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Sunday, 4 November, 2001, 21:42 GMT
The making of the Potter phenomenon
Harry Potter the movie
Harry Potter the movie opens on 16 November
It takes a brave man to tackle a book that set the imagination of children alight in the way that Harry Potter has done so successfully.

But Chris Columbus is the director who has set about creating the first film, risking the wrath of millions of fans worldwide.

His mixed bag of credits include Gremlins, Home Alone and the smaltzy Stepmom and Bicentennial Man.

But none of these movies could have prepared him for recreating Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone onto the big screen.

Chris Columbus
Chris Columbus risks the wrath of Potter fans everywhere
Columbus has admitted he was a massive fan of the books - thanks to his daughter Eleanor - even before taking up the project.

He also promised to stay as faithful as cinematically possible to the original story.

But did anyone really believe he could pull off all the fantastical elements included in the book such as flying broomsticks and the wizarding game of Quidditch.

The casting of the role was one of the most crucial tasks Columbus had to undertake.


After all, millions of readers already had an image of the young boy wizard ingrained in their imaginations, expertly crafted by author JK Rowling.

And every child actor wanted the part.

Eventually Daniel Radcliffe was unveiled as Potter, alongside his sidekicks Hermione and Ron, played by Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.

There was a general thumbs up all round for their casting despite their lack of acting experience.

Their was no such problems with the casting of the other principal characters.

The respected Richard Harris was given the role of Professor Dumbledore and Alan Rickman as the mysterious and sinister Professor Snape.

And the stellar cast was completed by some of British best actors including Zoe Wanamaker, Robbie Coltrane, Dame Maggie Smith and Ian Hart.

Rick Mayall's voice-over of the mischievous ghost Peeves has apparently been cut in order to keep the film to a manageable length.

Drip effect

Rowling said she was delighted that British actors had been cast in the main roles and doubted whether any other director would have done the same.

JK Rowling
JK Rowling is pleased with how her creation has been transformed

Many were also surprised the Columbus had let a children's film run to two and half hours.

But his justification was that if the youngsters can read a 700 page book then sitting through a longish film should not pose a problem.

The marketing of the movie began long before the filming was wrapped, expertly released with a drip-drip effect.

There was great secrecy surrounding filming, which was mainly shot at Leavesdon Studios in Hertfordshire.

Very little movie gossip made it out of the set unless it was pre-approved by Columbus.

The first teaser was the release of the picture of Harry's beloved owl Hedwig.

And then nothing for a while, until photos of the train at Platform 9¾, which takes the young wizards to Hogwarts School.

The first trailer soon followed, giving a taste of how Rowling's words translated onto the big screen.

But having started with such a measured marketing campaign, the floodgates were then opened.

Subsequent trailers revealed the flying broomsticks, moving stairs and even the magical Golden Snitch.

And every newspaper published "exclusive" supplements of new photos from the film.

Could there really be any big screen surprises left?

Christmas bestseller

Then there was a controversial Coca-Cola tie-in, in which the company reportedly forked out $100m to be associated with the film.

Despite Rowling's stringent conditions that Harry's image could not be used - and Coke's pledge to fund literacy schemes - some fans were still upset at what they saw as selling out.

Harry Potter toys are set to be the big Christmas seller this year, elbowing out Furbys and Thunderbirds, with costumes, dolls and games available to collect.

Richard Harris plays Hogwarts School headmaster
Richard Harris joined the star-studded cast as Dumbledore

Advance sales of cinema tickets have already topped the half a million pounds mark and theatres have promised an unprecedented amount of screenings to accommodate the expected audiences.

And the handful of people who had the privilege of seeing the film ahead of its première report the director has stayed true to the book and fans will not be disappointed.

And as release day fast approaches, the buzz just keeps growing for what is surely to become one of the UK's biggest ever films.

Harry Potter: Classic or craze?



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