When Albus Dumbledore left an infant and orphaned Harry Potter on the front step of Number 4 Privet Drive, Minerva McGonagall remarked, “This boy will be famous, a legend. I wouldn't be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter day in future. There will be books written about Harry, every child in our world will know his name.” Twenty years later, she’s absolutely right. With seven books, eight films, an interactive website, and countless additional materials (including a spin-off series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and a truly horrendous play That Shall Not Be Named), it’s impossible to not know the name, Harry Potter.
Following J.K. Rowling’s seven books, the Harry Potter films depict the time from when Harry first learns he's a wizard to when he sees his own son off to Hogwarts. The first film was released in 2001; the eighth was released in 2011. Much of the cast were children when filming began, and because their characters were recurring roles, they essentially grew up on the film set. Many of them have heartwarming memories of growing up together -- and many of them remember the pranks and shenanigans that went on when the camera wasn’t rolling (and sometimes even when it was).
While we celebrate the twentieth year of Harry Potter’s existence, let’s take a look at some of the pranks and shenanigans the cast got up to. From the chuckle-inducing to the cringe-worthy, from head lice to hospitalization, these actors got up to almost as much as their fictional counterparts.
15 Emma Watson Hugging the Boys
Your pre-teens are awkward years, no matter who you are. The child-actors of Harry Potter are no exception. When the kids weren’t suffering from acne and head lice, they were having to get uncomfortably close to one another. One such moment was at the end of Chamber of Secrets when an un-Petrified Hermione runs into the Great Hall to greet Harry and Ron. The script originally called for Hermione to hug both Harry and Ron, but Emma Watson was so embarrassed at the thought of hugging both boys that she begged the script to be changed. Chris Columbus allowed that she could only hug Daniel Radcliffe and shake Rupert Grint’s hand. Many fans interpreted this to foreshadow Ron and Hermione’s future romantic relationship.
Emma Watson would later be hesitant to kiss her co-stars in The Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 -- imagine how her twelve-year-old self would've felt if she’d known!
Set designers usually have a great sense of humor. The set designers of Harry Potter have included portraits of Anne Boleyn (a queen accused of witchcraft) in Hogwarts, copies of the Harry Potter books in Flourish and Blotts, and even live bats in Hagrid’s hut. One of their better jokes was in The Deathly Hallows Part 1. When the Death Eaters arrive at Bill and Fleur’s wedding, Harry, Ron, and Hermione Apparate to a busy section of London, change into street clothes, and seek refuge in a coffee shop. Later, two Death Eaters find them in the coffee shop, and after a short battle, Hermione Obliviates them. If you look closely, you can see that one of the posters on the wall of the coffee shop is of Equus, the famous stage play where Daniel Radcliffe appeared in the nude. We can only imagine Daniel Radcliffe’s reaction.
13 The Torture Scene
The two Deathly Hallows movies had a lot of heavy moments -- our favorite characters were tortured, imprisoned, and even killed. One of these heavy moments was a scene at Malfoy Manor, where Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham-Carter) tortures Hermione (Emma Watson). During filming, Emma Watson and Helena Bonham-Carter came up with the idea of Bellatrix carving the word “mudblood” into Hermione’s arm. Book readers will notice that while Bellatrix did indeed torture Hermione, she didn't give her a scar saying “mudblood,” but the action felt appropriate for the dark tone of the film, and it was approved by J.K. Rowling.
During filming, Helena Bonham-Carter got really into her role, and her scenes with Emma Watson can only be described as “intense.” Helena constantly approached Emma between takes and nervously asked if everything was alright between them, and Emma was always quick to reassure her with a hug that she didn’t take their acting personally.
12 Don’t Worry, I Will Be
The cast and crew have constantly praised the talent of the young actors -- and rightly so. Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy, was especially impressed with the ability of young Daniel Radcliffe. One moment, in particular, stands out to Isaacs. At the end of Chamber of Secrets, Lucius Malfoy and Harry Potter meet in Dumbledore’s office. Lucius learns that Harry has destroyed the Horcrux that Lucius had slipped into Ginny Weasley’s cauldron, as well as destroyed the basilisk unleashed by Voldemort. “Well,” says Lucius, glaring down at Harry, “Let us hope that Mr. Potter is always around to save the day.” The take was supposed to end with a mutinous look between the two, but Daniel Radcliffe had a different ending in mind. During one take, he ad-libbed the line, “Don’t worry -- I will be.” Chris Columbus liked it so much that he kept it; that take made it to the final cut and is now one of Harry’s more memorable lines.
