13 surprising things you probably didn't know about 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'

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jsarkisian@businessinsider.com (Jacob Sarkisian)
·11 min read
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Dumbledore, Hogwarts map, Dursleys
Richard Harris turned down Dumbledore three times, and they hung dead mice on Aunt Petunia's apron.

Richard Harris turned down the role of Dumbledore three times but eventually said yes after his granddaughter threatened to never speak to him again.

Dumbledore Richard Harris
Richard Harris played Albus Dumbledore for two of the eight movies.

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is one of the most iconic characters in fantasy fiction. The actor who portrayed him in "The Sorcerer's Stone," the late Richard Harris, is pretty iconic himself. But the marriage between Dumbledore and Harris almost never happened, as the Irish actor turned down the role three times.

In an interview with Zap2it via the Guardian in 2001, Harris said: "All I knew is that they kept offering me the part and raising the salary every time they called. I kept turning it down."

"Anyone involved has to agree to be in the sequels, all of them, and that's not how I wanted to spend the last years of my life, so I said no over and over again," he added.

It was Harris' granddaughter Ella that eventually convinced him to take on the role, however.

"She said, 'Papa, I hear you're not going to be in the Harry Potter movie,' and she said, 'If you don't play Dumbledore then I will never speak to you again,'" he said.

Robin Williams wanted the role of Hagrid.

Robin Williams Hagrid
Robbie Coltrane ended up playing Rubeus Hagrid.

The late Robin Williams reportedly wanted to play Rubeus Hagrid in the films but was turned down.

"Robin [Williams] had called [director Chris Columbus] because he really wanted to be in the movie, but it was a British-only edict, and once he said no to Robin, he wasn't going to say yes to anybody else, that's for sure," casting director Janet Hirshensom told HuffPost in 2016. "It couldn't be."

Unfortunately for Williams, the books' author J.K. Rowling was insistent on having a British actors-only cast.

Williams also seemingly alluded to this himself in an interview with the New York Post in 2001 (quoted here via The Guardian): "There were a couple of parts I would have wanted to play, but there was a ban on [using] American actors."

Steven Spielberg worked on the movie before dropping out.

Steven Spielberg
Christopher Columbus ended up directing "The Sorcerer's Stone."

Steven Spielberg has created some of the best family movies of all time, including "E.T." and "Jurassic Park," and was attached to making "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" for quite a while.

In a 2012 interview with Digital Spy, Spielberg said: "I was offered 'Harry Potter.' I developed it for about five or six months with [screenwriter] Steve Kloves, and then I dropped out."

"I just felt that I wasn't ready to make an all-kids movie and my kids thought I was crazy," he continued. "And the books were by that time popular, so when I dropped out, I knew it was going to be a phenomenon."

Terry Gilliam said that J.K. Rowling originally wanted him to direct the movie.

Terry Gilliam
Terry Gilliam is best known for being part of Monty Python.

Another director who says they were considered for the project was Terry Gilliam. As part of Monty Python, Gilliam is known for his zanier work and has directed movies such as "12 Monkeys" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

In 2013, at Entertainment Weekly's Cape Town Film Fest, Gilliam said that Rowling wanted him to direct "The Sorcerer's Stone."

"J.K. Rowling and the producer wanted me. Then wiser people — studio heads — prevailed," he said. "I was the clear choice. At one point they approached Alan Parker and he said, 'Why are you talking to me? Gilliam is the guy who should be doing this!' But I knew I was never going to get the job."

Watch the full video below:


The last scene in the film was also the very first scene that was shot.

Philosopher's Stone end scene
In the last scene Harry, Ron, and Hermione board the Hogwarts Express to head home.

The first scene ever shot in the "Harry Potter" film series must have been pretty weird for the cast, particularly Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, considering it was actually the last scene chronologically in "The Sorcerer's Stone."

"The thing we shot on the first day of Sorcerer's Stone was the final train sequence where Harry looks at Hogwarts and Emma, Dan, and Rupert are huddled outside of the train," director Christopher Columbus told Entertainment Weekly's Binge Podcast.

In this final scene, Harry, Ron, and Hermione say goodbye to Hagrid and Hogwarts and board the Hogwarts express to head home (although it isn't really home for Harry). The characters were all saying goodbye to each other, but the actors were just getting started on their very first scene in what would be a 10-year journey.

Daniel Radcliffe was meant to wear green contact lenses, but he had an allergic reaction to them.

Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe
Harry Potter has green eyes in the book.

In J.K. Rowling's books, Harry famously has green eyes that resemble his late mother Lily's. Green eyes are pretty rare in real life, though, and Daniel Radcliffe actually has blue eyes.

Originally, the moviemakers had planned to have Radcliffe wear green contact lenses throughout the movies, but that was a short-lived idea. They only shot one scene (that first scene shot) with these contact lenses in, and it didn't go well.

In an interview with the BBC in 2005, Radcliffe himself said: "I tried contacts in the first film because in the book Harry's eyes are supposed to be a brilliant green and mine are much bluer than they should be. So we put green contact lenses in but they were excruciatingly painful."

Emma Watson was meant to wear fake teeth in order to play Hermione, but couldn't speak properly in them.

Hermione buck teeth end scene
Hermione had buck teeth in the books.

