It is truly sobering when the realisation hits how twenty whole years have past since Harry Potter first premiered on the big screen. Despite the two decades since, the franchise feels like it has always been around – like a natural part of the geekosphere. It is also not very often for a franchise to continue to remain relevant for as long as the Wizarding World has (just look at Game of Thrones). Better still, the franchise continues to reveal new and incredible Harry Potter facts as it matures.
With the above in mind, it is fair to say modern geek culture would not be what it is today without Harry Potter – both the books and the films. Love or hate them, Harry Potter has played a massive role in the influence of many childhoods around the world. As such, and with recent 20th anniversary celebration of The Lord of the Rings trilogy on the mind; it makes perfect sense for us to produce and curate the same, but this time for Voldermort’s living horcrux.
#20 – “It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live”
One of the most striking and iconic scenes from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was when Tom Marvolo Riddle rearranged the letters of his name to spell out “I Am Lord Voldemort”. The scene was so powerful that instead of cutting it from all the translated versions of the film, Voldemorts real name was slightly changed to make the anagram work. For example, in the Swedish version, his name is “Tom Gus Mervolo Dolder”, and in the French version, his name is “Tom Elvis Jedusor”. It is also a loving call back to the books and their many translations.
#19 – “Yer a wizard Harry”
When rewatching the Harry Potter films today, it is noticeable how well they are still able to withstand the ravages of time. One of the biggest reasons for the mostly graceful ageing process is the minimal reliance on computer-generated imagery (CGI), much like The Lord of the Rings franchise. An example of this would be the mail-carrying owls. A big part of the magic of the wizardry world was watching letters get delivered by owls. Instead of handling this with CGI, the production team spent months working with a trainer to train all the owls used in the film to actually deliver the letters seen on screen – including all the handwritten Hogwarts acceptance letters delivered to the Dursley house in the first film.
#18 – “The truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution”
One of the most incredible Harry Potter facts is how all of the outside shots of Hogwarts used throughout the series were created by filming a full-scale, room-sized, animatronic version of the beloved castle. As seen in the films, the model was incredibly detailed and is currently on display at the Warner Bros. studio lot in the United Kingdom.
17 – “There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them”
One of the more bizarre Harry Potter facts to come out after the films were released, was how Russian state lawyers had once threatened to file a lawsuit against Warner Bros. These lawyers claimed Dobby’s appearance was created to mirror that of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. They wanted Warner Bros. to apologise and change Dobby’s appearance, as using the presidents image in such a way was discriminatory. Warner Bros. never changed Dobby, nor did they address the lawsuit publicly other than to point out the design of Dobby’s ears was based on a dog named Max who used to always run around on set and often sit under Dobby’s designer’s desk.
#16 – “Fawkes is a phoenix, Harry. Phoenixes burst into flame when it is time for them to die and are reborn from the ashes”
Many things were happening in the background while filming the Harry Potter movies. When filming originally started on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, most of the cast were ten-year-old children. Given how they had to grow up on screen, so too did they have to deal with growing pains: like losing teeth. In order to prevent a situation where, for example, Ron has a complete set of teeth in one scene and is missing one in the next, every kid in the cast had to get casts of their teeth made before shooting even began. An assuredly toothy Harry Potter fact.
#15 – “When in doubt, go to the library”
When director Alfonso Cuarón first came on board to direct Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he assigned each of the three leads with an assignment. Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe were each asked to write an essay on their characters. In true form, each of their submissions perfectly mirrored their characters. Emma’s essay on Hermione ended up being a whopping 16 pages. Daniel submitted one single page on Harry, and Rupert forgot to do the assignment altogether, which he noted was “quite a Ron-ish thing to do”.
#14 – “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”
One of the more ambitious builds for the Harry Potter films was the Knight Bus. Since the bus had an elongated design, thus making it top-heavy, over 3600 extra kilograms had to be added to the bottom to keep the bus from tipping over while in motion. Making this Harry Potter fact even more interesting, is how although the scene of the bus travelling at high speed was filmed in the streets of North London; the “speed” effect was created by having the bus drive at average speed and all the cars around it just barely moving. Later during the editing phase, the footage was sped up, and the result was the adrenaline-pumping scene viewers now know and love.
13 – “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself”
In the first two films, Richard Harris portrayed the beloved Albus Dumbledore before sadly passing away. In an interview with him before his passing, Richard revealed how he only accepted his role in Harry Potter after his eleven-year-old granddaughter, a massive fan of the books, threatened never to speak to her grandad again if he rejected the role.
#12 – “I solemnly swear I am up to no good”
One of Harry Potters most recognisable features, after his scar, is his signature glasses. Many do not realise how much work the prop department constantly put in to make Harry the wizard he was. Throughout the eight movies, Daniel Radcliffe went through over 160 pairs of glasses as well as 60 different wands.
#11 – “Honestly, am I the only person who’s ever bothered to read ‘Hogwarts: A History?”
A stand out moment in the Harry Potter films is the Yule Ball from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It was one of the first times audiences got to see a different and more “carefree” version of Harry, Ron and Hermione; along with their teachers and classmates. It was a scene many could relate to and compare with their own experiences. Watching it again, one might notice how Harry is one of the only cast member to only be shown dancing from the waist up. It was later revealed how Daniel Radcliff could not make it to the dance classes between his filming schedule, and when the dance scene came, he kept stumbling over his feet. Producers decided to instead go for a close-up shot of his scenes in an attempt to hide his non-existent dance skills from the world.
