming blasphemy and promising to block the crew’s access. Rather embarrassingly, only one person showed up to protest.
4. Thousands of letters had to be made twice
The letters created initially for the first film turned out to be too heavy for the owls to carry, meaning that the graphics team had to individually hand write thousands of them again.
The letters weren't the only labour intensive prop either. The lock for Bellatrix's vault in Gringotts took the team three months to create, and over 20,000 magical items and packages were handmade for Diagon Alley.
5. Voldemort is known by many names...
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, it is revealed that Voldemort’s real name is Tom Marvolo Riddle which is an anagram of ‘I am Lord Voldemort’, but did you know that the name had to be changed for each foreign translation in order to fit the storyline?
Most notably, in the French version of the film, his name is Tom Elvis Jedusor which becomes ‘Je suis Voldemort’ - not quite as fitting for someone who likes to be known as the ‘Dark Lord’. Other international highlights include his Icelandic name, Trevor Délgome and the Danish version, Romeo G. Detlev Jr.
6. The Great Hall reaction is real
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson hadn't so much as set foot in the Great Hall before the Sorting Hat scene was actually filmed. The look of shock and awe on their faces is genuine.
Relive the magic with them in the video below:
7. The band that performed at the Yule Ball are legit a supergroup
At the ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, wizard rock band the ‘Weird Sisters’ take to the stage to perform a slightly more alternative set than the traditional music more commonly heard around Hogwarts - but this group of extremely hairy rockers isn’t made up of just anyone.
Both Jonny Greenwood and Phil Selway from Radiohead, along with Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey from Pulp are among the lineup, with Jarvis's writing featured on songs such as ‘Do The Hippogriff’. Franz Ferdinand were originally approached to portray the band but they declined.
See the Weird Sisters in action in this deleted scene from the movie:
8. The great Hogwarts Stairways are actually only one set of stairs
Although all of the sets were recreated in incredible detail, the grand staircase was one thing that was just be too colossal to build for real. After the first set of stairs was completed, the team decided to multiply the rest digitally.
9. The soundtrack shares music with Star Wars
While it may be fairly common knowledge that the original score for Harry Potter was written by the great composer John Williams, what most people don’t know is that the music used to accompany Harry and Draco’s Golden Snitch chase in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is actually taken from Star Wars. The same melody and motifs are used during a similar chase in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones which was also scored by John and released in the same year.
Whether the repetition was purposeful or intended to go unnoticed is unknown, but to put it into perspective, John composed four film scores in one year - two of which were fantasy/adventure sequels - and he was 70 years old. You certainly can’t knock the guy for trying!
See if you can hear the tune being played in this clip from the movie:
10. A live bat got stuck in Hagrid's beard
While filming a scene in the hut, a fruit bat veered a little off course and wedged himself right in to Hagrid's frizzy fuzz. According to the production team, things got stuck in there all the time - and it's no wonder. Hagrid's beard alone was made of six different hairpieces!
11. Daniel Radcliffe really was 'The Chosen One'
At the very beginning of the casting process, when director Chris Columbus was asked what kind of child should play Harry Potter, he used a clip of a young Daniel Radcliffe in David Copperfield to show exactly what he wanted, and not too long after, completely by chance, producer David Heyman found himself sitting right in front of Daniel on a visit to the theatre.
Although initially reluctant to let him star in such a huge movie, Dan’s parents eventually agreed to let him audition and eight months later, the prophecy was fulfilled.
12. The ministry set was made of cardboard
As convincing as it looks, the entire set for the front tower at the Ministry of Magic was made out of cardboard! The delicate flooring meant that real furniture couldn't be used out of fear it would collapse under the weight.
13. The actors were true to their characters offscreen
Before filming began for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, new director Alfonso Cuarón had each of the three leading cast members write an essay about their characters from a first-person point of view. In true Hermione fashion, Emma Watson took the task slightly overboard and wrote a 16-page essay, while Daniel Radcliffe wrote a simple one-page summary and Rupert Grint never even turned his in.
In addition, most of kooky Luna Lovegood’s clothes, jewelry, possessions and even dance moves were inspired by actress Evanna Lynch herself, and the actor playing badass Vincent Crabbe was actually unable to complete filming following an arrest and conviction for growing cannabis... The casting directors, evidently, couldn’t have been more accurate in their selection.
14. They built Hogwarts Castle from scratch
While the actual filming took place in a mixture of studio sets and various grand locations around the country, in order to film sweeping views of the fictional Hogwarts castle, the art department built a 1:24 scale model based on a sketch by one of the production designers.
The elaborate model takes up a massive room, details every courtyard, field and tower filmed in the movies, and features backlit windows, real gravel and live plants to make up the landscape. It took 86 artists a combined time of 74 years to construct.
15. Harry's stunt double will never work again
After successfully running, jumping and rolling his way through the first six films without injury, Daniel Radcliffe’s stuntman David Holmes sadly missed out on completing the series when one of his stunts went horribly wrong.
During test filming for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in January 2009, David badly injured his spine, and despite his initial hopes to return to the role, he has been paralyzed ever since. Although bound to a wheelchair, David still talks positively about the experience and continues his life as an adrenaline junkie by driving a specially-modified car around race tracks at top speeds. A true Harry Potter hero.