Harry Potter Facts: 59 Things You Didn't Know
It grossed over £775 million at the box office, made stars of its three young leads and kept most of the British acting fraternity in gainful employment for over a decade – the Harry Potter movies are a franchise like no other!
Many of us mere muggles think watching the films on repeat will make us hardcore Hogwarts experts, but, do we really know everything there is to know about J.K. Rowling's wizarding world?
Here are 59 fascinating Harry Potter facts you probably didn’t know…
***Spoiler alert: This article contains some plot spoilers, so please do not read on if you haven't seen it yet! You have been warned...***
1. Stephen Spielberg wanted the films to be animated
It’s hard to think of a reason why you wouldn’t want the likes of Hollywood royalty Stephen Spielberg directing your film, but the producers of Harry Potter didn’t feel the fit was right. When Spielberg was initially approached to direct the first film, he spoke of his intention to create an animated version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but this wasn’t what the team had in mind. It was later decided that Chris Columbus would be the right man for the job.
2. J.K. Rowling requested that the entire cast were British
Bringing her vision to life (in the form of a film) was always going to be a challenge for J.K. Rowling. After deciding she wanted an all-British cast, that’s what she got – well, in the most part – as there are a few exceptions to the rule!
3. Rupert Grint rapped his way into the role
Standing out from the crowd, Rupert Grint’s audition tape saw him unleash a hip-hop rap, with the first line being “Hello, my name is Rupert Grint, I hope you don’t think I stink.” It seems it made quite an impression.
Speaking about the experience, the Ron Weasley actor explained: “I found out that you could audition by sending a picture of yourself and some information to Newsround. I did my own video with me - first of all - pretending to be my drama teacher who unfortunately was a girl, and then I did a rap of how I wanted to be Ron and then I made my own script thing up and sent it off.”
4. Emma Watson didn’t even want to be Hermione, however
After holding casting sessions at primary schools across the UK, when they got to Emma’s school she’d decided not to audition (unlike most of the other female students in her class). It was Emma’s teacher who finally convinced her. After ending up being the last girl standing that day – she was later cast as Hermione Granger.
5. Harry Potter was almost American
Producers originally thought they’d found their Harry in the shape of 10-year old Liam Aiken. After being told he’d got the role, the offer was swiftly withdrawn when they discovered he was American.
6. Daniel Radcliffe hid from casting directors when he was asked to audition
His parents were dubious about being asked if Daniel could audition for the role when a family trip to the theatre led to a chance meeting with the film’s casting director. His parents decided to hide at the interval to avoid any awkward conversation about declining the offer. But, thankfully, the next day they reconsidered, letting Daniel audition.
Here’s the trio’s first run through…
7. Tom Felton (aka Draco) originally auditioned as Harry Potter
In fact, Felton auditioned for the roles of both Ron and Harry before ultimately being cast as the devilish Draco Malfoy.
8. J.K. Rowling declined the offer to star as Lily Potter
The author was offered the job of being Harry’s on-screen mum, only to turn it down. Instead, Geraldine Somerville featured in the films.
9. Harry should have green eyes
Yes, you super fans may already that know Harry has green eyes in the books – but not in the films. The blue-eyed boy tried wearing contact lenses to bring Potter’s on-screen incarnation in line with his profile in the book, but he had an allergic reaction. Luckily Rowling didn’t mind, explaining that her only condition was that Harry’s eyes should look like his mother’s – something they had to bear in mind when casting Lily Potter.
10. And they tried to give Hermione buck teeth
But the actress couldn’t pronounce her lines properly whilst wearing the mouthpiece, so that idea was canned.
11. The Whomping Willow claimed 14 Ford Anglias
Yes, an impressive 14 cars were wrecked during the filming of the scene where Harry and Ron crashed into the tree.
12. One of the surviving cars was stolen
One of the flying cars used in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was stolen off the set. It was discovered months later after a tip-off to the police.
13. Hugh Grant was set to star as Gilderoy Lockhart
However, he had to pull out due to scheduling issues, so Kenneth Branagh took his place.
14. Rupert Grint had one key thing in common with his character Ron
It’s fair to say Ron didn’t relish his meeting with Aragog, and Grint himself is a self-proclaimed arachnophobe.
15. In the second film, Daniel Radcliffe had to shave one of his legs
For the scene where Harry explains that he’s missing a sock, he was deemed to hairy for a 12-year-old and was asked to shave.
16. Gandalf was almost Albus Dumbledore…
Richard Harris initially declined the role of Dumbledore due to ill health. However, after protest from his granddaughter, he changed his mind. When Harris tragically passed away after filming Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, producers asked Ian McKellen to step in, but he decided the role was too similar to that of Gandalf (who he had just finished playing in the Lord of the Rings). So instead, the role went to Michael Gambon.
17. The three stars had to write an essay about what the role meant to them
For Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Director Alfonso Cuarón asked the three stars to write an essay about their character and what it meant to them. True to their on-screen identities, Emma Watson constructed a 16-page essay, Daniel Radcliffe submitted a simple one-page answer, whilst Rupert Grint didn’t bother at all – getting away with it by insisting it’s what Ron would’ve done.
