Warner Bros. and HBO Max dropped the mother of all surprises in November when it was announced that a “Harry Potter” reunion special would be airing on Jan. 1, 2022, and the main trio – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint – would be back together again for the first time in a long time. “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts” brings back a vast majority of the original cast and all the directors of the franchise to reminisce on the experience of making the beloved films, and it’s a surprisingly emotional 103 minutes.
Below, we’ve rounded up some of the biggest revelations from the program, from the hormonal experience of making “Goblet of Fire” to why Emma Watson nearly quit the franchise,, to even that potential Watson/Tom Felton romance. But this is merely the tip of the iceberg. If you’re a “Potter” fan, the full special is well worth a watch, and is available to stream exclusively on HBO Max (although it will also air on TBS and Cartoon Network sometime in the spring).
Jason Isaacs Didn’t Originally Want to Play Lucius Malfoy
Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy in the films, reveals that he originally didn’t want to take on the role. “I’m convinced I ended up playing Lucius because I didn’t want to,” Isaacs says in the special. “I went to audition for Gilderoy Lockhart and Chris [Columbus] said, ‘That was great, would you mind reading a different part?’ I was about to play Captain Hook in ‘Peter Pan’ and I thought, ‘I don’t want to play two children’s villains’ and I read through gritted teeth, was deeply bitter, and of course that’s exactly what was necessary and they asked me to play Lucius and thank God they did.”
Jason Isaacs and Tom Felton Had a Method-Like Dynamic When Cameras Rolled
Jason Isaacs and Tom Felton, who played Lucius’ son Draco Malfoy, offered up playful recollections of how their dynamic when cameras rolled would often reflect the dynamic between Lucius and Draco. “Working with Jason was a real treat,” Felton begins in a solo interview before pausing and adding, “In fact, working with Jason was not always a real treat. He just immediately turned into the most unfriendly, horrible person I’ve ever met.”
“I just remember grabbing him and just being as unpleasant as I possibly could, and watching his little face constantly seeking my approval,” Isaacs remembers. In fact, Isaacs recounts how on their first day of shooting together, he accidentally injured Felton. “Draco touched something and I used this cane and I [hit his hand], but I didn’t know how sharp the teeth were and they went right into little Tom’s hands and he looked up at me and his eyes welled up with tears. And I went, ‘Tom I’m so sorry I didn’t realize how sharp they were and how heavy it was’ and he went, ‘It’s alright, it was good for the scene.’”
“He’d be this evil father and then they’d say ‘cut’ and he’d come and give you a cuddle and say, ‘Oh did I hit you too hard?’,” Felton remembers before jokingly adding, “He’s a real Jekyll and Hyde, that one.”
Richard Harris Thought the Phoenix Puppet Was a Real Bird
While sitting down with one another, Chris Columbus – who directed the first two “Harry Potter” films – and Daniel Radcliffle laughed as they recalled the time that Dumbledore actor Richard Harris thought Fawkes the Phoenix was a real bird. “We had an animatronic version of Fawkes the phoenix, which is a big red bird that does not exist,” Columbus says. “Richard came in and looked at the phoenix and said, ‘Wow they train these animals marvelously these days.’”
Radcliffe continues the story: “They had a camera inside the eyes so they could see Richard looking at it and then they were like, ‘Well we don’t want to break the spell, so we’ll just keep the bird reaction and moving’ and that of course got into a cycle where Richard, of course, was like ‘Well the bird is responding to me.’”
Laughing, Radcliffe and Columbus then reveal that they never told Harris the bird was not real.
Hormones Were Flying While Making ‘Goblet of Fire’
The young cast members fondly (and awkwardly) reflect on how the filming of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” coincided with their own hormonal changes happening in real life.
“In ‘Goblet of Fire’ that film is all about teenagers having crushes for the first time, asking someone to the Yule Ball,” Bonnie Wright, who played Ginny Weasley, remembers. “They just mirrored all those awkward phases you go through as a teenager and they really felt like that too, because we were literally having the same experiences.”
Radcliffe, meanwhile, recalls how he and Emma Watson would give each other advice on texting the opposite sex. “The amount of prep and coaching Emma and I would give each other on texting to the opposite sex, like if she was texting a boy or I was texting a girl it’d be like, ‘She sent me this many kisses back. What do I do? This is a nightmare.’” Watson added of their dynamic, “We had that kind of older brother/younger sister thing.”
