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Back to Hogwarts: Behind the Scenes Magic from the Harry Potter Film Series

No matter how many years pass, the magical world of Harry Potter will always hold a special place in our hearts. Whether you read all the books a few times over or are just a sucker for a good fantasy film series, Harry Potter has managed to gain an unbelievably dedicated fan base. Since the release of the first feature-length film, the world has watched as the young cast grew up on set and completely owned their breakthrough roles.

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Daniele Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson (Harry, Ron, and Hermione) were all just 11-13 years of age when they first graced our screens. Now, ten years since the last installment and as the stars reach their 30’s, they have each earned their respected place in Hollywood. Popular Everything has collected some behind the scenes photos offering a glimpse into what life was like behind the magic, growing up within the corridors of Hogwarts.

Finding the Boy Who Lived

Who can forget the moment in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when Harry first learned how to ride a broom? When Daniel Radcliffe was cast as Harry he was only 11 years old. J.K. Rowling, the author of the best-selling books, specifically wanted to find an unknown British actor to take on the role.

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When they received Radcliffe’s audition tape, they knew he was the one for the job and eight months and a few more auditions later, he finally received the life-changing news. At first, Daniel’s parents did not want him to accept the role due to the tasking filming schedule but they eventually gave in. The young star received a seven-figure salary for the first installment of the series.

Mentors on Set

One of the most impactful characters in both the book and film series, Professor Severus Snape, was played by the talented Alan Rickman. Rickman acted as a mentor for the young cast and, contrary to the role he played, was extremely kind, generous and funny towards them. Rickman’s tragic passing in 2016 had a heavy hit on Radcliffe and his peers, who grew up under the seasoned actor’s guidance.

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Daniel posted an emotional entry on his Google + page in memory of Rickman along with this photo from the set of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The photo was captioned “I like this photo. It was taken if I’m not mistaken while rehearsing a scene where Alan clipped me and Rupert round the back of a head with a book. We all, apparently, found this hard to do without laughing.”

The Gentle Giant

When asked who she wanted to take on the role of the friendly half-giant, Hagrid, J.K Rowling did not hesitate to name Robbie Coltrane as her first choice. Coltrane was already well known for his roles in the James Bond franchise and Rowling felt he would be perfect for the role.

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Coltrane was one of 14 actors who appeared in all eight of the Harry Potter films. Legendary comedian, Robin Williams also had his eye on the role however Rowling preferred to cast a British actor. Here we see Coltrane sitting next to his body double between takes.

Huge Shoes to Fill

Coltrane’s stunt double, Martin Bayfield takes a break from his Hagrid mask. The former rugby player turned actor and sports broadcaster might have had a burly physique from his rugby days but still had to wear the giant Hagrid costume to tower over his fellow cast members.

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Like many of the characters, the inspiration for Hagrid’s character came from a real person; a West Country biker who although physically intimidating, is actually unexpectedly sweet and compassionate. It looks to us that both Coltrane and his stunt double, Bayfield fit the criteria to a T.

Making Magic Happen

Director David Yates talks Ralph Fiennes and Daniel Radcliffe through an intense battle scene between Harry Potter and Lord Voldermort. Yates is an English filmmaker who directed the final four films in the Harry Potter series.

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Prior to Yates, Chris Columbus sat in the director’s chair for the first two films before assuming the position of producer and handing off the director reigns to Alfonso Cuarón. Alfonso decided not to continue his role in the fourth installment and the rest of the series was set in the hands of Yates.

Unlikely Friends

Voldemort and Dumbledore are caught out of character between filming scenes. Transforming Ralph Fiennes into the Dark Lord was no easy task. Applying his makeup alone took around two hours and three make up artists. His creepy snake-like nose was achieved through CGI.

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Visual effects supervisor, Paul Franklin spoke about the task saying, “His nose had to be painstakingly edited out, frame by frame, over the whole film. And then the snake slits had to be added and tracked very carefully using dots put on his face for reference. It’s very laborious, very time consuming and the level of detail you have to hit is exquisite. ”

Creative Filming Tricks

This next photo might ruin the magic of Hogwarts for you. The library scene from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince involved an extra level of creativity. If you recall, Hermione is seen speaking with Harry as she returns her books to the shelves. As she reaches, the books float out of her hand and neatly situate themselves back to their place.

