Want to feel old? The first Harry Potter movie – The Philosopher’s Stone – turns 20 this month. And director Chris Columbus has been reflecting on his time making the film in a new interview with Variety. He has also expressed a desire to adapt the theatrical sensation – The Cursed Child – which is also part of the Harry Potter universe.
The first Harry Potter film was released on November 16, 2001 and was an immediate box office sensation, spawning one of the most successful film franchises of all time. Before the films, the books were already a phenomenon, so the pressure on the director of the first movie was huge.
Columbus says; “I had every expectation that I would probably be fired within the first two weeks. I was very, I don’t want to say anxious, but aware of the fact that if I screw this up, I probably will never work again. And I would have millions of fans that my door just infuriated. I knew I was taking on something fairly gigantic, and I’ve never been involved in a project that had so much scrutiny.”
Columbus talks about working with a core cast of young children at the time; “The first couple of weeks, all the kids were so excited to be part of the “Harry Potter” film, they were basically just smiling into the cameras. I couldn’t get them to stop smiling, and it really became an exercise and acting class for me as a director.” He does go on to note how much they improved by the time they got to Chamber of Secrets.
Columbus also discusses the fact that he had to play Voldemort and the Basilisk in the scenes where the kids had nothing to work with. The challenge of green screens and CGI made for some memorable moments; “I basically became the fourth actor in the movie because a lot of these situations, there’s nothing there for them. For me, it was kind of a workout. It was very physical in terms of me pretending to be whatever character, whether it was Voldemort on the back of [Professor] Quirrell’s head or the Basilisk in the second film. I was off-camera pretending to be those characters, which is quite insane if you think about it, but the only way I could actually get some of those performances out of the kids when they didn’t have anything to react to.”
And finally, Columbus expressed a desire to direct the film version of The Cursed Child – a sequel which features Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco as adults and which focuses on their children – so far, this story has only been seen on stage and in book form; “I would love to direct The Cursed Child. It’s a great play and the kids are actually the right age to play those roles. It’s a small fantasy of mine.”