You could be in for an emotional experience if you haven’t seen Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts on HBO Max. (Happy 25th anniversary to the start of Harry Potter!) Or maybe that’s what happened to you if you’ve seen it. An emotional experience may be the case especially if the phenomenon of the books took place during your childhood and if you grew up with the protagonists and lead actors.
Below are 13 takeaways from a documentary that showcases comments from Harry Potter filmmakers and actors about the film series, eight productions released from 2001 to 2011.
1) Alan Rickman knew Severus Snape’s end goal when playing Snape
Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry, revealed that Potter creator J.K. Rowling told Alan Rickman, who played Severus Snape, what Snape’s biggest objective was. (To protect Harry, as a result of Snape’s love for Harry’s mother Lily Potter.) He asked Rowling to tell him during the shooting of the series.
That makes sense. Rickman’s portrayal of Snape may not have changed much since Snape pretended like he was an adversary to Harry. However, since Snape is human, he still may not have been the best pretender all the time. Thus, Snape’s true intentions and motivations may at times have informed how Rickman portrayed the character’s reactions to developments in the story and his interactions with other characters.
Rowling letting Rickman in on the revelation didn’t just help him play Snape. Rickman was going to quit playing the character before Rowling did so, according to the Hindustan Times.
Other cast and crew did not know Snape’s end goal. It reminded me of Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill being told in advance that Luke’s father was Darth Vader but no one else besides Star Wars creator George Lucas and Irvin Kershner, the director of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, knew.
2) It’s hilarious that one of the Potter directors wrestled with an actor – and hilarious to watch
I laughed about it long after seeing it, while writing about it. Mike Newell, the director of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, wrestled with Oliver Phelps, who played George Weasley. What isn’t funny is that Newell cracked a few ribs in the process.
Newell wanted to show Phelps how he and James Phelps, who played Fred Weasley, should fight for a scene. Given how he showed his vision of that, I say he succeeded.
And I don’t even remember how well the Phelps twins did in acting that fight.
3) Seeing Emma Watson and Rupert Grint trying to kiss for Potter is also hilarious
Over so many years of making Potter films together, Emma Watson and Grint had become friends. Thus, it was more difficult for them than it seems clear it typically is for actors to lock lips. In one take before they pulled it off, they broke into laughter as their lips got close to each other.
Watson called it “the most horrifying thing anyone one of us had to go through.”
It certainly would be strange to be close friends with someone and then have to kiss them, even if it’s for the sake of acting.
4) The friendly love Watson and Grint share for each other is touching
It was beautiful to see Watson and Grint talk about how they love each other in a friendly way, and hold hands.
Grint actually tells Watson “I love you” before saying that it’s “as a friend.” (Without that clarification, he really could have gotten a chatter going!)
And what equally made me get teary when seeing that was thinking about how I grew up with them and their characters Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, respectively.
5) Multiple people who were part of the series say that Grint is Ron – and it shows
Footage of Grint in the documentary offered just how much his and Ron’s personalities are the same. It’s great.
6) Watson thought about leaving the series while it was ongoing
The fame influenced her. I’m not upset that she thought about this and seriously doubt I would have been had she done so. Not because she didn’t play Hermione wonderfully, but because I believe I would have respected her decision.
7) Watson and Tom Felton have great care for each other
When Watson had a crush on Felton, she would look at whether his number was on the call sheet to know if she would see him that day. “If his number was on the call sheet, it was an extra exciting day,” she said, adding, “We just love each other” but that nothing romantic has ever occurred between them.
“We speak most weeks, and we just think it’s sweet,” she told Vogue.
Hopefully, society sees more women and men who can be great friends and not more because otherwise, they would have just given in to their primal sides.
8) So many of the filmmakers and actors have a family feel for each other
If you believe that humans have a good likelihood of connecting with each other, this makes sense given the length of time that they spent with each other. But they were also working. Co-worker relationships can be professional but often don’t develop on a more human level. Thus, it’s nice to see that perhaps the art of filmmaking and maybe making Potter films, in particular, helped bring that about. Since these individuals are also artists and probably thus have a knack for connecting on a human level, that may have been a factor. Perhaps even more of a factor than the Potter and filmmaking process.
9) The feelings I got as a fan of the franchise as Return to Hogwarts is ending
That is also represented well from an actress’s standpoint by Watson getting emotional about the franchise also at the end of the documentary.
10) I understand much better now why Alfonso Cuarón, the director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, made the film so dark
Dementors, which suck your joy, do that in Azkaban. That was pointed out in Return to Hogwarts. I never had considered that as a kid. At that time, I always just thought that the Potter series went dark one film too fast – one film before Voldemort fully returned. My upbringing, which informed me that outside forces promulgate darkness, may have had something to do with that as well.
Also in Azkaban, Harry and his support group think that an escapee from the worst of prisons is coming after Harry, to kill him.
11) Radcliffe gives Chris Columbus due credit
I thought Columbus’ two Potter films were the two weak ones in the series prior to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I being released. Even before Return to Hogwarts was released, I came to consider Columbus’ Potter films as strong. Thus, I was especially glad that Radcliffe validated Columbus to him.
12) It’s sad and amazing that so many Potter actors have died
Sadly and amazingly, it’s so many more than just Rickman and Richard Harris, the first actor to play Dumbledore. The scenes that bring attention to the deaths are solemn. It’s awful. Also, Helen McCrory, who played Draco Malfoy’s mother Narcissa Malfoy, passed away at just 52 years old. Her husband said she died of cancer, according to PBS.
13) It’s wonderful how much the crew means to Radcliffe
It seemed clear that Radcliffe was really appreciative of those behind the camera. It was great to see from a huge celebrity like him.
Return to Hogwarts is right: Potter ‘makes life richer’
Even because the story is so incredible and seven of the films are excellent, Return to Hogwarts is worth seeing. And it’s a must-see for any Potter fan. Add in nostalgia if you feel that for the franchise and this is one of the best films you may have seen or would see recently. While I have enjoyed the Fantastic Beasts films, which are related to the Potter series, I didn’t get emotional watching those as I did seeing Return to Hogwarts.
Watson said it well when she said this in the documentary: “When things get really dark, and times are really hard, there’s something about Harry Potter that makes life richer.”