11 Life Imitates Art
When Alfonso Cuarón stepped in to direct Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he wanted to get to know all the kids, as well as have them explore their characters a little deeper than they had in the past. He asked Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint to write essays talking about their characters. Their responses were eerily similar to what their characters would have done: Emma Watson wrote a sixteen-page paper, Daniel Radcliffe wrote a simple one-page summary, and Rupert Grint never even turned one in. Funnily enough, these on-point responses weren’t meant to be like their characters -- that’s really just how the three of them approached assignments. The real question is, were they cast because they resembled the characters, or did they resemble the characters because of how they were cast? Inquiring minds want to know.
10 The Boy Who Whoopeed
Though the kids did most of the pranking on-set, the adults had their fun, too. During Prisoner of Azkaban, there’s a scene when all the Hogwarts students have to sleep in the Great Hall while the castle is searched. Daniel Radcliffe asked that his sleeping bag be placed near a girl on whom he had a crush. Director Alfonso Cuarón was happy to comply, but unbeknownst to Mr. Radcliffe, Cuarón teamed up with Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) and Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore) to prank the young actor. The three men snuck a remote-controlled whoopee cushion into Daniel Radcliffe’s sleeping bag. In the scene, Harry pretends to be asleep, while really, he's listening to Snape and Dumbledore’s conversation. During one take, Gambon kept setting off the remote-controlled whoopee cushion, making it sound like Daniel Radcliffe was farting loudly. The other kids cracked up, of course, and Radcliffe was sufficiently embarrassed.
One of the overarching themes in Goblet of Fire is the exploration of the awkward teenage years -- the period when you're no longer a child and are starting to experience the world with new awareness. This is particularly poignant in the scene where Hermione (Emma Watson) appears at the Yule Ball. During Hermione’s “Cinderella” moment, she appears in a ballgown and pretty up-do and descends the stairs while Ron and Harry gape at her. In the final cut of the film, Hermione gracefully walks down the stairs and smiles--but during filming, she wasn’t always so graceful. During one take, Emma Watson tripped over her dress and heels and tumbled down the stairs. After that, Emma Watson became terrified of tripping again and ruining her dress, so she only wore her costume when it was absolutely necessary -- understandably so! We’re glad Emma didn’t get injured, but we’re sad it didn’t make it into the blooper reel.
8 The Turkish Prank
He may have looked like an innocent little kid, but don’t be deceived -- young Daniel Radcliffe was a prankster. While filming The Sorcerer’s Stone, he got hold of Robbie Coltrane’s (Hagrid) phone and changed all the settings to Turkish. This proved to be a problem as no one involved in the project spoke Turkish, so no one was able to help him navigate the settings. Eventually, they found a girl in the makeup department who was Turkish Cypriot. She called her mother, and together, they figured out how to change the phone settings back to English.
Daniel Radcliffe felt so guilty about inconveniencing his costar that he wrote an apology letter that has been called “groveling.” Despite his irritation at the time, Coltrane couldn’t help being endeared by the young actor’s sincerity. The two remained good friends -- though Coltrane was probably much more careful with his phone around young Mr. Radcliffe!
7 I Didn’t Know You Could Read
Tom Felton has been acting since he was eight years old; by the time Warner Brothers filmed The Chamber of Secrets, he’d picked up a few tricks of the trade. One such instance was during one of the more memorable scenes -- when Harry and Ron take Polyjuice Potion and transform into Draco Malfoy’s cronies, Crabbe and Goyle. Harry, as Goyle, is still wearing his glasses when he and Ron come across Malfoy. When Malfoy asks Harry, as Goyle, why he’s wearing glasses, Harry pulls them off and fibs, “Oh, um, reading.”
Malfoy had a response to this statement, but during filming, Tom Felton blanked. Improvising, the young actor said, “Reading? I didn’t know you could read.” Chris Columbus liked it so much that he decided to keep it, and that was the version that made it into the final cut. It also became one of the franchise’s most quoted lines.
6 Harry Potter and the Head Lice
When you have hundreds of child actors working closely for an extended period of time, you’re going to have some incidents -- specifically, medical incidents. Bouts of sickness such as colds, the flu, and even chickenpox are bound to get around -- and probably did on the set of the Harry Potter films. Probably the most memorable case of anything to go around, however, was an epidemic of head lice. It makes sense, given that many of the actors were local schoolchildren bringing who-knows-what into the studio, but what a nightmare that must have been to deal with! There’s no confirmation as to whether or not the young stars were affected, but it seems likely, given how widespread the head lice became. Eventually, the studio had draft nurses come into the production to help keep the problem under control. Too bad Madam Pomfrey didn’t have a magical cure to keep things running smoothly!
