‘Return to Hogwarts:’ castle inhabited again

Emma Watson, known her iconic role as Hermione Granger, shares a heart-to-heart with Robbie Coltrane, who plays Hogwarts’s beloved Hagrid, during the Hulu special ‘Return to Hogwarts’ on Jan. 1. // Photo courtesy of Hulu

Our Take: 3/5 Stars

Two decades after the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), many of the original cast members gathered for a reunion special. The iconic and magical movie based on J.K. Rowling’s bestselling book series is the first of eight films in the franchise that spawned an eternal fanbase. Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts premiered on Jan. 1, on HBOMax.

Over the years, the starring children Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) have grown up, and some of the beloved Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry teachers have passed away. The special featured an in memoriam celebrating the lives of Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley), Helen McCrory (Narcissa Malfoy), Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore) and Sir John Hurt (Garrick Ollivander), among others.

Unsurprising given the young cast, there were lots of antics on set seen in behind-the-scenes footage. Luckily, according to Radcliffe in the reunion special, director Chris Columbus was “terrific with [kids].”

“They probably made their jobs harder for themselves by letting us have as much fun as we had because it distracted us from the work we were supposed to be doing,” Radcliffe said.

Highly anticipated by fans were the unheard stories from the Harry Potter set. In the special, Radcliffe recalled when the floating candles in the Great Hall began to burn through the clear fishing wire they were originally hung from and fell to the ground as one of his “favorite moments on set ever.”

Many fans feel they grew up with the films and the characters, but so do the actors. Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) said that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) was “all about teenagers having crushes for the first time.”

She shared that there were crushes and relationships on set, making Goblet of Fire very relatable for the cast at the time, with Radcliffe even describing the film as “peak hormone” for him. The entrance to the Yule Ball was Hermione’s “duckling-becomes-a-swan moment,” according to Watson.

“There was just like all of this pressure suddenly,” Watson said. She even tripped on the stairs during the entrance.

Watson admitted to having a crush on Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) early on and would look for his number on the call sheet when filming. Felton, who is three years older than Watson, was protective of her and has “always had a soft spot for her.” 

“Nothing has ever ever ever ever happened romantically with us,” Watson said regarding their relationship. “We just love each other.”

Watson revealed that she contemplated leaving the franchise after the first four movies. The depths of young fame made her feel lonely and scared. Fortunately, the genuine support of the fans led Watson to stay with the series.

Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy) originally auditioned for a different role. After being Captain Hook in Peter Pan (2003), Isaacs was against playing another children’s villain.

“I’m convinced I ended up playing Lucius because I didn’t want to,” Isaacs said. “They asked me to play Lucius, and thank god they did.”

Felton, who played Isaacs’ on-screen son, saw that Isaacs was able to quickly transform into his dark character.

“He’d be this evil father and then they’d say cut, and he’ll come and give you a cuddle,” said Felton.

The author of the “Harry Potter” books, J.K. Rowling, was featured in the special via clips from 2019 interviews.

Her controversial comments regarding transgender rights potentially contributed to her absence from the reunion.

Still, the films have become a home for whimsy, friendship and growing up. They remain a comfort for those that don’t feel they belong.

“The movies kind of gave people permission to accept parts of themselves,” Evanna Lynch, who plays the wispy and quirky Luna Lovegood, said. “So it was quite liberating to see your oddness as a superpower represented on-screen.”

Its celebration of outliers, imagination and limitless possibilities is the true magic that makes the franchise so personable and easy to indulge in. Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) knows the story of Harry Potter will endure.

“People will be watching in 50 years time, yes,” Coltrane said. “I’ll not be here sadly … but Hagrid will.”