Just in case you weren’t aware, this week marked the 20th anniversary of what is probably the most successful book franchise in history. Oh yeah, there were also a few movies made as well creating mountains of wealth for not only J.K. Rowling but just about anyone attached to these films or books. Harry Potter is truly a once in a generation phenomenon and I’m pretty glad that I lived to see it.
And it’s not like Harry Potter is over. Spinoffs, prequels, you name it, are in the works and have already been produced. But let’s take a look back on some history and facts you might not have known about the incredible franchise:
During a Scholastic interview with school children, Rowling was asked, “What made you think of the people’s names and dormitories at Hogwarts?” To which Rowling responded, “I invented the names of the Houses on the back of an airplane sick bag!”
While denying she had the completed manuscript for Deathly Hallows tucked away for years, Rowling did say there was a small truth to it. In the DVD extra features for Deathly Hollows Pt. 2 Rowling stated, “I always knew–and this was from really early on–that I was working toward the point where Hagrid carried Harry, alive but supposedly dead, out of the forest, always. I knew we were always working towards a final battle at Hogwarts, I knew that Harry would walk to his death, I planned the ghosts–for want of a better word–coming back, that they would walk with him into the forest, we would all believe he was walking to his death, and he would emerge in Hagrid’s arms.”
While the entire audition process for the initial casting of the Harry Potter films was unorthodox (Emma Watson’s took place in her school’s gym), Rupert took his a step further. He said in a 2002 interview, “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.”
“If you want to create a game like Quidditch, what you have to do is have an enormous argument with your then-boyfriend,” Rowling said in 2003. “You walk out of the house, you sit down in a pub, and you invent Quidditch. And I don’t really know what the connection is between the row and Quidditch except that Quidditch is quite a violent game and maybe in my deepest, darkest soul I would quite like to see him hit by a bludger.”
During an interview with with Wonderland magazine, Rowling stated that, “I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment,” going on to state they ended up together “for reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it … The attraction itself is plausible but the combative side of it … I’m not sure you could have got over that in an adult relationship, there was too much fundamental incompatibility.”
Although they appeared old and used, the brooms designed by modeler Pierre Bohanna were actually made of aircraft-grade titanium as they had to support the weight of the actors while suspended.
Rowling has turned down a lot of ideas for the Harry Potter franchise, including a proposed musical from Michael Jackson when the books began becoming popular.
Although it is sometimes a standard practice to slightly change the title of a film or book for different countries, Rowling ultimately turned it down saying, “No, that doesn’t feel right to me… What if we called it the Sorcerer’s Stone?”
During an interview with Meredith Vieira, Rowling stated that, “You know, suddenly I [would be] halfway through Goblet of Fire and suddenly everyone would just have a really great life and … the plot would go AWOL.” It’s said that there are still set pieces that would lead up to Ron’s death, however it was ultimately scrapped.
When talks first began for the film adaptation, director Steven Spielberg was attached to lead the film. Before leaving due to a creative clash with Rowling, it was revealed he was stern about casting the then young Haley Joel Osment to play Potter.
Having minored in Classics during university, Rowling would take great liberties with writing Latin spells and potions.
Due to their strict contracts with the studio, the primary actors were not allowed to play any contact sports outside of production. Most took up golf.
During his review of Order of the Phoenix for Entertainment Weekly, King said, “The gently smiling Dolores Umbridge, with her girlish voice, toadlike face, and clutching, stubby fingers, is the greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter.”
In order for the late Alan Rickman to portray the inner-emotion of Snape, Rowling stated she let him in early on of his motivations. She stated, “I told him really early on that Snape had been in love with Lily, that’s why he hated James, that’s why he projected this amount of dislike onto Harry.”