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In order to achieve this, instead of animating the book themselves, production crew members wore green gloves and stood behind the shelves. They then grabbed the books from actress Emma Watson as she passed, and handed them over. It’s a wonder how she managed to keep a straight face.

Debuting New Talent

Calling all Twilight fans! Did you know that the leading man of those vampire romance movies, Robert Pattinson, made his big-screen debut as Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? It’s true! At just 19 years old, the young Mr. Pattinson played the ever so charming House Hufflepuff prefect who competed against Harry in the “Triwizard Tournament.”

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Pattinson’s portrayal of Cedric earned him the title “British Star of Tomorrow” by The Times in 2005 and was even predicted to be “the next Jude Law.” Pattinson went on to be recognized around the world for his role of Edward Cullen in The Twilight Saga and his career hasn’t slowed down since. In 2021 he is set to take on the role of Batman in the latest of the DC universe installment.

Embracing Her Typecast

We are happy to see that Daniel Radcliffe and Helena Bonham Carter get along so much better than their characters, Harry Potter and Bellatrix Lestrange. Carter has gained a notable reputation for playing quirky, dark and oftentimes, diabolical characters such as Bellatrix.

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The actress was more than excited when she was asked to join the cast of Harry Potter. When speaking about being approached about the role she said, “I love magic, I love witches, I love the whole Harry Potter world. I was all too happy to play a witch.” Carter has since spoken about her portrayal of Beatrix saying, “I think I probably made her a bit more insane and unhinged then she was meant to be. I wanted her to be sexy and revolting at the same time.

Growing Up with Hermione

Actress, Emma Watson has often spoken out about what it was like for her living out her teenage years in front of the big screen. In an interview with Porter Magazine, the star reflected on this saying, “I’ve spent more than half of my life pretending to be someone else. While my contemporaries were dyeing their hair and figuring out who they were, I was figuring out who Hermione was and how best to portray her.”

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In the same interview, she added, “Now at 25, for the first time in my life, I feel like I have a sense of self that I’m comfortable with.” In addition to her ongoing success in Hollywood, Watson has also gained a following for her activism, standing up for women’s rights and gender equality.

Slight Costume Changes

In order to transform the three leading actors into their Harry Potter characters, the makeup crew originally had a few tactics in mind that didn’t end up playing out in the long run. Emma Watson for one had some cosmetic changes early on in filming the first film. In the books, it is heavily emphasized that Hermione’s teeth have a bit of an overbite. In order to achieve this, Watson originally had to wear fake teeth.

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You might notice this in the Sorcerer’s Stone during the final train sequence, which was one of the first scenes that they filmed. Director Columbus soon realized that the teeth were only hindering Emma’s performance. He spoke about this in a podcast with Entertainment Weekly saying, “I realized that she’s never going to be able to perform with these huge fake teeth in her mouth for the rest of the movie.”

That’s a Wrap!

The last day of filming sparked a lot of emotion for all of the Harry Potter stars. Watson, Grint, and Radcliffe were all understandably in tears as they huddled up for an embrace. Half of their lives had passed since they started filming in 2000. Producer David Barron spoke about the moment saying, “All three of them burst into tears. It was an enormous moment. Hugely emotional.”

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Radcliffe, who played Harry also spoke about how he felt that day saying, “To be together for so long was very special and I will miss that.” Rupert Grint, who played Ron said, “It has been a unique way of growing up, which not many people can relate too. But I don’t regret it, it has been an amazing few years.”

Always Learning

Daniel Radcliffe poses alongside Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, and Ralph Fiennes. The younger actors often looked to their older, much more experienced costars for guidance. However, in some cases, it was the youngsters who needed to give advice.

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In one scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Hermione transforms herself into Bellatrix in order to sneak into Gringotts. To prepare for the scene, Carter looked to Watson for advice on how to imitate her. Watson reflects on the result saying, “It’s a really interesting way of working because you suddenly become aware of your mannerisms. Watching Helena do me was bizarre. She’s uncanny.”

