Warning: This article contains some spoilers from “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts.”
After all this time, we’re still nostalgic for Harry Potter.
Fans of the beloved franchise got to go back to Hogwarts with the cast and learn secrets from the films thanks to the release of “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts,” which debuted on Saturday.
J.K. Rowling, as previously disclosed by HBO Max/WarnerBros, is only seen in the special via archival footage from 2019. Also notably absent from the reunion, except for in clips: Robert Pattinson (Cedric’s dead, after all), Maggie Smith (too cool? Too busy? Who knows), Michael Gambon, Emma Thompson and a handful of others that helped bring the series to life.
But even with some beloved Hogwarts professors and classmates missing, the reunion, which is nearly two hours long, was nostalgia packed. And, of course, magical.
The directors, producers and cast spent much of the roughly hour and a half special reminiscing about every movie, the set designs and the bonds between various characters. Like all reunions, there were laughs, hugs, candid confessions, some tears and lots and lots of feels.
Here are ten things we learned about the films after watching the reunion.
1. Richard Harris, aka OG Dumbledore, thought Fawkes was depicted by a real bird.
During a portion of the reunion, which featured Daniel Radcliffe (who played Harry Potter) and director Chris Columbus (who directed “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets”), the two recalled filming certain scenes with Harris, aka the OG Dumbledore.
In their conversation, the two shared a laugh while describing filming the scenes that involved Harris and Fawkes, the phoenix that served as Dumbledore’s animal companion.
In the films, Fawkes is animatronic. But Harris, who was succeeded by Michael Gambon in the films after his death, didn’t know that, according to Columbus and Radcliffe.
“Richard came in and looked at the phoenix, and said ‘wow they train these animals marvelously these days,'” Columbus said.
“We never told him,” Radcliffe said.
“He just thought it was a real bird,” Columbus said.
2. Even Alfonso Cuarón was blown away by all the talent on set.
Cuarón, an Oscar-winning director, helmed the third film of the franchise, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” which he described as a true “coming of age” story.
It was one scene in particular that blew him away: The scene at the Shrieking Shack where the trio learns the truth about Peter Pettigrew and Sirius Black.
That scene involved filming with Radcliffe, Emma Watson (who played Hermione), Rupert Grint (who played Ron), Gary Oldman (who played Black), David Thewlis (who played Remus Lupin) and Alan Rickman (who played Severus Snape).
“I had never done a scene with such an amazing cast in my life,” Cuarón said in the reunion.
It’s “an intense scene in which a lot of things are at stake,” He added. “You can see Rupert, Emma and Dan … they are completely committed to the scene.”
“I love it,” he said. “I have such a great memory of it.”
3. Rickman was the only person who knew the ‘full picture’ when it came to Snape
In a conversation between Oldman and Radcliffe, the two discussed how Sirius is at first painted as this “villainous guy” but turns out to be “kind and warm.”
“I wish I’d had the whole picture,” Oldman said of the series. “You know, we found out book by book.”
He then turned to Radcliffe and said, “I don’t know whether you were, because you were Harry Potter,” implying that Radcliffe might have had a better grasp of what Harry Potter’s future held given that he was the franchise lead.
However, Radcliffe said, “I did not. Just Rickman did,” referring to the late actor, who died in 2016. “That was it. He had the inside line.”
“How did he work that one?” Oldman replied.
“He very very early said to Jo [Rowling], he was like, I think I need to know what happens,” Radcliffe said.
“Rickman would have an in, wouldn’t he,” Oldman joked.
“He never told Chris, he never told anyone,” Radcliffe added. “Chris [Columbus] would literally say to him ‘why are you doing that’ and he would say ‘I’ll tell you later.’”
4. Grint is as goofy as Ron (just as you expected).
For the third film, Cuarón said he had the trio do a homework assignment: Write an essay in the voice of your character.
It was a way for the director to get to know the actors, and the characters through their eyes.
“Of course, Emma writes like 12 pages like beautifully written,” Grint recalled.
But, “Rupert didn’t deliver anything,” Cuarón said.
“I didn’t do it,” Grint said, laughing during the reunion.
“I said, Rupert where’s your assignment? He said well, I thought … Ron wouldn’t do it,” Cuarón said. “Rupert is Ron, 100%”
5. Real-life Fred and George actually trolled Grint ahead of the Yule Ball scene.
Speaking of the Weasley family, Grint wasn’t the only one who had similarities to his ginger-haired character.
Oliver and James Phelps, who played Fred and George, were also jokesters off-camera. Kind of.
There’s a scene in “Goblet of Fire,” in which Professor McGonagall (Smith), is teaching the students to dance and calls on Ron to demonstrate with her. The scene is hilarious, and prompts laughter from many on screen (and us viewers).
But behind the scenes, the Phelps brothers made Grint feel even more nervous about dancing.
