The Biggest Takeaways from ‘Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts’

The New Year, though exciting, is always a bit bittersweet. Although it is the chance to start over again, it is also the end of one of the happiest seasons of all. This year, Harry Potter was able to ease our pain just a little bit, with ‘Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts. The special, which was well hyped on social media via memes and things like that, brought back some of our favorite actors from the franchise, as well as each of the directors, in order to reminisce on the good old days when Harry Potter was being made.

It’s been over ten years since the final book came out, and just about as long since the final film debuted, and yet Harry Potter craziness hasn’t ever abated. It’s not at such incredible highs as it once was, with people lining up around the block for a book or a movie ticket, but the fandom is well set as one of the biggest and most dedicated in the world. In another 20 years, they could very well have a 40th anniversary special and fans would be just as eager to revisit their favorite place – Hogwarts.

These are the biggest takeaways from the Harry Potter 20th Anniversary special.

Harry Potter Had a Lot of Directors

Even though the movies prided themselves on keeping the same, dedicated actors for almost every major and minor role throughout the series, the directors themselves changed quite regularly. They don’t get into the reason for this revolving door in the special. In fact, the special itself was decidedly cheery, leaving out many if not all of the frustrations involved in creating such grandiose films.

However, if you watch the other, shorter “making of” specials on HBO Max, you’ll find the answer to the question as to why there were so many directors for Harry Potter.

The answer? Harry Potter films were incredibly draining to make. Christopher Columbus started the trend by giving up the helm after the first two movies. He simply didn’t have the energy to keep going.

According to producer David Heyman (who did stick with the movies throughout), each director was asked to stay to make the subsequent movie, and each director politely declined. That is, until David Yates. Yates would be the one to finish the films and bring them a more streamlined look and feel Order of the Phoenix and on.

Most of the Behind the Scenes Stories Have Been Told

If you have not taken a dive into the behind the scenes content on the Harry Potter films, then chances are the stories and footage you’ll see in the 20th Anniversary special will delight and entertain considerably. However, if you have already been inclined to consume every bit of behind the scene footage and documentary available, you’ll find that most of the stories presented in the special have already been told many times.

Take for example the story about the time artsy director Alfonso Cuaron asked Dan, Emma and Rupert to write essays about who they thought each of their characters was. This is a delightful story…the first time you hear it. And yet, we’ve heard it so many times that as heartwarming as it is, it almost feels out of place in a documentary that was supposed to be a big, 20 year anniversary special.

The Harry Potter 20th Anniversary Special Was About the Actors

Although most of the behind the scenes stories had already been told, there were some less familiar bits of information shared. These tidbits had more to do with the stars and their own lives during the time of the filming than it did with interesting behind the scenes trivia.

In the end, the Anniversary special was really more of an opportunity for us to see old, familiar faces reunited once again, and hear their take on the filming.

It also acts as a bit of closure for the main three. Although we hear from many of the supporting cast, the vibe between the three main stars and everybody else is considerably different. Whereas the supporting cast seems pretty overjoyed to simply have been part of the films, the main cast is different. There’s a weight to their interviews and their discussion of the films. It seems to have really cost them something to have made them, as if playing the roles of the three characters was something they had to at the time and still perhaps have to grapple with.

It also gives them the chance to discuss their view of it all, now that they are fully grown adults with much greater perspective.

Emma Watson Was Seriously Considering Calling it Quits

Despite rigid contracts that limited what activities they were allowed to do and even how they styled their hair, apparently Emma, Rupert and Dan could have quit acting in the films after the first two. According to Heyman:

"They were initially signed up to two films, but then we had to renegotiate each time.”

However, one of the biggest things to be revealed in the special was the fact that Emma Watson was seriously considering quitting sometime around negotiating the fifth film of Harry Potter, The Order of the Phoenix.

According to Heyman:

“Emma [Watson], in particular, was quite academic and was very keen in pursuit of schooling and was wrestling a little bit more than the others. So each time there was a negotiation, it was not about a financial [matter], it really was about, ‘Do I want to be a part of this?’ We had to be sensitive to her needs and how important school was to her. And you have to listen. In our position, you’re not dictating, you’re listening. At the same time, it’s a tipping point, and it’s working within a framework. I deeply respected her, encouraged her. She’s very smart, always was, and fiercely intelligent.”

After saying that they never thought to ask one another about whether or not they wanted to continue with Potter for the long haul, both Rupert and Dan also said they both pretty much were considering quitting, as well.

Robert Pattinson Wasn’t Invited

Not that anyone was seriously hoping that he would be there, but the Twilight and upcoming Batman star was missing among the familiar faces. Although he only starred in one movie, Pattinson played the pivotal role of Cedric Diggory. Among the Potter alumni, Pattinson is arguably the most successful, having turned his one movie role into an impetus for his landing the lead role in the other big franchise of the 2010s, Twilight.

In fact, the special seemed to be rather specific in who it cast. While most of the core team was there, there were notable cast members missing, and no reason for their absence given.

The Harry Potter 20th Anniversary Special Stayed Focused on the Magic

Last but not least, the anniversary special stayed focused on what started it all – the magic that is Harry Potter. Actors and directors praised the books and lauded their impact, as well as relished in sharing their favorite moments from working on the films. No where was the pandemic mentioned, nor the controversy surrounding JK Rowling.

Ultimately, it was a recounting of something that for many of us defined our generation, and continues to impact us today, even if we don’t have the fun book release parties.

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