Action Movie Stars

Often times, the cast had to use quite a bit of imagination in order to portray themselves in the magical world from the books, when in reality, they were surrounded by green screens. Here we see Harry and his friends running to safety in Order of the Phoenix. The stars of the Harry Potter series feel very grateful that they got to stare in such an action-packed string of movies.

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Radcliffe spoke about this saying, “One thing I took for granted over the ten years was that I was playing an action hero. You don’t get to do that in any other line of performance. I got to slide 40ft down a roof, I got to burst out of a ring of fire. I got to do some really cool stuff. I probably won’t get to do that so much anymore.”

The Many Faces of Dumbeldore

What some might not realize is that Dumbeldore was played by two different actors throughout the film series. The original Dumbeldore was played by actor Richard Harris who sadly passed away shortly after Chamber of Secrets was released.

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Michael Gambon then took on the role for the remainder of the movies. Many make the wrong assumption that Dumbeldore was also played by Ian McKellan. This mix-up is largely due to McKellan’s role as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings who happens to bear a striking resemblance to our beloved headmaster.

Seeing Double

Radcliffe and his body double, David Holms share a laugh between filming. The professional gymnast acted as Harry’s stuntman since the very first film and went on to complete five more installments. Radcliffe and Holms developed a strong bond through the years and remain close friends to this day. Radcliffe often speaks about Holms calling him an “incredibly important person in my life.”

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Sadly, due to an accident which occurred while test filming for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, David had severely injured his spine on set. Today he is forced to use a wheelchair however he has not let this keep him from living life to the fullest. Holms has since set up a production company called Ripple Productions. He also spends his free time racing specially modified cars, and raising money for UK’s Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.

Smile for The Camera

Daniel Radcliffe revealed that at the start of filming, all the younger cast members had to get casts of their teeth made. This was a precaution in case any of the stars lost a tooth during shooting, they could simply put a fake tooth in its place.

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Sounds like the costume crew had their work cut out for them, considering how many of the starring cast members were under the age of 13. Thankfully, the stars were able to keep their pearly whites intact for long enough to get through filming.

Fake Hall, Real Food

Contrary to popular belief, the great hall scenes within the Hogwarts castle were all shot in Leavesden Film Studios in England and not in an actual castle. However, set designers did base the great hall design on the great hall of The Christ Church College at The University of Oxford

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The trio (Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint) had not seen the great hall prior to filming so their reaction upon entering the hall in the movie is completely genuine. Not only that, but the elaborate feast seen in the hall was also made up of real food.

Radcliffe the Prop Destroyer

Radcliffe was apparently not very responsible when it came to maintaining the Harry Potter props. In total, the actor went through 160 pairs of prop glasses by the end of the franchise. The glasses were not his only victims; Radcliffe took enjoyment in using his wands as drumsticks and reportedly broke eighty wands throughout filming all eight films.

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Every wand seen in the films were created on-site and were extremely accurate to their description in the books. Each wand was thirteen to fifteen inches long and created specifically for each character. Due to this, no two wands on set were alike.

Becoming Gingers

You might be interested to hear that the actors playing Fred and George Weasley are not actually redheads. The Harry Potter film series provided real-life twins, James, and Oliver Phelps their breakthrough role at the age of 14.

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Although they are in fact twins in real life, the Phelps brothers actually have dark brunette hair. They had to dye and touch up their roots on a weekly bases to keep their red locks intact. The twins were also required to bleach their eyebrows while filming, which they stated was the worst part of “becoming gingers”

Sweet & Salty Draco Malfoy

One of Harry’s main nemesis, Draco Malfoy, was played by the ever-charming Tom Felton, who was only 12 years old when he first took on the role. Felton’s real-life personality has proved to be much different than Draco’s bullying ways. When speaking about this he says, “It’s a lot more fun when you get to step into the shoes of someone really horrible. It’s not very nice to be horrible in real life. So it’s great to be able to do it on camera.”

