For Harry Potter fans everywhere, bringing the three wizards who saved the world from the evil Lord Voldemort back to the big screen has been the constant refrain ever since the J.K. Rowling-penned Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play script hit the shelves. Director Chris Columbus feels the exact same way. Recently, he sat down with Variety to take a stroll down Diagon Alley memory lane. His telling of landing the director’s role to working with the young children and the world-class actors pull you back to when you were introduced to the saga on the silver screen.
Right from the beginning, Chris Columbus knew what was on the line if he was given the responsibility of delivering a film for millions of die-hard fans. “I had every expectation that I would probably be fired within the first two weeks. I was very, I don’t want to say anxious, but aware of the fact that if I screw this up, I probably will never work again. And I would have millions of fans at my door just infuriated. I knew I was taking on something fairly gigantic, and I’ve never been involved in a project that had so much scrutiny.”
After meeting with J.K. Rowling and discovering they had the same vision for the films, he had his work cut out for him. The frenzy over the books were at a fever pitch, and every child actor knew what it would mean to be a part of the Harry Potter cinematic world. “In the first film, there was not a lot of professional experience between the three leads. That’s why that film was filled with so many cuts.”
“I could only really shoot, for the first three months, a close up of one of the actors before they would lose concentration. The first couple of weeks, all the kids were so excited to be part of the Harry Potter film, they were basically just smiling into the cameras. I couldn’t get them to stop smiling, and it really became an exercise and acting class for me as a director. By the time we got to the second film, we were able to do tracking shots and the kids could shoot a master and have a conversation within those shots. They became very professional by the time they got to Chamber of Secrets, and then by the time we did Prisoner of Azkaban, you could basically shoot the entire film in 15 single takes if you wanted.”
Chris Columbus would direct the first two installments, and produce the third. Mike Newell would direct Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and David Yates would go on to direct the last four films in the franchise. While there have been prequels made, Columbus would love to continue the story on film. “I would love to direct ‘The Cursed Child.’ It’s a great play and the kids are actually the right age to play those roles. It’s a small fantasy of mine.”