Magical Harry Potter Facts You Didn’t Know

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If you’re like most humans, you loved Harry Potter. Whether you were a fan from the beginning, or only discovered them through the movie franchise, this series held widespread appeal.

Here are some of the greatest fun facts, stories, and photos from the series! Read on to find out how some of the amazing special effects were created, and how many glasses were harmed in the making of this movie!

harry potter names

The names J.K. Rowling chose are one of the more fun aspects of Harry Potter. She has said that she enjoys collecting unusual names, saying in an interview, “I invented the names of the Houses on the back of an airplane sick bag! This is true. I love inventing names, but I also collect unusual names, so that I can look through my notebook and choose one that suits a new character.”

 

What real-life similarities did the actors have to their characters?

The director that came on to direct the third movie, Alfonso Cuarón, asked the three main characters to write an essay about their character. True to form, Emma Watson (Hermione) wrote a 16 page essay, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) wrote a one page essay, and Rupert Grint (Ron) didn’t even turn one in.

According to Grint, he…”didn’t do mine, because I didn’t think Ron would. Or that was my excuse. At the time, I was actually quite busy with the real schoolwork involved with my exams, and I just didn’t do it. But in the end, it felt right because that’s what Ron would have done.”

harry potter personal essays

 

How are Harry and J.K. Rowling similar?

harry potter birthday

Harry and J.K. Rowling share a birthday! They’re both born on July 31, but Harry was born in 1980, and Rowling was born in 1966. That’s not the only similarity she shares with a character. She has said that Hermione shares many similarities with her younger self, who was maybe the slightest bit of a know-it-all.

How did they prevent the book from being leaked?

harry potter fake names

It was hard to keep the Harry Potter books under wraps before release, as we saw in The Devil Wears Prada. Secrecy was kept by using fake names for the books – Edinburgh Potmakers or The Life and Times of Clara Rose Lovett: An Epic Novel Covering Many Generations were two such names that successfully kept people away.

Why didn’t we see Peeves in the movies?

harry potter peeves

Remember Peeves from the books? I know I was looking forward to seeing him in the movie, but unfortunately his part was cut. British comedian Rik Mayall was cast, and had his part cut as director Chris Columbus didn’t like the look of the ghost.

He didn’t tell his kids that his part got cut, so, when they went to see the movie, “they came back and they said: ‘Bloody good make up. You didn’t look like yourself at all dad,’” Mayall said. “They thought I was playing Hagrid, Robbie Coltrane’s part.”

How busy were the props department kept?

harry potter wand breaking

The makeup and props department had their hands busy. The lightning scar was applied about 5,800 times, between Daniel Radcliffe and stunt doubles. He also went through about 160 pairs of glasses! Daniel Radcliffe also went through about 60-70 wands through the course of filming.

Did Alan Rickman know his characters backstory?

harry potter snape lily

One of the pivotal moments in the book/movie was finding out that Snape loved Harry’s mother. Rowling let actor Alan Rickman know early on during filming so that he could understand his character more completely. Said Rowling, “So he knew that. Then you told me that he’d been saying … ‘I just don’t think Snape would do that, given what I know. And I thought, ‘Alan, are you really milking this now?’”

How did they show the Polyjuice Potion taking effect?

harry potter seven harrys

The scene where members of the Order of The Phoenix come to transport Harry safely to the Weasley’s home was one of the more challenging aspects to film. The special effects team needed to show the transformation of each character into Harry.

They did that by painting everyone’s faces with UV paint and then using a special system called the Mova Contour Reality Capture system which created a mesh cloud of all their possible facial expressions. They then manipulated everyone’s faces further digitally.

Wait, Dumbeldore was gay?

harry potter dumbeldor gay

Peoples worlds were rocked when it was discovered that Dumbledore was gay. According to Rowling, he had fallen in love with the dark wizard Grindelwald, “and that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was.”

She later told Daniel Radcliffe, “This is a very old man who has a very terrible job to do. And his gayness is not really relevant. Very relevant to him as a character, because I always saw him as a very lonely character. And I think that there is in fact a hint of it in [Deathly Hallows] because of the relationship he has with Grindelwald. He fell very hard for this boy …  And don’t you think it was perfect that Dumbledore, who is always the great champion of love … his one great experience of love was utterly tragic.”

 How did they get the owls to carry mail?

harry potter owls

It took a long time to train the owls! The props team wrote many handwritten letters for the owls to carry, but realized that they were too heavy for the owls, and re-wrote all of them. It took them about six months to teach the owls how to carry the letters after they fixed the original weight problem!

What’s the inspiration behind Moaning Myrtle?

harry potter moaning myrtle

Moaning Myrtle (who was played by an actor who was 37 years old!) was inspired, according to Rowling, by “the frequent presence of a crying girl in communal bathrooms, especially at the parties and discos of my youth. This does not seem to happen in male bathrooms, so I enjoyed placing Harry and Ron in such uncomfortable and unfamiliar territory in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

Ladies, let us know if you’ve ever experienced this. Men…have you ever seen this?

What would happen if a Muggle saw the castle?

harry potter castle

Ever wondered how they hid Hogwarts? If a Muggle approached the castle, all they would see was a crumbling ruin that said, “Dangerous, Keep Out!” Wonder if any Muggle teens ever tried to hang out there at night and what would have happened to them if so!

In reality, the castle seen in all exterior shots was an amazingly intricate project that took 40 people seven months to build, with three months dedicated to the bridge alone, and each shingle laid by hand!