Oliver Phelps said, “We were like, don’t know you know any steps? You know, the routine we’ve all been doing routine for past six weeks? or something like that.”
“They kind of convinced me before we filmed it … that there was a whole dance routine planned,” Grint said, “just trying to build the pressure.”
6. There were ‘lot of hormones flying around’ during the filming of ‘Goblet of Fire’
The fourth film sees the Hogwarts students maturing even more, attending the aforementioned Yule Ball, and dealing with crushes for the first time.
On set, things weren’t much different, some of the actors said.
Radcliffe described the fourth film as “peak hormone, at least for me.”
“It was exactly what you’d expect,” he said, noting how the fourth film saw the addition of the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students.
“You had a bunch of hormonal teenagers anyway…and you bring in two massive new groups of people all of them purposefully hot for the film.”
There were “a lot of hormones flying around,” Grint said.
“…people were going out with each other, and broke up,” recalled Matthew Lewis (who played Neville Longbottom). “It was exactly the same environment, it was just in a defense against the dark arts class.”
7. DRAMIONE IRL? It’s love, but platonic.
Dramione fans: The truth is now out there.
Watson and Tom Felton (who played Draco Malfoy) have a lot of love for one another. But it’s all platonic, the two said.
Still, young Watson found herself crushing on Felton in an unrequited way.
“I walked into the room we were having tutoring,” she said. “The assignment was to draw what you thought God looked like. Tom had drawn a girl with a backward cap on a skateboard. And I just fell in love with him.”
After that, she said she “used to look for his number on call sheet.”
“If his number was on the call sheet it was an extra exciting day,” she said.
But, “he was three years above me and for him, he was like, you’re like my little sister,” Watson said.
Felton said he and Watson have “always loved each other really.”
“I’ve always had a soft spot for her and it continues to this day,” he said. “There’s always been something like a kinship.”
Watson said she felt she was able to be her most vulnerable with Felton. Still, she emphasized, “nothing has ever ever happened romantically with us. We just love each other, that’s all I can say about that.”
8. Watson said kissing Grint was among ‘hardest things’ she had to do.
The Ron and Hermione shippers finally got the kiss they were hoping for in the final book/film. But it was actually a hard scene for Watson and Grint, despite their close relationship off screen.
“I mean obviously us kissing was the most horrifying thing either of us have ever had to go through,” Watson told Grint during the reunion.
“It was just built up for the whole series,” Grint responded.
While it was meant to be “this dramatic make out,” Watson said the two just “kept laughing.”
Finally, to get the take, Watson said she just “went for it.”
“I kind of think I blacked out i just remember your face getting closer to mine,” Grint recalled.
“You make it sound like an actual horror show in your head,” Watson joked back.
“Kissing Rupert is one of the hardest things I ever had to do,” Watson said in an interview during the reunion. “It was “so wrong on every level, because Dan, Rupert and I are so much siblings.”
9. The trio had their doubts about returning to the franchise, especially Watson, after fame hit.
At some point during the filming of the franchise, all three members of the trio struggled with the fame.
“I did find a diary entry that was kind of like mm…I could see that at times I was lonely,” Watson said.
In a candid conversation with Grint during the reunion, he asked his co-star “Were you considering pulling out?”
Watson replied, “I think I was scared. I don’t know if you ever felt like it got to a tipping point where you were like, this is forever now.”
Grint admitted he also “had moments like that all the way through.”
“I guess we were kind of in the moment it just didn’t really occur to us that we were all having similar feelings,” he later added.
Radcliffe echoed similar thoughts.
“We never talked about it on the film because we were all just kids,” Radcliffe recalled, adding that as a 14-year-old he wouldn’t “turn around to another 14-year-old and be like ‘hey how are you doing? everything ok?'”
Ultimately, the trio remained on board. And they are glad they did.
“I’m proud to be part of something that means so much to so many,” Grint said.
“No one had to convince me to see it through,” Watson said. “The fans genuinely wanted it to succeed. And we all genuinely have each other’s backs, how great is that?”
10. ‘The ones who love us never really leave us’
In the Harry Potter series, Sirius Black famously tells Harry: “The ones that love us never really leave us.” It’s a beautiful line, one that stays with Harry, especially after Sirius’ passing.
So it was only appropriate that the actors themselves during the reunion remember the late actors that were part of the Harry Potter family.
The tribute honored legendary actors including Harris, Rickman, Helen McCrory (who played Narcissa Malfoy), Richard Griffiths (who played Vernon Dursley) and John Hurt (who played Ollivander).
“She had taught me a lot,” Felton said of McCrory, his on-screen mom, while tearing up. “She had this ability to show such empathy in her eyes. It was a real treat to work with her.”
“Alan Rickman never talked me to like I was a child,” Watson said. “He always took my thoughts and opinions very seriously, which I was always touched by.”
“They’re like family,” Grint said of the late actors. They all died “just too soon,” he said.