To complicate matters, “Goblet of Fire” brought in a host of new actors who were cast specifically to be attractive. “Especially the fourth film was the one with the Beauxbatons and the Durmstrangs so you had a bunch of hormonal teenagers anyway,” Radcliffe says. “And then bring in two massive groups of new people all of whom are purposefully hot for the film, so that film was, yeah, it was all kicking off.”
Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom, says the experience on set was exactly the same as the experience of dating in school, except for one key difference: “There was crushes and people went out with each other and broke up, just like I used to do at school. It was exactly the same environment, but it was just in a Defense Against the Dark Arts class.”
“That film was probably peak hormone, at least for me,” Radcliffe concludes.
Emma Watson and Tom Felton Love Each Other… But “Nothing Romantic Has Ever Happened”
During the special, Emma Watson and Tom Felton also confess their love for one another… in a platonic way. “Emma and I have always loved each other, really,” Felton says, while Watson reveals the day she fell in love with Felton was back when they were kids. “I walked into the room where we were having tutoring,” Watson recalls. “The assignment that we had been given was to draw what you thought God looked like, and Tom had drawn a girl with a backward cap on a skateboard. And I just don’t know how to say it, I just fell in love with him.”
Felton remembers being told that Watson had a crush on him (she says in the special that she used to look for his name on the call sheet), but Watson explains their three-year age gap led to more of a sibling relationship. “He was three years above me, so for him he was like, ‘You’re like my little sister.’”
“I became very protective over her,” Felton says. “Yeah, I’ve always had a soft spot for her, and that continues to the day… There’s always been something that’s like, I don’t know, a kinship.”
“I think really the truth of it was Tom was the one that I could often be more vulnerable with,” Watson added before stating that they’ve never been romantically involved. “Nothing has ever, ever, ever happened romantically with us,” Watson said emphatically. “We just love each other. That’s all I can say about that.”
Emma Watson Reveals Why She Nearly Left the Franchise
It’s been no secret that Emma Watson debated returning to the franchise after “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” and the reunion special gets into it. “When I started, one thing that David [Heyman] and the studio spoke to me about was Emma is not sure she wants to come back to do another ‘Potter’,” director David Yates reveals about being hired to direct “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”
“[‘Order of the Phoenix’] was when things started getting spicy for all of us,” Watson says to Grint during the special, adding, “I think I was scared. I don’t know if you ever felt like it got to a tipping point where it was like, ‘This is kind of forever now.’”
Grint says he had those moments “all the way through,” later adding, “I also had kind of similar feelings to Emma contemplating what life would be like if I called it a day. We never really spoke about it. I guess we were just kind of going through it at our own pace. We were in the moment at the time, it just didn’t really occur to us that we were all probably having similar feelings.”
Watson acknowledges that, looking back, she was lonely, and the fame part of being in the “Harry Potter” franchise led her to consider leaving the series behind. “The fame thing had finally hit home in a big way,” Watson says about why she wanted to drop out of the franchise.
“People definitely forget what she took on, and how gracefully she did it,” Felton says of Watson’s experience on the films. “Dan and Rupert, they had each other. I had my cronies. Whereas Emma was not only younger, she was by herself.”
Radcliffe says the cast members didn’t talk about their individual anxieties relating to fame that much, largely because they were just teenagers. “We never talked about it on the film because we were all just kids. As a 14-year-old boy I was never gonna turn around to another 14-year-old and be like, ‘Hey, how are you doing? Is everything okay?’”
As for why Watson decided to come back, ultimately, she said it was her decision alone. “No one had to convince me to see it through. The fans genuinely wanted you to succeed and like all genuinely had everyone’s backs. How great is that?”
Grint, Watson and Radcliffe Suffered Minor Identity Crises
Towards the end of the reunion special, Rupert Grint gets candid about how the end of the franchise was a “weird” time, and Watson and Radcliffe both concurred that spending 10 years playing the same characters had an odd effect on their own identities.
“Towards the end it was kind of a weird time, especially kind of finishing,” Grint says. “I feel like I lost track of who I was and who the character was, I didn’t really know where they ended or began. Weird things, even my name didn’t feel like my name. I felt like I only knew how to do one thing. I knew how to play Ron.”
Radcliffe agreed, adding, “There were some things where it was like ‘Who am I? What do I like to do? What is important to me?”
Watson, of course, put it most succinctly by saying, “It’s almost like we did the most extreme form of method acting.”
Ultimately, though, the special ends in an emotional way, with Grint and Watson coming to tears as they say how much they love each other, and how they’ll all be family for the rest of their lives. Time away from the franchise, it appears, has only made these performers grow more appreciative of having such a singular experience.