[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts.]
The Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts reunion special is filled with heartwarming moments and nostalgic stories sure to excite every fan of the movie franchise.
Back on the Warner Bros. Studios lot, the cast and crew reminisce about creating eight epic films chronicling the story of a boy wizard, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), and his destiny to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Below, we’re rounding up some of the special’s interesting reveals ranging from behind-the-scenes crushes to the meaningful bonds the young stars created with the franchise’s more seasoned performers.
Fun and Games
In the early days of Potter, the stars remembered their favorite pass time between takes included the game of hand slaps. Behind-the-scenes footage corroborates the memory as the youngsters giggled from the sidelines of big scenes while clapping hands in a competitive way. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint all credit director Chris Columbus for making it such a fun set experience during The Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets productions.
It may be hard to believe, but some of the movies’ most magical scenes didn’t require digital magic as Radcliffe recalled, “one of my favorite moments on set ever was the moment when all the floating candles started burning through the ropes that tied them to the ceiling and just started falling around the great hall.”
Watson further elaborated that there were “hundreds of real candles that were really lit on fishing line from the ceiling,” for the big entrance scene at Hogwarts. Radcliffe and his costars couldn’t help but feel fortunate because “so much of that would be visual effects now.”
When it came to onscreen families, none were more menacing than the Malfoys, but that vicious behavior resulted in a little accidental on-set injury for Tom Felton. “Working with Jason [Isaacs] was a real treat,” the actor remembered, before reconsidering. “In fact, working with Jason was not always a treat,” he corrected, adding that the onscreen dad “just immediately turned into the most unfriendly, horrible person I’d ever met.”
All in good fun for the role, Isaacs confirmed Felton’s estimation of him as he recollected a particular moment. “I just remember grabbing him and just being as unpleasant as I possibly could and watching his little face constantly seeking my approval,” Isaacs shared, and added that in the first scene he did with Felton in which he has to slap Draco with a cane. “I didn’t know how sharp the teeth were and they went right into little Tom’s hands.” The actor felt terribly guilty, but that didn’t stop him from bring his evil A-game to the role of Lucius.
“He’d be this evil father, and then they’d say, cut, he’d come and give you a cuddle,” Felton remembered, calling Isaacs a real Jekyll and Hyde type of actor.
A Phoenix Rising From the Robotics Team
One moment that made Chris Columbus and Daniel Radcliffe chuckle during their reunion was remembering the franchise’s first Albus Dumbledore, played by the late Richard Harris. According to the star and director, Harris believed the phoenix in Chamber of Secrets was a real animal that was trained to interact with the performers, unaware that it was a robotic mythical creature. And apparently, no one ever told the actor otherwise.
The Gary Oldman Talk
Apparently, Radcliffe gave his costars Grint and Watson a serious talk before they worked with Gary Oldman on The Prisoner of Azkaban, as the actor worried about working alongside such a big pro as Oldman. “The first person I remember being in awe of when they came in was Gary,” Radcliffe noted.
“I remember that,” Watson responded. “I remember you giving me the Gary chat, you were like, ‘Listen, Emma, you need to be cool, because it’s Gary Oldman, it’s a really big deal and you need to be cool.” The memory brings on a round of laughter before Radcliffe admitted it was his own fears that brought on the talk in the first place.
Alan Rickman’s Inside Line
In a sweet look back at Oldman’s introduction as Sirius Black, the actor remembered wishing he’d known more about his character’s true nature earlier on. “I wish I’d had the whole picture. You know, we only ever found out book [by book],” he said to Radcliffe, before wondering aloud if the main star had any insider knowledge of plots before books were released.
“I did not, just [Alan] Rickman,” Radcliffe shared. “Rickman did. That was it. He had the inside line.” When Oldman asked how Rickman managed to pull that off, Radcliffe said the man who played Snape, went to author J.K. Rowling for information. “He said to Jo, ‘I think I need to know what happens,’” Radcliff shared of his late costar.
“Rickman would have an in, wouldn’t he?” Oldman ultimately accepted.
Alfonso Cuarón’s Homework Assignment
When Alfonso Cuarón was directing The Prisoner of Azkaban, he gave the main trio a homework assignment to write an essay about their characters. While Watson turned in multiple pages, and Radcliffe managed to return some thoughts to Cuarón, Grint didn’t complete the assignment, claiming Ron wouldn’t participate, and so he was following in the Weasley boy’s footsteps.
Emma & Dan’s Text Sounding Board
During the reunion, the stars allude to the fact that filming during The Goblet of Fire was the most hormonal time on set, which included crushes and texting. Watson and Radcliffe revealed that they were each others’ sounding boards for texting the opposite sex, making for a uniquely funny sibling-like bond between them. “We had that kind of older brother, younger sister thing,” Watson teased.
The Phelps Twins Prank Rupert
According to Grint, he’d never danced with a girl before, and so being tasked with dancing alongside costar Maggie Smith was daunting. The task wasn’t made any easier by Grint’s onscreen siblings James and Oliver Phelps who played twins Fred and George. “They kind of convinced me before we filmed it that there was this whole dance routine planned,” Grint revealed.
Emma’s Yule Ball Fail
Watson remembered the importance of The Goblet of Fire‘s Yule Ball sequence and feeling as though she was dreading the moment. “I knew it was a big deal and I knew it was miserable,” Watson said of her “duckling becomes a swan moment.” The pressure got to her so much that she ended up falling down the stairs while trying to film.