Talk about getting into the roles!
18. The Stone Roses’ Ian Brown made a cameo appearance
The band’s frontman starred in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Although it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, he’s there, soaking up the Harry Potter magic whilst reading in the Leaky Cauldron. And, he’s not the only musician to want a piece of the action. Pulp main man Jarvis Cocker and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood both turn up in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as members of The Weird Sisters - a popular band in the wizarding world.
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was the first time we saw them ditch their robes
Director Alfonso Cuarón thought that this would help portray their personalities.
(And, we certainly saw another side to Hermione)
20. They almost had to recast Dudley Dursely
When actor Harry Melling lost so much weight between the second and third film, filmmakers toyed with the idea of recasting for the role. However, they later settled on letting him wear a fat suit.
21. We only see Harry dancing from the waist up in the Yule Ball scene
That’s to avoid us seeing his stumbling feet. Unlike the rest of the cast, he only got four days dance rehearsal, due to his heavy filming schedule.
22. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was almost two films
With double the page count of the previous book, it looked like The Goblet of Fire might need to be spread across two films, but screenwriter Steve Kloves couldn’t find a way to break it in two, so they had to condense it down to one movie.
23. No dragons were harmed in the making of The Goblet of Fire
If you’re concerned about the welfare of these mythological beasts, then don’t worry - the dragons were safe. The end credits say so.
24. Emma Watson almost quit after The Order of The Phoenix
The actress admitted that she almost walked out after filming was completed on the fifth film, due to a lack of control and a relentless filming schedule. Watson explained she told producers they’d have to recast Hermione for the final three films as her contract was up. Fortunately for all of us, she ended up being persuaded to stay on.
25. Luna Lovegood’s radish earrings were made by Evanna Lynch (the actress who played her)
Not bad, eh?
26. Tonk's hair strayed from how it was in the books
The books described it as bubble gum pink. However, it was made purple onscreen, because the filmmakers wanted the colour pink to only be associated with Dolores Umbridge.
27. Radcliffe’s eyes were computer-generated in the scene where he was possessed
Remember, contacts don’t agree with him!
28. Fans took the news about the delay of The Half-Blood Prince badly
When Warner Brothers pushed back the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by eight months to July 2009, they knew fans wouldn’t be happy, but, they didn’t anticipate the backlash this would have. Shockingly, petitions, hate mail and death threats were directed at people involved in making the movie.
29. Tom Riddle and Voldemort are related in real life. FACT.
The fabulously-named Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, who played the young Tom Riddle, is actually Voldemort actor Ralph Fiennes' nephew.
30. J.K. Rowling had to clarify that Dumbledore was gay
When asked whether Hogwarts’ favourite headmaster had ever been in love, Rowling revealed that he’d been in love with Grindelwald, another male wizard.
31. Filming the ‘Seven Harrys’ scene wasn’t easy
When members of the Order of the Phoenix arrive at Privet Drive to escort Harry to a safe location, Mad-Eye Moody suggested that multiple Harrys would confuse the Death Eaters on their trail. After drinking ‘Polyjuice Potion’ to transform into Harry, the hard work began off-screen. The visual effects artists were tasked with bringing the many characteristics of Harry Potter to life, whilst keeping a little bit of the attributes of the other characters.
Daniel Radcliffe counted over 90 takes to get that shot.
32. Rupert Grint had to be removed from the set
While filming the kissing scene between the horcrux versions of Harry and Hermione in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Ron had to be removed from set for laughing too much.
33. And the Weasley twins are pranksters in real life too
Much like their characters, James and Oliver Phelps like pulling practical jokes when filming, even going as far as switching roles for a few scenes. They were forced to reshoot them later…
34. The Hogwarts library is actually housed in Oxford University
The Bodleian Libraries in Oxford have served as a location for many films over the years. With more than 80 miles of book shelves, it’s perhaps most widely recognised for doubling as Hogwarts’ library in the Harry Potter franchise.
35. And The Duke Humfrey’s library made a special exception for Harry Potter
After allowing a naked flame into the library for the filming of these scenes, the library broke a rule that has been in place for hundreds of years beforehand.
36. The amazing banquets we see in the Great Hall are real
In order to do the incredible feasts justice, director Chris Colombus decided to use real food in the scenes. However, with long takes and hot production lights, the food didn’t tend to last that long. Learning from this, in the future films he froze the food and made moulds to produce exact replicas – all to create a realistic setting.
37. Daniel Radcliffe was allergic to Harry Potter’s glasses
After breaking out in a (glasses-shaped) army of spots, Harry’s spectacles had to be swapped.
Let’s face it, there’s no Harry without his specs!
38. And not even the Reparo charm could fix them
Daniel Radcliffe went through a whopping 160 pairs of glasses during the eight films.
39. Throughout the eight films, Harry’s scar was applied 5,800 times!
Using either make up or Pros-Aide (a prosthetics adhesive), the scar was applied to Radcliffe’s face 2,000 times; the rest went on his body doubles.
