The Harry Potter films may be filled with all sorts of fantastic beasts and kooky characters, but they can’t hold an enchanted candle to some of the stranger happenings that took place behind the camera. These are just a few of the weirdest things that happened on the set of the Harry Potter flicks. In a fun scene from Chamber of Secrets, Ron and Harry take an enchanted car to Hogwarts because they missed the Hogwarts Express. Upon arrival, they encounter — read: “crash into” — the Whomping Willow, a magical tree grown a generation before to protect the school from a student who was also a werewolf.
The car was damaged, of course. But it wasn’t the tree’s only victim — at least, not in real life. In reality, many, many cars were used to get the right shots for this scene. Sixteen to be exact. The car model was a 1960 Ford Anglia 105E, a car that, in its heyday, was fairly popular in Britain — over million were produced between 1959 and 1968. Rather than relying on CGI for the car-meets-tree-and-the-tree-wins scene, the special effects team erected an 85-foot-tall physical tree for filming.
They also used 16 real cars for the scene, each of which was specifically altered depending on what the scene required. Movie magic, or just a crap-ton of hard work? You be the judge. “Dad’s gonna kill me.” The plan, at first, was to use the historic Canterbury Cathedral to film the scenes when Harry first enters Hogwarts in The Sorcerer’s Stone. Despite the money Warner Bros. offered, the Dean refused, opposing the film’s “pagan images.” As a result, the project moved to Gloucester Cathedral instead.
Surprisingly, the Dean of Gloucester said that many people commented on the friendliness of the cathedral, and that it would be a perfect setting for a story about a boy making friends at school. Well, the Dean may have been on board, but many local residents were, well… not. In fact, many were downright troubled, resulting in talk of a protest. Many an incensed letter to the editor was received by the Gloucester Citizen, with one especially ticked-off fellow in particular even protesting the sheer fact that a movie would be filmed in the church — “pagan” images or not! An honorary chaplain explained to the BBC that the large hall that would be used for the film was also used for meetings and markets. In other words, the rest of Britain was just fine, and that guy was likely just a crank. Besides, other scenes were filmed at similarly sacred settings, like Durham Cathedral, proving that not every Anglican had a problem with movie crews milling about a House of God. They probably just wanted a chance at the craft services table.
And who wouldn’t? Can you imagine the spread? It must’ve been positively bewitching! Everyone remembers that moment in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when the kids walk into the Great Hall for the first time, and they look up and see hundreds of candles floating over their heads. It’s our big introduction to Hogwarts, so moviemakers were under a lot of pressure to make the whole scene as impressive as possible. According to The Amazing Book of Movie Trivia, the special effects team used real candles, which they suspended from the ceiling with thin wire. The plan was to remove the wire in post-production — which, if that sounds super tedious, then, yeah, duh-doy it was tedious. The problem, though, was that the candles kept burning through the wires, and then the candles would fall onto the actors’ heads. Now that’s just plain dangerous! Producer Chris Columbus later told Entertainment Weekly that they were able to use the first take of the kids entering the Great Hall, with the camera panning up toward the floating candles.
After that shot, though, it was all over. The special effects team decided it was too much trouble — and probably also too dangerous, plus the whole “tedious” thing — to use real candles. Subsequent takes were done with CGI. Jason Isaacs – who played the despicable, super-blonde, super-evil Lucius Malfoy – is nothing like his alter-ego. Maybe that’s why he felt that he needed to do a little method acting in order to really get into the evil spirit. And what do evil people do when they are trying to get into the evil spirit? They steal stuff, apparently.
Isaacs said in an interview with Bang Showbiz: “I once tried to take a copy of the Daily Prophet because there were thousands of them.” To his credit, the director, David Yates, had given him the impression that he was actually allowed to have the prop — but he was later thwarted by security people who told him Yates wanted it back. Quote, “It was so embarrassing,” Isaacs said. In the end, he reportedly wound up empty-handed. “My sole concern has always been and will always be the welfare of this school and, of course, its students.” According to CinemaBlend, though, Isaacs wasn’t the only one nicking props from the set — the late Alan Rickman, who you’ll recall played Severus Snape, stole a buttload of gold Gringotts on one of the first days of shooting.
That both set a precedent for evil method acting and put security on high alert for prop theft. Just like every kid, actor Rupert Grint — a.k.a. Ron Weasley — always wanted to own an ice cream truck. Well, maybe not every kid wants to own an ice cream truck, but it’s easy to see the appeal of having ready access to an endless supply of that sweet, sweet cold stuff. Anyway, Grint evidently did not outgrow his childhood dream of owning an ice cream truck. So, being the responsible adult he is, he bought one. “Ice cream van?” “Yep, I’ve had that for a while now. It’s something I’ve always, always wanted, as a child. It’s kind of a dream, really.” According to Rupert Grint Press — the foremost authority on Rupert Grint? — one of his first purchases as an uber-loaded superstar was a 1974 Mr. Whippy Bedford van, which he keeps, quote, “well stocked.” Grint once boasted in an interview: “It’s got a proper machine that dispenses Mr. Whippy ice cream and I buy my lollies wholesale … so I never run short.” Grint doesn’t sell ice cream — he’s unlicensed, you see — but he has fun passing it out to kids in the summer.
