Given his continuity at the helm of the Wizarding World (that is, both the Harry Potter films and the Fantastic Beasts films) it is easy to assume that the world of J.K. Rowling has not had a better ally in film than David Yates. This director directed the last four films of the boy wizard and does not seem to intend to leave Fantastic Animals soon (in whose last installment Johnny Depp has been replaced by Mads Mikkelsen), but it is worth remembering that the saga would not have been possible without a guy named Chris Columbus.
This veteran director, who just premiered the Christmas Chronicles 2 on Netflix, achieved absolute commercial success in the 90s thanks to films like the first two Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Nine Months or Stay by My Side, so it was not No wonder Warner turned to him to set the Harry Potter film universe on its feet. One that is now fully consolidated, but during its first steps it was a real headache for its first director, as Columbus recalled during a recent interview with Collider.
“We had all the pressure in the world on us, and on me particularly because I knew that if I screwed up everything would be over. And you couldn’t screw up this book ”, said the director of Rent. Harry Potter books were already best sellers when their first adaptation, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, hit theaters in 2001. “I would go to the set every day trying not to think about what was happening in the outside world, something easier 19 years ago, when the Internet had not yet exploded ”, he remembers about that time.
There was a lot at stake in Warner’s The Philosopher’s Stone, having to transport to the screen a complex universe that would continue to be explored for a huge number of subsequent films. “I faced the first installment with great anxiety. For the first two weeks I thought every day that I was going to be fired, ”continues Columbus. “Everything looked good, but I knew that if I did something wrong, if I screwed up, I was fired. It was intense. I didn’t let any of this affect the set, there was no frustration, I wasn’t going to yell, I got along with everyone and I wanted everyone to feel part of a family, so I hid all those emotions after ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’
Columbus’s fears did not materialize, as he was able to conclude the filming as he wanted without anyone putting too many objections to the enormous duration that The Philosopher’s Stone had. Which did not mean, of course, that this footage hit theaters perfectly in its entirety. “The movie was two hours and fifty minutes long at the time, and the kids thought it was too short while their parents thought it was too long,” explains the director. The wizard boy’s first adventure ended up lasting two hours and 38 minutes, with just over twelve minutes set aside in the editing room.
The Philosopher’s Stone was an absolute success and Columbus repeated shortly after with The Secret Chamber. Film that left him exhausted enough not to go anywhere near the Wizarding World to this day, but with which he had a much more pleasant experience. “I started to feel more relieved, and when The Philosopher’s Stone was released I had a lot more fun in The Chamber of Secrets. It was like night and day, because here I could relax and introduce something of my style into the film ”.
For The Prisoner of Azkaban, he left the reins to Alfonso Cuarón, and Columbus only considered returning to the saga in the face of The Deathly Hallows, which ended up being divided into two films directed by David Yates. Something that didn’t make him too sad either: “I always wanted to go back and shoot the last two films, but Yates decided that he was going to stay in the series, and it was for the best because I particularly love the last film. It’s a brilliant film, the second part of The Deathly Hallows ”.
About twenty years after the premiere of The Philosopher’s Stone, the name of Harry Potter continues to motivate big budgets and blockbuster sagas, and the plan is for Fantastic Beasts 3 to be released in the summer of 2022.