How did Rowling pick the names of the spells and other magical components?

harry potter latin

Rowling studied Latin in university. While many consider it a dead language, researchers know that it is very much alive. Rowling knew that too, and most of the magical spells were based off of Latin words.

For example, Expelliarmus combines expellere, meaning “drive out” or “expel,” with arma, meaning “weapon,” and knocks weapons from an enemy’s hands. Incendio, which lights a fire, comes from incendiarius, or “fire-raising.” And Hogwarts’s motto is Draco Dormiens Numquam Titillandus“Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon.”

Where did the name J.K. Rowling come from, anyway?

harry potter jk rowling

J. K. Rowling’s real name is Joanne. She became J. K. after publishers suggested she not use her name to attract male readership. The ‘J’ is obviously based on her first name. The ‘K’ comes from her grandmothers name, which was Kathleen.

Which movie moment was totally real?

harry potter great hall

None of the actors saw the Great Hall until they were first filming in it! Their amazement and wonder was very real as they first saw majestic floating candles, huge tables, and impressive Gothic architecture.

Who wanted to turn Harry Potter into a Pixar movie?

harry potter steven speilberg

Steven Spielberg was originally approached to direct the movie. One would think that a cinematographic genius such as he would be able to create an incredible film. However, he wanted to take it in a different direction.

“I did think it would be worthwhile for Steven Spielberg to direct,” Warner Brothers president Alan Horn said. “We offered it to him. But one of the notions of Dreamwork’s and Steven’s was, ‘Let’s combine a couple of the books, let’s make it animated,’ and that was because of the [visual effects and] Pixar had demonstrated that animated movies could be extremely successful. Because of the wizardry involved, they were very effects-laden. So I don’t blame them. But I did not want to combine the movie and I wanted it to be live action.”

Why was there a dentist on-set?

harry potter young actors

There was always a dentist on hand! Since so many of the actors were so young, their baby teeth were often falling out. To maintain continuity, a dentist had to be on hand to fit fake teeth for the kids who’d lost theirs.

 

Did you know about the Celtic mythology behind their wands?

harry potter wand cores

All of the characters wands have cores, or insides, that relate to their birthdays. The Celtic tradition assigns people trees the way we have birthstones. In a stroke of fate, Rowling had chosen the ‘right’ wood for Harry and Malfoy’s wands – holly and hawthorne-based – when she discovered the Celtic tree calendar.

Ron and Hermione, however – ash for Ron (February 18-March 17) and vine wood for Hermione (September 2-29) – got the right wands. Seeing as this would be a bit complex, the rest of the characters didn’t get that sort of treatment.  See the full list here to find out what you wand would have been!

Was Hermione actually white?

harry potter ethnic hermione

Although the character that played her in the movie was white, Hermione’s race was never specified. The only mention of any skin color at all came in the third book: “They were there, both of them, sitting outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor — Ron looking incredibly freckly, Hermione very brown, both waving frantically at him.”

Some artists have taken the liberty of re-imagining Hermione as a woman of color, as seen in some of the gorgeous illustrations above.

Why was Dolores Umbridge the best villain ever?

harry potter umbridge

Stephen King LOVED Dolores Umbridge. In his review of Order of the Phoenix for Entertainment Weekly, King said, “The gently smiling Dolores Umbridge, with her girlish voice, toad-like face, and clutching, stubby fingers, is the greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter.”

Also, the cat plates she had decorating her office?  Each unique kitten was real, and all went on to be adopted as domestic cats – though the new owners didn’t know about their colorful past!

How did Rowling come up with the concept of Dementors?

harry potter dementors

After Rowling’s mothers death, she suffered from a spate of depression. She based the Dementors on the feelings she’d experienced during that difficult time. “It’s so difficult to describe [depression] to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness,” Rowling told Oprah Winfrey. “I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling—that really hollowed-out feeling. That’s what Dementors are.”

How did Rupert Grint make an impression for his audition?

harry potter rupert grint audition

For his audition, Rupert Grint (Ron Weasly) dressed up as his female drama teacher and rapped. The opening lines were, “Hello, my name is Rupert Grint, I hope you don’t think I stink.” I guess they didn’t, since they chose him!

Who inspired Lockart?

harry potter lockhart

Rowling based a lot of the characters on people she knew in real life. It’s rumored that Gilderoy Lockhart, the insufferably egotistical Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was based on her ex-husband – something Rowling has never fully confirmed or denied.

Rowling said Lockhart’s real life alter ego is “probably out there telling everybody that he inspired the character of Dumbledore. Or that he wrote the books and lets me take credit out of kindness.” J.K. said that whoever inspired the egotistical Lockhart is worse in real life. She said on her website: “The living model is worse. He was a real shocker. I can say this quite freely because he will never in a million years dream that he is Gilderoy Lockhart.” Her spokeswoman denies that this is based on her ex-husband.

Why did the kids have their robe pockets sewn shut?

harry potter tom felton

Tom Felton, who played Malfoy, had to have his robe pockets sewn shut! He has said, “The robes had these huge pockets. The rumor was that they sewed them up after the third film because I was sneaking food and drink onto set. I want to clear this up because that is absolutely true. I think the other kids starting following suit. Wardrobe would put their hand in, and it would be chocolate and sweets.

 How much has this movie franchise made?

harry potter success

Finally, these movies were hugely popular. With ten films in the franchise, they are the second highest grossing movie franchises. For context, Marvel Cinematic Universe, which released 21 films, and James Bond movies, of which there are 25, are at #1 and #3. The movie that took in the least money, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban took in $90 million more than the most successful Twilight film.

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