In the books, Hermione is described as having bucked teeth. The filmmakers tried altering Watson's appearance for the film by giving her a fake pair of teeth to wear, but Watson only managed to shoot one scene (again, that first scene shot) using these as she couldn't speak properly in them.

"It was a big thing in the books about [Hermione's] teeth. She sort of had an overbite, so [Emma's] wearing fake teeth in that scene," director Christopher Columbus told Entertainment Weekly's Binge Podcast. "And I realized that she's never going to be able to perform with these huge fake teeth in her mouth for the rest of the movie. So if you look closely, you can see some fake teeth."

They used the food in the great hall feasts for three days of shooting, which means it smelled awful.

Harry Potter feast
The Great Hall hosts a feast for Hogwarts students every night.

Warwick Davis, who played both Griphook the Goblin and Professor Flitwick throughout the movies, revealed in a 2014 interview with UK tabloid The Mirror that the Great Hall feasts pictured in the movies never smelled as good as they looked.

"A lot of great feasts happened in there. You may film them for three or four days and the first day you step in there, they serve you a plate of food with lots of meats, vegetables, and roast potatoes and you can eat the food," Davis said.

"The next day, they go, 'Don't eat the food' ... you just pretend now, it's been there all night. The fourth day, you could smell the Great Hall before you got in it. The food was the same food and it had quite an amazing smell," he said.

J.K. Rowling drew a map of Hogwarts for the production designer, who referenced it throughout all eight movies.

Harry Potter maps
Stuart Craig was the production designer for the film.

Stuart Craig was the production designer of the "Harry Potter" movies, and rightfully earned an Oscar nomination for "The Sorcerer's Stone" (plus three further Oscar nominations for "Harry Potter" movies).

In his first meeting with J.K. Rowling in 1999, Craig asked the author about the geography of Hogwarts castle and its surrounding area. Rowling then drew a map of Hogwarts for Craig, and Craig kept it and referred to it on every following film.

He spoke about the map in the behind-the-scenes extras.

"This drawing is Jo Rowling's drawing, that she executed in just a few minutes," he said. "As you see it has all the principal ingredients. The Dark Forest is here, the Whomping Willow, the Quidditch Pitch, Hogwarts Castle itself, the black lake is there. The perimeter road, Hogsmeade village. She had a very, very exact and precise understanding of her world and her creation. She knew exactly the relationship between all the elements. So she was able to give it to us, and that became our bible."

Rupert Grint got the part of Ron by dressing up as a female drama teacher and rapping.

Ron Rupert Grint
Rupert Grint's audition tape clearly caught the eye of the producers.

Rupert Grint secured the role of Ron Weasley in a pretty unorthodox fashion. The actor told Rosie O'Donnell in 2001 that he saw a casting call on Newsround. Grint then said that he saw other kids sending in tapes of themselves, and decided to do the same thing.

"I really wanted to be in this film, so I made this videotape. First, I dressed up as my drama teacher, who was a girl so it was kind of scary," Grint said. "Then I made this rap song of how much I wanted to be in the film."

Grint said he sent it in and soon heard back from the producers, who offered him an audition. The rest is history.

Watch the full video below:


They had to hang dead mice from Petunia's apron so that the owls would look at her instead of the camera

Aunt Petunia Uncle Vernon owls
Fiona Shaw plays Aunt Petunia.

Working with animals is difficult and there were a lot of animals to work with in the "Harry Potter" films — mostly owls.

In a 2019 interview with the AV Club, Fiona Shaw recalled difficulties with the owls in one scene that didn't make the final cut of the movie.

"I remember I was doing a scene in the kitchen where Petunia looks out the window and there are owls looking in at her," she said. "But the problem was that the owls kept looking at the camera, which was behind them. So they tied a dead mouse to the front of my apron. So all the owls just fixated on the dead mouse and the camera was able to pass unimpeded."

Watch the deleted scene here:


Rupert Grint drew a caricature of Alan Rickman during the potions lesson scene, and Rickman got Grint to autograph it for him.

Ron Weasley Snape
Alan Rickman kept Rupert Grint's drawing.

In behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast, Rupert Grint said that he would doodle in his book with his quill (just like Ron himself would in the books). During the potions lesson scene in which we are first introduced to Professor Snape, one of the things he doodled was late actor Alan Rickman, who played Snape.

Grint said: "I was just doodling with my quill in the book. I drew this rather unpretty picture of Alan Rickman, and as I was drawing it Alan Rickman was standing right behind me. And I was so scared."

Luckily for Grint, Rickman had a sense of humor about it and actually took a liking to the drawing. In behind-the-scenes extras on the last movie, "Deathly Hallows Part 2," Rickman recalled: "I made him sign it and I have it in my possession. And I'm very fond of it."

Watch the full clips below:


They had to shoot certain scenes twice due to the different book titles in the US and UK.

The Philosopher's Stone
Nicolas Flamel created the philosopher's/sorcerer's stone.

The book and movie were called "The Philosopher's Stone" everywhere apart from in the US, where it was called "The Sorcerer's Stone."

So every scene that featured the phrase "philosopher's stone" either spoken or written therefore had to be shot twice — once with the actors saying "philosopher's stone" and once with them saying "sorcerer's stone."

Watch the below video for a comparison between the UK and the US versions:


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