Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Warner Bros

Chris Columbus treated us to the first adaptation of JK Rowling’s bestselling book series in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It launched a magical movie series that has been enchanting millions ever since. Here are some amazing facts about the film…

1) Alan Rickman was given Deathly Hallows clues

JK Rowling hand-picked Alan Rickman for the role of Severus Snape. So that he could play the role especially well, she gave the actor special instructions, and she even told him secret plot points from the Deathly Hallows, which hadn’t yet been written. 

2) Animated film 

After acquiring the film rights to the Harry Potter books, Warner Bros toyed with the idea of creating a series of CGI animation movies. They had decided that, if they were to make live action movies, the children would age too quickly in the two or three years between each film. JK Rowling gave a hard ‘no’ to the animation idea, and so Warner Bros decided they would use real actors, but would film all the movies in quick succession, so that the actors wouldn’t age faster than their characters.

3) JK Rowling turned down a role in the film

JK Rowling was actually offered a role in the movie; during the scenes where Harry sees himself standing between his parents in the Mirror of Erisad. The author was given the chance to play Lily Potter, Harry’s mum, but turned the role down. 

4) Contact lenses and buck teeth 

In the books, Hermione has buck teeth and Harry has green eyes. To make the main characters match their descriptions in the books as closely as possible, the film makers decided to fit Daniel Radcliffe with green contact lenses and Emily Watson with fake teeth. However, Radcliffe’s eyes became very sore, and Watson couldn’t deliver her lines properly with the teeth in her mouth, so these adjustments were dropped. 

5) JK Rowling hand-picked three main actors 

The author hand picked three of the actors: Dame Maggie Smith, who played Professor McGonagall, Alan Rickman, who played Severus Snape, and Robbie Coltrane, who played Rubeus Hagrid. Robbie Coltrane was the first actor to be cast in the film. 

6) Sorcerer’s stone

The US publishers of the novel, Scholastic, were unsure if readers would be familiar with the concept of the ‘philosopher’s stone,’ so they released the book as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone instead. The filmmakers had to keep in mind that that would be the title of the film in the States and so, every time the philosopher’s stone is mentioned in a scene, they would need to record the scene again but with the actor saying, ‘sorcerer’s stone,’ instead. 

7) Robin Williams offered to play Hagrid for free 

Such a fan of the books, Robin Williams was desperate to play a part in the movie, and had his heart set on playing lovable groundskeeper Rubeus Hagrid. He even offered to play the role for free. However, author JK Rowling had explicitly asked that the casting stick solely to actors from the UK, and so Williams was not given a part in the film. 

8) Falling candle

The floating candles in the Great Hall were actually tubes filled with oil, with a wick running down inside it, so that it could stay alight for hours without dripping wax on the people below. The tubes were suspended on wires that pulled up and down, giving that ‘bobbing’ effect that we see in the film. The heat from one of the flames caused a wire to snap at one point, and the tube of hot oil slammed to the ground. Nobody was hurt, thankfully, but in future films the candles were created using CGI, to be on the safe side. 

9) Tom Felton lied about reading the books 

When Tom Felton auditioned for the role of Draco Malfoy, he was anxious to discover that Chris Columbus was asking each actor what their favourite part in the book was. Felton hadn’t read any of the books and, when asked what his favourite part was, he repeated what the boy who auditioned ahead of him had said – ‘the part in Gringott’s.’ 

10) Real homework 

To give the Hogwarts sets more of a schoolish feel in certain scenes, the extras were encouraged to bring their real schoolwork to work on. Not only did this ensure they wouldn’t fall behind on classwork, but it also adding to the realism of the film. 

11) Outrage in Gloucester 

Gloucester Cathedral was used for some of the Hogwarts scenes. The Dean of the cathedral was a big fan of the books, and thus agreed to allow filming there. However, when it became public knowledge that the cathedral was going to be used for a film about witchcraft, thousands of letters of complaint were sent into local papers, claiming it to be blasphemy. 

12) An amazing detail in the Mirror of Erisad

The Mirror of Erisad, which Harry finds and becomes obsessed with, has the words “Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi” engraved into it. Latin, you might think. Actually, it’s English – just spelt backwards! Reserve the letters and it reads, “I show not your face, but your heart’s desire.”

13) The stenchy feast 

For the feast scenes in the film, real food was used. A fresh feast was cooked every two days, and the vegetables were changed twice a day. However, the food sat baking under the hot studio lights, and the set absolutely stank. For the sequels, resin replicas of real food were used, so that they wouldn’t go off. 

14) Richard Harris’ granddaughter 

In an interview, Richard Harris was asked why he took the role of Albus Dumbledore. He replied that his granddaughter, who was a huge fan of the books, told him that if he didn’t take the role, she would never talk to him again. 

There you have it – 14 magical facts about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone trailer