And on the last day of shooting, he drove the van onto the Harry Potter set, once again bragging: “The cast and crew were having a barbecue and I supplied the lollies and ice creams.” Adorable. Alan Rickman wasn’t the only thespian behind the nominally evil characters in the Harry Potter universe who seemed suspiciously prone to “accidentally” doing evil things on set. We’re sure it’s all just a coincidence that it’s only the evil characters who steal from the set and rupture the eardrums of other actors, but we’ll let you decide. In her role as Bellatrix Lestrange, Helena Bonham Carter had to do a lot of evil things, and one of the most evil was perpetrated on co-star Matthew Lewis’ eardrum. Carter was menacing Lewis’ character Neville Longbottom with her wand when she decided that she needed to try on an especially sadistic brand of menacing. She told Entertainment Weekly: “I thought I could brandish the wand like a sort of Q-tip and clean out his ear. Sort of torture it.” Turns out, Lewis moved in exactly the wrong direction while Carter’s wand was in his ear, and she ended up perforating the young actor’s eardrum.
She later confessed, quote, “He didn’t admit to me that he actually had some internal bleeding about three days later.” Happily, the damage wasn’t permanent. Still, Carter wasn’t above admitting to Entertainment Weekly that she may have, quote, ” sadism a bit too literally.” Yeah — we’d have to agree with that take. Children aren’t exactly known for professional discretion — yes, even children who play Harry Potter characters. If you’ve ever drawn a rude picture of an authority figure when you were a kid, you’ll be able to relate to this one. On the set of one of the early films, Rupert Grint recalled drawing an “unpretty” picture of Alan Rickman as Professor Snape. According to the Independent, Alan Rickman was standing right behind the young actor the entire time.
“I drew this rather unpretty of Alan Rickman, and, as I was drawing it, Alan Rickman was standing right behind me.” “And I was so scared,” Can you say “Avada Kedavra?” Now, if this had been an actual scene shot for any other movie, the authority figure would have snatched up the picture, scowled at it, and sentenced the offender to detention — or, if Snape’s track record is any indication, an alarmingly over-the-top assignment. “And on my desk by Monday morning, two rolls of parchment on the werewolf with particular emphasis on recognizing it.” But according to the Independent, Rickman did the opposite — he was actually a good sport about it. In fact he was such a good sport that he took it home as a keepsake. Rickman would later recall the drawing, admitting: “I’d made him sign it. I have it in my possession. And I’m very fond of it.” We’re not crying! You’re crying! So just in case you needed another reminder that young people are not known for their professional discretion, here’s Unprofessional Behavior Example #2, also involving Rupert Grint, who really seemed to have a hard time abandoning the childish antics even as he got older.
We can sort of understand what was going through his head in this particular incident, though, because when you’re a kid and you’ve grown up on a movie set with a lot of other kids, they become almost like your siblings. And then one day you’re all grown up and, oh god, one of your friends has to kiss the other one, and… Gag! Barf! So yeah, that’s basically how it went.
According to Digital Spy, Rupert Grint couldn’t stop himself from cracking up while filming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One as co-stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson went in for, quote, “a pretty violent kiss.” Radcliffe later told WENN that Grint was, quote, “laughing so much off camera he was asked to leave the set.” Apparently, he was laughing so hard that his eyes were watering. Not a good look for a scene where Grint’s face is supposed to look like, well… this: “What are you, compared to the chosen one?” “Ron, it’s lying!” “Your mother confessed she would have preferred me as a son.” So that’s pretty juvenile, Rupert.
Why don’t you go hang out quietly in your ice cream truck for a while? It’s hard to imagine stoic Severus Snape and always-composed Albus Dumbledore pulling pranks, and it’s even harder to imagine Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore pulling pranks that involve farting — but in the world of Harry Potter, pretty much anything is possible. According to Cosmopolitan, Alan Rickman and Michael Gambon decided to prank Daniel Radcliffe while filming a scene for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In the scene, pretty much every Hogwarts student is asleep in a sleeping bag in the Great Hall, and Dumbledore is waxing poetic while pressing the remote button for a fart machine he’s put inside Daniel Radcliffe’s sleeping bag. “Y’know, it’s completely our own world, and we like to — we like to swim in the deepest waters.” And it’s the Great Hall, of course, so the farts are bouncing off the walls and echoing all over the room, and pretty soon everyone is laughing, even stoic Snape and always-composed Dumbledore. “They had put a fart machine inside my sleeping bag.” “This hall echoed, like — ” “And Michael Gambon had actually been pressing it during the take, I found out.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the most awesome Harry Potter scene you never saw.
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