#10 – “Mischief Managed!”
If putting together a list of 20 facts about The Lord of the Rings has taught anything, it is how sometimes actors like taking home a few forbidden “mementoes” from the sets they spend so much time on. Alan Rickman was no different. Jason Isaacs, the actor who played Lucius Malfoy fondly recalls how Alan, who played Professor Snape, was a master at pocketing props. A few of the items from the set, which found their way to Alan’s home, were Snape’s wand, cloak and a good few Gringotts coins. Quite a salacious Harry Potter fact, indeed.
#9 – “But you know, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”
When casting for Harry Potter, Harry Melling was the perfect choice for Dudley Dursley. Dudley was rather chubby in the books, and for the first few films, Harry was exactly that. However, as Harry grew up, he started to lose a lot of the chubbiness that made him a perfect Dudley, so much so that recasting him was seriously considered. Ultimately, the filmmakers decided they would not be able to replace Harry, and instead, they put him in a fat suit for the final few films.
#8 – “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided”
One of the more memorable scenes from the series would be the kiss shared between the Horcrux version of Harry and Hermione. The scene was incredibly tough to film because of the close, sibling-like relationship between the main cast. Each time Emma and Daniel would go in for the kiss, Rupert would start laughing uncontrollably, which would set them off. Eventually, Rupert ended up being kicked off the set for the day so they could get the scene finished without breaking into giggles and laughter.
#7 – “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals”
By the time filming had commenced on the third Harry Potter film, Tom Felton, who played Malfoy, was the only member of the cast to have all of his cloaks pockets sewn shut. The reason behind his pockets essentially being removed was to get the actor to stop constantly sneaking sweets onto the set in his pockets. Tom has confirmed this Harry Potter fact as being 100% true and said he has no regrets about his sweet sneaking ways.
#6 – “Your devotion is nothing more than cowardice. You would not be here if you had anywhere else to go”
The Harry Potter movies were almost drastically different from the ones we have today. Originally the plan was for Warner Bros. to adapt the books into a series of animated films specifically aimed at young children. When the studio eventually decided to scrap the animation idea and instead go the live-action route, the first talks were to combine parts of all the books into one movie. The reasoning behind this was concerns over the child actors ageing too fast and no longer being able to portray their characters believably. It was only after a year of debate that the studio finally decided to take a chance and adapt each book as its own movie.
#5 – “Anyone can speak Troll. All you have to do is point and grunt”
Many of the props built for and used during the filming of the Harry Potter movies have found their forever home in the United Kingdom. All on the very same film lot that made them famous. The location, now known as the Harry Potter Studio Tour, is open to fans who want to get a behind the scenes look into the magical wizarding world. However, one piece of Harry Potter history is notably missing from this lot and can instead be found sitting in the garden of a One Direction member. Back in 2015, One Direction’s Liam Payne bought the Weasleys flying Ford Anglia, the exact one used in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and its new home is in the garden of the singer’s £5.1 million mansion. Talk about an expensive Harry Potter fact.
#4 – “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are”
The brooms used throughout the series are props viewers never really gave much thought to. Most tend to think of them as regular prop brooms the kids would carry around, and then CGI would take care of the rest. In reality, the brooms were all crafted from aeroplane-grade titanium and in any scenes where the cast had to use the broom, it was mounted onto a motion-control base set up by a greenscreen.
#3 – “I mean, it’s sort of exciting, isn’t it, breaking the rules?”
While rewatching the Harry Potter films, eagle-eyed fans started to notice how J.K. Rowling had been hiding small, subtle clues about the future of the series within the earlier movies. A notable example of this would be the Deathly Hallows symbol, which can be seen on a shelf in Dumbledore’s office during the fourth movie. The fourth movie was released in 2005, two full years before the final Harry Potter book would be published, and readers would be introduced to the Deathly Hallows for the first time. Easily one of the best Easter egg Harry Potter facts on this list.
#2 – “Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure”
Many full-sized animatronics were built for the actors to interact with while filming, particularly in order to ensure a minimal use of CGI (as much as possible, anyway). Some of the more notable ones were the baby mandrakes, Hedwig, The Monster Book of Monsters, and Buckbeak. These animatronics were built so well and were so detailed that they were used in most of the close-up shots. Buckbeak, in particular, had eyes that would blink and follow the actors. He could even ruffle his feathers and bow.
#1 – “Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have”
Visual effects artists helped bring the wizardry world to life throughout the eight Harry Potter movies. From carefully crafting Voldemorts face with practical makeup, and then removing his nose digitally; through to giving life to fire-breathing dragons, they did it all. However, their biggest task would be a scene in Deathly Hallow when Harry is whisked away by the members of the Order of the Phoenix.
This scene saw George, Fred, Ron and Hermione all take Polyjuice Potion to transform themselves into Harry, but they could not just “be” Harry. For the visual effect to work, they needed to look like Harry while still having attributes of themselves that would shine through. This effect was accomplished by coating each actors face in UV paint and then having them stand and pull their faces many different ways while 29 cameras captured over 50,000 individual points of information. A 3D mesh cloud of their faces was then created, which could then be used to pull off the transformation.
After growing up alongside the cast of Harry Potter, it felt like a homecoming to watch the 20th anniversary reunion and return to a world has captivated so many childhood years. Using the 20th anniversary as an excuse to re-watch all the Harry Potter films also meant getting to relive countless childhood memories once thought to be forgotten, but instead simply laying in wait to be unbound once more.
Did you enjoy this list of Harry Potter facts? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.