Emma & Tom in Love
Despite being onscreen foes, Watson and Felton have always had a deep bond. “Emma and I have always loved each other,” Felton shared as the duo reminisced about their younger years. Watson recalled a particular assignment from an on-set tutor, and how Felton’s project made her fall in love. “I just fell in love with him,” she said.
Felton remembers being told by someone else on the crew that Watson had had a crush on him, and Watson doesn’t deny it. “I used to come in every day and look for his number on the call sheet,” she revealed. “If his number was on the call sheet it was an extra exciting day.”
And while Felton admits he’s “always had a soft spot for her,” Watson puts any relationship rumors to bed by saying, “nothing has ever ever ever happened romantically with us, we just love each other. That’s all I can say about that.”
Dan’s Fanboy Moment
Reuniting with Radcliffe in Gringotts, Helena Bonham Carter, who played Bellatrix Lestrange, shared some big laughs with her costar as they sat down and she revealed an old autograph he’d written for her. The sweet message was innocent enough until Radcliffe stopped reading aloud. Bonham Carter urged Radcliff to continue as he read his old message to her which concluded with, “I do love you and I just wish I’d been born 10 years earlier, I might have been in with a chance.” The actress went on to reveal that the autograph is hanging in one of her bathrooms.
Potter Without Hermione?
“When I started, one thing that David [Heyman] and the Studio spoke to me about, ‘Emma is not sure she wants to come back to do another Potter,’” The Order of the Phoenix‘s director, David Yates revealed. The actress was contemplating whether it was the right choice to return or not as Watson remembered recently finding diary entries from the time, “I could see that at times, I was lonely.”
“We never talked about it on the film because we were all just kids,” Radcliffe acknowledged. “As a 14-year-old boy, I was never gonna turn around to another 14 year old and be like, ‘hey, how are you doing. is everything okay?’” Ultimately, what it boiled down to was the pressures of wondering whether Potter would make up the rest of her life. “I think I was scared,” Watson recalled. And for her, “the fame thing had finally hit home.” It was with the fans’ support that she was able to continue on in the franchise.
The special couldn’t go on without acknowledging the many great talents who had died in the years since Harry Potter wrapped, including the incomparable Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. Among other recognized by the stars was Richard Harris who played the first Dumbledore, John Hurt, and Radcliffe’s closest Richard Griffiths who portrayed Harry’s miserable uncle Vernon Dursley.
In a sweet tip of the hat, the segment reflecting on their performances also included names of several other costars and crew members who have since passed away. On the less human side of things, Watson also recalled an occasion in which one of the set designers created a tiny coffin for her pet hamster when it died.
Emma’s Favorite Scene
Despite the unusual tone of the scene between her and costar Radcliffe, one of Watson’s favorite moments from the series occurred in The Deathly Hallows Part 1. “The scene I thought was gonna be really awkward and not sure about at all, which was us doing our dance,” Watson remembered. Looking back, she revealed, “now that’s one of my favorite scenes from the whole of the series because the level of familiarity that you and I had with each other at that point. I don’t think I could have done a scene like that with another actor,” she told Radcliffe who remembers the novelty of getting to sway along to a Nick Cave tune.
The ‘Horrifying’ Kiss
One of the biggest build-ups from the course of the series is the relationship between Watson and Grint’s Hermione and Ron. Despite opening the series as minor antagonists towards each other, the writing was always on the walls that these two would wind up together. The trouble? Watson and Grint have more of a sibling than a romantic bond, making their eventual kiss that much more “horrifying” according to her.
“I spoke to both of them in their trailers, made sure they were both comfortable. It was almost like prepping them for a major sport event,” David Yates recalls about the final movie’s big moment. As for their costar Radcliffe, he admits that he didn’t make things easier for them. “I’ve been told significantly that I was just being an absolute dick about this and was like, ‘I’m gonna come on set and watch you guys kiss.’” Radcliffe attempted to apologize for the unwanted attention he gave Watson and Grint, saying, “I’m sorry about that guys.”
Grint said, “I kind of think I blacked out, I just remember your face getting closer and closer.” Despite the horrors this seemed to entail, Grint admitted it wasn’t the worst thing to happen. Watson did admit it was the most difficult though. “Kissing Rupert is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do,” she said. “It just felt wrong, so wrong on every level, because Dan, Rupert, and I are so much like siblings.”
Pillars of Life
As the reunion neared its end, the trio looked back on their time together, and Grint admits that as the series wrapped, it opened a strange chapter of their lives. “Towards the end, it was kind of a weird time,” he says to Watson and Radcliffe, “especially kind of finishing. I feel like I lost track of who I was and who the character was, I didn’t really know where they ended or began.”
Watson echoes his sentiments, adding, “it’s almost like we did the most extreme form of method acting.” And despite the time apart from each other, she tells Grint, “it feels like your a pillar of my life.” The emotions run high as tears well in their eyes and he adds, “we will always be part of each others’ lives.” As they share a hug, Grint tells Watson, “I love you.” After a long pause, he turns the tears into laughter as he adds, “…as a friend.”
“Every part of my life is connected to Potter,” Radcliffe acknowledges, and much like his costars, he says “it just makes you really proud,” whenever they meet fans whose lives have been impacted by the series. Perhaps they’ll get a chance to revisit the nostalgia in a few years’ time. In the meantime, catch every exciting tidbit from the reunion special by streaming Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts on HBO Max now.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, Streaming now, HBO Max