Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts – 5 things I took away from it

HP-y New Year, readers! See what I did there? Hehe. The eagerly awaited 20th anniversary reunion show of the cast and crew from the first Harry Potter film (and the other seven) coming together to reminisce about the times they had filming and talking about the impact the franchise has had on their personal and professional lives has been as hotly talked about recently as creator J.K. Rowling has been. Although a little delayed since The Philosopher’s Stone was first released in cinemas on 4th November 2001, it was a nice way to start the new year even if it wasn’t released a month ago to end the year nicely.

The 1 hour 38 minute special (still half an hour shorter than the shortest Harry Potter film) unveiled a few revelations, elaborated on already known stories and gave us a few rare BTS clips as well as even a couple of deleted or alternate scenes. This post will talk about five things I took away from the show when watching it.

1) Now we understand why the child actors were so wooden in the earlier films

Young, innocent and very inexperienced: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) in one of their first photoshoots together.

It is revealed through talking to Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint as well as director Chris Columbus that during the filming of The Philosopher’s Stone the child actors were given plenty of freedom to simply be kids. We are shown quite a bit of cute footage of them all playing and laughing both on and off set and they admit that they were often too easily distracted to focus on what they were meant to be doing. Perhaps this is why the acting skills of the children left much to be desired? It begs the question of whether acting lessons were actually given to them while on location? Other classes they still had to take when not filming is mentioned quite a bit and they were all clearly thrown very much in the deep end without much guidance in the drama department.

2) Why aren’t Emma Watson and Tom Felton together?

One of a few images of Emma Watson and Tom Felton enjoying each other’s company that has had many people guessing if they have ever dated or are just friends.

In one of the special’s revelations, Emma Watson, a.k.a. Hermione Granger, admits that she “fell in love” with Tom Felton, a.k.a. Draco Malfoy one day on set. Of course, at the time she was only 10 and he was 13 so any sort of budding relationship would have been questionable to say the least. While this might seem like just an adorable childish/teenage crush, they both say they “still love each other” but nothing romantic has ever happened. However, Emma’s way of saying it complete with a coy, cheeky smile will surely not do much but continue fuelling the (Goblet of) Fire. It is just as potentially as exciting as the revelation that David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston from Friends fancied each other back in the day. Emma and Tom have been snapped together and taken snaps together several times throughout their lives showing them to definitely be very close. But could there still be some unspoken feelings that could finally blossom? Both are reportedly still single (as are David and Jen, apparently)…

3) Where are the many cast members who could’ve participated in it?

Top left to bottom right: Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Imelda Staunton (Delores Umbridge), David Thewlis (Professor Lupin), Emma Thompson (Professor Trelawney) and Julie Walters (Molly Weasley). Just some of the many names who for some reason didn’t participate in the reunion.

So many beloved cast members were missing from the show that leaves everybody wondering, “where were they?” Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Imelda Staunton (Delores Umbridge), David Thewlis (Professor Lupin), Emma Thompson (Professor Trelawney) and Julie Walters (Mrs Weasley) are just some of the names who didn’t take part, but who were all either mentioned or shown via BTS footage or clips from the films. Others who could’ve appeared include David Bradley (Filch), Brendan Gleeson (Mad-Eye), Katie Leung (Cho), Harry Melling (Dudley), Devon Murray (Seamus), Robert Pattinson (Cedric), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew) and Natalia Tena (Tonks).

It is not known why any of the above actors and actresses didn’t take part, especially the first group I mentioned since they all played integral and iconic roles throughout the franchise and as far as it is known, they are in good health as well as still active. It was also strange that they weren’t there yet Alfred Enoch (Dean Thomas), who was barely a supporting character, was. Although it was lovely to see how some of the cast have grown and coming back together, it only felt like a semi-reunion without so many faces present.

4) How dare they cut Bellatrix and Sirius’ duel from Order of the Phoenix?!

There should have been more of a battle between these two in this heartbreaking scene that was sadly cut from The Order of the Phoenix.

In what I think is the biggest revelation from the show is that there was a duel between Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) and Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) before she kills him which was sadly not in the final film version of The Order of the Phoenix. The film stands as one of my favourites (read the previous link to my ranking of the films) with one of the main reasons being because of the epic magic battle between Voldemort and Dumbledore.