40. Bill Weasley and Mad-Eye Moody are related
Domhnall Gleeson - the actor who portrays Bill Weasley - is the son of Mad-Eye Moody actor Brendan Gleeson.
41. J.K Rowling and Harry Potter are birthday twins
On the 31st July, you’ll find both J.K Rowling and Harry Potter cutting their birthday cake.
42. Hermione’s love of otters is based on J.K. Rowling herself
According to this Tweet, otters are her favourite animal.
I voted on this orphaned otter's name. My favourite animal named for one of my favourite characters! https://t.co/L8E9fueN7M— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) September 23, 2015
And, Rowling based Hermione's patronus on her own love of otters. Forgot what a patronus is? The ‘Patronus Charm’ is used to ward off soul-sucking dementors. Each wizard has a different patronus, in the form of an animal that’s significant to each individual’s character. J.K Rowling admitted that she sees much of herself in the young wizard, including a shared "insecurity and a great fear of failure."
43. And Dumbledore’s love of sherbet lemon is inspired by Rowling too
When asked why Professor Dumbledore likes sherbet lemons, Rowling replied “Because I like sherbet lemons! And he's got good taste”
44. Rowling created the house names by scribbling on a sick bag
J.K. Rowling confessed “I invented the names of the houses on the back of an airplane sick bag!” The author tends to collect her idiosyncratic names as they come to her!
45. Hagrid was the first character to be cast
When casting for The Philosopher’s Stone, the first actor brought on board was Robbie Coltrane, who portrayed Rubeus Hagrid. Rowling described this decision as a “deal-breaker”.
46. The ending of the story was never locked away in a safe
Rowling shared, “I had, very early on—but not the first day or anything, probably within the first year of writing—I wrote a sketch for what I thought the final chapter would be.”
And, that sketch was never locked in a safe.
47. She always knew Hagrid would survive to the end
That mental image of the film’s ending is what kept Hagrid alive. Despite the fact that it may have been natural to kill Hagrid in some ways, Rowling said “But because I always cleaved to this mental image of Hagrid being the one carrying Harry out … That was so perfect for me.”
48. Rowling told Radcliffe what was going to happen in the end
Radcliffe asked her, straight out, “Do I die?”
“You get a death scene,” Rowling told him.
And that was as much as he got!
49. Ron and Hermione’s relationship may have been a mistake
Rowling dropped a big bombshell: The pairing of Ron and Hermione may have been a mistake. She admits that she pushed the relationship for “very personal reasons” and as a form of “wish fulfilment.” Whilst the pairing of the two works in the sense that opposites attract, she often wonders whether it would have made sense for Hermione to marry Harry instead.
50. Emma Watson was originally Hermione Puckle
These were some of the original names of the characters before Rowling changed them: Hermione Puckle, Neville Puff, Draco Spinks, Lily Moon (aka Luna Lovegood), Madhari Patil, and Mati Patil.
51. The dementors symbolise Rowling’s struggle with depression
When J.K. Rowling’s mother died in 1990 from Multiple Sclerosis, Rowling suffered with depression. This experience was used to shape these fictional creatures who feed on human emotion.
52. Quidditch was created after an argument with her boyfriend
After an enormous argument with her boyfriend, J.K. Rowling sat down in a pub and invented the notoriously violent game Quidditch. With no obvious connection between the two, she questioned: “maybe in my deepest, darkest soul I would quite like to see him hit by a bludger.”
53. The name of the plants came from a real book: Culpeper's Complete Herbal
Written by 17th century English botanist and herbalist Nicholas Culpeper the ‘Culpeper’s Complete Herbal’ was the book J.K. Rowling took some of her mystical sounding names from.
54. The actress who played Moaning Myrtle was much older than a student
Shirley Henderson was 37 years-old at the time Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was filmed. She is the oldest actress to ever portray a Hogwarts student.
55. Professor Snape was in love with Lily Potter
Snape transferred his hatred for James Potter to his son Harry. And Rowling confessed she let Alan Rickman in on the secret very early on.
But, he did have a softer side.
56. Frank and Alice Longbottom never surfaced from their torture-induced madness
When Neville was only sixteen months old, his parents were tortured into insanity by four Death Eaters with the ‘Cruciatus Curse’. They were placed in the Janus Thickey Ward at St Mungo's Hospital, leaving Neville to be raised by his Grandmother, Augusta Longbottom.
Neville’s parents will be forever unaware of their son’s heroic role in avenging their fates.
57. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were honoured on the chocolate frog cards
The three friends were all rewarded for their efforts in destroying Voldemort’s horcruxes and defeating the most dangerous dark wizard of all-time with commemorative chocolate frog cards.
58. Seven owls in total played Hedwig
While there were three owls on set in the first film, seven owls were used in total for the role of Hedwig – and they had names, which were Gizmo, Kasper, Oops, Swoops, Oh Oh, Elmo, and Bandit.
59. Twelve publishing houses rejected her book manuscripts
Bad move people, bad move!
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