5 Hook, Line, and Cupcakes
One of the characteristics that distinguish Chris Columbus’s directing style from that of the other Harry Potter directors is his use of practical effects whenever possible. Much of what you see in the first two movies is “real” -- that is, the effects are not CGI. One such practical effect was the levitating cupcakes used in Chamber of Secrets. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide to impersonate Crabbe, Goyle, and Millicent Bulstrode, they first need the bodies of Crabbe and Goyle -- both so that they can collect hairs from them and also make sure the real Crabbe and Goyle don’t walk in on them. Hermione charms two cupcakes and makes them levitate so that Crabbe and Goyle can’t miss them. The actual cupcakes were held in the air using hooks and fishing line -- an old trick, but an effective one. Unfortunately, Jamie Waylett and Josh Herdman (Crabbe and Goyle, respectively) kept cutting their mouths on the hooks hidden in the cupcakes. Good thing they didn’t have any lines!
4 The BMW Ban
It’s common knowledge that the young stars of Harry Potter got into all kinds of mischief during filming -- but as many pranks as they pulled, not all of their mischief was intentional. Accidents were bound to happen with that many kids growing up on the set of a movie about wizarding school. One such accident was when Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) were invited for a ride in Alan Rickman’s expensive BMW -- and promptly spilled milkshake all over it. Normally patient with the kids, Rickman was (understandably) furious that they had ruined the interior of his nice car, and after the incident, he imposed a ban on the actors from his BMW, stipulating that Grint and Lewis must always maintain a distance of at least five feet from the vehicle.
Ironically, Rupert Grint would later buy an ice cream truck -- now he can spill as much ice cream as he wants!
3 Matthew Lewis’s Ear Injury
In a franchise involving flying cars, Quidditch, dragons, and wizards who torture and kill anyone who isn’t like them, injuries are bound to happen. Most of these injuries are bruises and sprains, with the occasional broken bone. One of Matthew Lewis’s injuries, however, was very unusual. During the scene in Order of the Phoenix when members of the DA go to the Department of Mysteries, they are captured by a few Death Eaters, including Bellatrix Lestrange. Lestrange, played by Helena Bonham-Carter, was imprisoned for torturing Neville Longbottom’s parents, among other things. When Bellatrix captures Neville in the Department of Mysteries, she holds a wand to his ear so that he'll be sure not to move and accidentally get blasted in the head. Unfortunately, Matthew Lewis did move his head, and Helena Bonham-Carter’s wand perforated his eardrum. Lewis was completely deaf in that ear for several weeks, but he actually found it funny and was able to laugh about it.
2 Voldemort’s Hug
A lot of great moments in the Harry Potter films were improvised, and now, they’re some of the franchise’s most famous moments. In fact, one of The Deathly Hallows Part 2’s most infamous moments was the result of improvisation. After Voldemort has “killed” Harry and displays his body to his friends at Hogwarts, he invites them to join his side or be killed. Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy encourage Draco to join them on Voldemort’s side, and an upset-looking Draco resignedly walks towards them. Originally, Draco was just supposed to walk over and join them, but during one take, Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort) decided to have a little fun. Instead of letting Tom Felton walk past him, he pulled in Tom for an extremely awkward hug. Director David Yates liked it so much that he kept it. What you see in the final cut is that one take -- the awkward hug and Draco’s stiffness is all Tom Felton reacting in surprise to his co-star’s improvisation.
1 The Potter Kids
At the end of The Deathly Hallows Part 2, Harry, Ginny, and their three children -- James, Albus, and Lily -- go to Platform 9 ¾. While James’s actor (Will Dunn) was a novice to the films, his on-screen siblings were not. Arthur Bowen, who plays Albus, also appeared in The Half-Blood Prince, buying roasted chestnuts in Diagon Alley with his younger sister. Daphne de Beistegui, who plays Lily Luna Potter, has been involved in the films for much longer -- though not always as an actor. Daphne’s mother has been working on the films since the very beginning, and Daniel Radcliffe remembers that she was pregnant with Daphne while they filmed the first movie. While filming the epilogue for Deathly Hallows Part 2, Daphne constantly followed Daniel around set and hugged him. Luckily, Daniel found it cute and was more than happy to bond with his on-screen daughter both on and off camera.