The fight between the Death Eaters and the Aurors prior to that scene was also good but lacked enough focus on some of those battling. For example, watching Tonks and Shacklebolt fighting as they were supposedly very skilled, would’ve been cool to see. But a hate-fuelled duel between the two estranged Black/Lestrange cousins would have surely been pretty explosive. It puts the over in a flash scene where Bellatrix strikes him with Avada Kedavra into perspective when you now watch it again after knowing what was cut. She didn’t simply hit it at him out of nowhere after he fought off Lucius Malfoy, abruptly ending an exciting, fast-paced scene on a shocking, sombre note – there was meant to be a part of that scene beforehand. And I’m sure it would have been a pretty badass battle too, and I’m also sure many Potterheads who saw the reunion are also desperately trying to find said scene somewhere. Why it was cut from the final film is not known – David Yates who directed it doesn’t address it either – and whether it will ever be shown (it wasn’t on the extras part of my DVD) is anyone’s guess.

5) J.K. Rowling’s absence is weird

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling appeared only in a few archive interview clips but was mentioned several times throughout the show.

Ever since 2020, when the outspoken J.K. Rowling first found herself in hot water over her views on trans people and trans rights, her public image has suffered terribly. Even some of the actors from the Harry Potter films opposed her views – mostly in ways that stood up for trans people and trans rights but didn’t always necessarily make swipes at her personally – and the relationships between them and her appeared to hang in the balance. Yes, they no longer work together or have to see each other, but without her it is a cold hard fact that they wouldn’t be anywhere without her. Even the older cast members who were already famous who have spoken up against her have a lot to thank her for.

So it is weird not seeing her take part in the special (there is only archival footage of her) in a way that feels as though either she or those behind it are trying to thinly veil the obviously strong connection she has to the entire Wizarding World in light of the drama and negativity that surrounds her. It would have of course made for some very awkward moments between them all if she had been there but she didn’t exactly have to meet up with them, although surely discussion about the films alone would not have been too difficult for them?

While her views are of course abhorrent and it is naturally difficult to dislike her for them and still love her work, her absence created more of an invisible elephant in the room (as they all mentioned her very frequently) than whatever its desired goal of her not being in it was. Even though it has been denied that the controversy surrounding her is the reason for her absence (whether that be her and her team’s decision or the people behind the special who decided) and her team apparently believed archival footage was sufficient, the denial and the “reason” are both completely unbelievable, only sparking more debate and speculation.

With the next instalment of Fantastic Beasts out next year, which in itself has already divided Wizarding World fans because of Johnny Depp’s replacement (which she has also failed to address), J.K. Rowling cannot distance herself from her work forever just to avoid courting more backlash. Yes, there’s irreparable damage done to her public image as well as countless conflicted Potterheads who oppose her but don’t want to tear themselves away from Harry Potter so not having her there or involved in any related projects allows for that blissful dissociation. But it’s damage that isn’t being helped if she just obliviates herself from the equation (she has remained silent on anything about the show on social media). She is and always will be mentioned and discussed so either way and whether people like it or not, there is no escaping her existence.

Overall, the reunion was insightful, heartwarming and emotional, with a fitting tribute paid to the actors and actresses who have since passed away, even if also a bit disappointing with those who haven’t not present. It is interesting to think what would have happened had Emma Watson decided to quit and it makes you wonder just how many amazing scenes have been cut from the films that sadly may never see the light of day. It is a special that many fans will love watching simply because of its premise but there are certainly aspects of it that leave you a little unfulfilled and dying for much more than what it was. One question that should’ve been asked is “would you return for a film version of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?”

2 comments

  1. Really enjoyed reading this having watched the special yesterday! Didn’t pick up on half these points, although I have to say it did bring back some really bittersweet feelings for me, as a queer (and trans / non binary person).

    The books were released through my teenage years, and they became a key part of my own early coming of age. But looking back, I think they played a part in my difficulties coming to terms with who I am, and my delayed coming out process until I was in my early 20s. There just weren’t *any* queer characters of any kind at all in the Potter world, certainly not openly; none on the teaching staff, no parents, no kids. And immersing yourself in a world that has nobody like you in it, does have an impact on a teenage mind, making the idea of being LGB or T seem very much hidden, wrong, not normal. And now of course we know the truth about the author’s views years later, which really makes it all clearer.

    So yes, she wrote and created this world, and it’s a rich and beautiful alternative world she created. And yes, either way, JK Rowling will continue profiting hugely from it (and deservedly so). But am I sad JK Rowling wasn’t in the reunion? No. She’s made her bed now with her divisive and openly hostile campaigning and gaslighting, and I’d much rather have seen some Julie Walters and Michael Gambon!

    Like

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