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While attending an expo in Calgary, Felton spoke about his experience playing the villainous Draco and revealed to his fans that he used to sneak candy on set. Apparently, it got so bad that after Prisoner of Azkaban, the costume designers had to sew shut the pockets in his robes to keep him from sneaking in snacks.

The Challenges of Making a Giant

Director Chris Columbus has expressed regrets on how they portrayed the Hogwarts groundskeeper and Harry’s good friend, Hagrid. The director spoke about wishing they had played up his giant characteristics; “I always thought Hagrid should be a little bigger,” he says. “Believe it or not, we didn’t have the resources or the money to actually create a CGI version of Hagrid for the first couple of films.”

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Colombus went on to speak about the limitations and what strategies they did utilize to make Hagrid appear larger than the rest of the cast. In explaining this he says, “He was actually walking there with the kids, and then we did forced perspective sets for Robbie (Coltrane) and created an image of Robbie being much bigger than he was, but I always thought Hagrid should be about two feet taller and about 100 pounds heavier.”

The Lone American

Director David Yates gives notes to the Harry Potter trio between takes on the set of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in 2009. They are standing outside the fictitious Gringotts Wizarding Bank, the only known bank of J.K Rowling’s wizarding world.

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The bank, in both the books and the movies, is largely staffed by goblins, including one by the name of Griphook. Griphook, who is featured in Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, was played by the late Verne Troyer. Troyer, widely known as Mini-Me from his role in the Austin Powers film series, was one of the only non-British cast members to appear in the entire series.

Beating the Competition

Actress, Evanna Lynch had a lot of competition when auditioning for the role of Luna Lovegood. She was ninth in a line of 30 finalists before producer David Barron saw her audition tape. After seeing Evanna’s performance, Barron proclaimed “She is Luna,” and they stopped looking from then on.

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While this was happening, Lynch took it upon herself to write a letter directly to J.K. Rowling in an effort to get the author on her side. The actress went on to star in the last three of the Harry Potter films. She also offered her voice in some of the Harry Potter based video games.

Upping Their Wand Skills

Yates, Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson talk logistics on the set of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. As the fifth installment in the series, Harry and his friends were already utilizing elite level wand dueling techniques. That meant, the cast also had to perfect their skills.

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To do so, Yates hired a professional dancer by the name of Paul Harris to take on the role of “wand choreographer.” Harris created five basic spell-casting moves that the entire cast had to learn. Each actor was then asked to adapt those moves to their specific characters.

50 Shades of Pink

You might have noticed while watching Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix that Dolores Umbridge, played by Imelda Staunton, is always wearing pink. If you pay closer attention, you will see that as the film progresses, the shade of pink that she wears become darker.

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This was done deliberately to symbolize Umbridge’s state of mind becoming more and more out of control. Elaborating on the easter egg, costume designer, Jany Temime says, “I started with a lighter pink, and then as the film developed the pinks are getting hotter and hotter and hotter because she’s getting more and more hysterical.”

Keeping a Straight Face on Set

As you might imagine, Grint, Watson, and Radcliffe become quite close while filming together for all those years. Naturally, this meant it sometimes proved difficult to keep a straight face while filming. Rupert Grint recalls one specific occurrence during the filming of Deathly Hallows.

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When filming the scene where the “horcrux” versions of Harry and Hermione need to kiss, Grint had an extremely hard time controlling his laughter on set. He recalls this instance saying, “When they were there actually filming that kiss, they did actually want me there to kind of playoff something, but I just found that too funny,” Emma sent me out because I kept laughing. It just looked really strange.”

Compensating for the Lack of Gills

Considering the cast of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire did not actually have magical “Gillyweed,” they did have to employ other tactics that would give the illusion they were breathing underwater. The scene required a lot of underwater training. The actors had to undergo a 6-month training program before filming.

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The scene was also not filmed in an actual lake filled with mystical creatures, but rather a huge tank of water. While filming, assistants were employed to bring breathing apparatus’ to the underwater cast members. All the other marine elements such as seaweed and the merpeople were all added in using CGI.

A Very Harry Christmas

In honor of their newfound underwater breathing skills while filming
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Danielle Radcliffe decided to create an aquatic-themed Christmas card for his friends and fans. He gathered the cast and crew together to take a photo 20 feet under the “lake,” which was actually a large tank in Watford studios.

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The photo was taken on the last day of filming the underwater scenes of the movie. Harry then employed the skills of the computer graphics team to add festive reindeer antlers and Rudolph noses to the photo. The card was sent to fans who wrote to the actor around Christmas time.

Dog Days Are Over

Actor and filmmaker, Gary Oldman made his mark on the Harry Potter movie franchise with his portrayal of Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black. As fans will know, Black was one of only seven wizards with the ability to transform themselves into an animal.

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While Professor McGonagall could transform herself into a cat and Wormtail into a rat, Black had the ability to change into a large black dog named Padfoot. In the film, Oldman’s canine costar and Sirius Black’s Padfoot form was played by a Scottish Deerhound named Cleod.

Emma Was the Obvious Choice

It turns out that Emma Watson almost didn’t audition for the role of Hermione. It was her theater teacher that convinced her to pursue the role. Prior to Harry Potter, Watson had only acted in school plays, but clearly, she had something special.

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Casting director, Janet Hirshenson spoke about the decision to cast Watson for the role saying she was the obvious choice. Hirshenson said, “The character needed to be towards the annoying side at times, but not too annoying, and with Emma, after a while, you’re going to love her all the more.” The upcoming star even acted like Hemione outside her audition, proving all the more that she was the right girl for the job.

Experimenting with Color

Here we see the stars taking notes from David Yates during the filming of the Hogsmead Village scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. In the film, Hogsmead was made to look like an extensive area of land. In reality, it only took a green screen to create the entire village. Director David Yates wanted to bring a different look to this sixth installment.

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He decided to experiment with the color palette and lighting methods, stating that he was heavily inspired by the Dutch painter, Rembrandt. To achieve this vision, Yates also hired French cinematographer, Bruno Delbonnel. Delbonnel is well known for his use of stylized color palettes and earthy tones. As a result, this was the first in the series to be nominated for a Cinematography Oscar.

Grint’s Fear of Spiders

Rupert and Daniel listen in as they get instructions from director Chris Columbus during the filming of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Those who have seen the films might recall that this is the movie where Ron and Harry find Hagrid’s giant pet spider, Aragog, hidden in the Forbidden Forest.

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It turns out that Rupert Grint actually has a severe case of arachnophobia or fear of spiders. Ron’s discomfort during the scene is a result of Grint’s genuine terror from even the thought of a giant spider. Rumor has it that the actor has yet to watch the entire scene with Aragog since the completion of the film series.

Almost Replacing Hermione

David Yates, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint share a laugh between filming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Exhausted from the last five movies and eager to live the life of a typical teenager, Watson considered not returning to the series for the making of this installment.

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After considering the thought of seeing someone else take on the role of Hermione, however, Emma decided to return. As we know, she continued until the end of the series, and something tells us she is glad she did so.

Taking Home Souvenirs

After the film series came to an end, the three main protagonists were allowed to take home souvenirs from their time growing up on set. Each star chose an item that was the most meaningful to them through their years taking on their respective characters.

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Rupert Grint decided to take home the sign from the Dursley’s house in Privet Drive as well as the Deluminater gifted to Ron from Dumbeldore. Emma Watson took a wand, the time-turner and a cloak, while Daniel kept two pairs of his Harry Potter glasses; one from the first film and one from the last.

Forever Harry

Daniel Radcliffe in the zone while filming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2, the last installment in the series. After the success of the Harry Potter film series, Daniel Radcliffe knew that, for many fans, he would always be seen as Harry Potter.

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When speaking about this he said, “There will be some people who always see me as this character, I know that and understand that. That’s fine. As long as they are not casting directors and filmmakers, hopefully, it won’t hold me back. That’s my attitude to it.”

Appreciating Her Time as Ginny

Bonnie Wright, who plays Ginny Weasley, gets her makeup touched up between takes (below). Wright is another young star in the series cast that grew up in front of the camera, being only ten years old at the time of the first film. Looking back at her time on the set of Harry Potter, Wright speaks highly of her experience.

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“I’m so respectful and understand those ten years on Harry Potter were the foundation of my life. It was seminal to my growing up,” Wright says. She has also stated that she is thankful social media did not exist at the time; “I feel very lucky and pleased that when we were filming Harry Potter, social media didn’t really exist,” she says. “That was an incredibly lucky thing. I wasn’t a nine-year-old with a Twitter account. I’m thankful.”

Blue Eyed Wonder

Similar to attempting to give Emma Watson buck teeth on the first day of filming, they also made an effort to give Daniel Radcliffe green eyes. In the books, Harry Potter is blatantly described as having green eyes however Radcliffe’s eyes are very clearly blue.

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To avoid criticisms from the many diehard Harry Potter fans, producers wanted Daniel to wear green contacts to make him look more accurate to the books. Unfortunately, the young actor had a terrible allergic reaction to the contact lenses and was unable to wear them throughout filming.

Trio Looking a Little Odd

You might be thinking when looking at this behind the scenes snap of Harry, Hermione, and Ron that the stars look a little different than usual. That is because this isn’t Daniel, Emma, and Rupert, but rather their loyal body doubles.

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The magical trio let their professional body doubles take the reigns on some of the more risky scenes that required specific stunt training. While this might take away from the movie’s mysticism, the Harry Potter film series would not be possible without body doubles such as these three.

Ending the Series with a Bang

Radcliffe kicks back on the set of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This film, the seventh installment in the series, was initially planned to be released in 3-D. The idea was abandoned just weeks before its release due to the challenges of converting the film.

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Deathly Hallows was also originally meant to be one film, as it’s origin is based on the last installment in J.K. Rowling’s book series. Not wanting to leave anything out, producers decided there was no way they were going to fit the entire story into one film, so they split it into two parts.

Neverending Star Power

Daniel Radcliffe and Jim Broadbent, who took on the role of Professor Slughorn, film a scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Actor, Bob Hoskins was also considered for the role, but after his work filming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008, the part went to Broadbent.

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Jim Broadbent was one out of 14 actors to appear in the Harry Potter film series who also starred in the hit HBO television series, Game of Thrones. Other notable cross fantasy world stars include Natalia Tena, David Bradley, and Michele Fairley, to name a few.

The Many Faces of Lavender

In the film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Lavender Brown is portrayed by actress Jessie Cave (pictured below). However, in previous films, the character is portrayed by not one, but two different actresses; Kathleen McAuley in Chamber of Secrets and Jennifer Smith in Prisoner of Azkaban.

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Over 7,000 girls auditioned for the role in Half-Blood Prince. It was Emma Watson who recommended Jessie Cave for the role. Cave received the role even without attending the auditions.

Learning to Fly

As you might imagine, the students of Hogwarts were not actually riding brooms during those epic quidditch scenes. The crew relied heavily on green screens and the magic of CGI to make their stars fly. The quidditch scenes used a variety of filming methods, depending on the scene. One method involved jumping on a trampoline in front of a green screen while another required situating a broom on top of a moving robot.

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Instead of the actors steering the broom, in reality, they were holding on tight while a computer program determined where the broom rig would move. Rupert Grint spoke about his quidditch scenes saying, “You go about 30 feet in the air. I was holding a broom and they were throwing balls at me. It’s quite scary.” The actors would sometimes need to sit on the robotic broom rig for hours at a time.

Basketball With the Headmaster

To pass the downtime between filming, the cast and crew often turned to sports. Director Chris Columbus even requested that Warner Bros provide baseball and basketball equipment. He spoke about this saying, “We built a baseball field outside of Leavesden Studios and the cast and crew would play baseball every day if it were nice, and if not, we built a basketball court inside with a huge Hogwarts painting in the middle.” 

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Columbus went on to speak about a hilarious occurrence on the court;  “I remember Richard Harris dressed as Dumbledore cheering me on when I was playing basketball. That may be one of the more fun moments I’ve had in my life.”  Now that sounds like a sight to see!