Before it launched, there was much talk about the content of the two-hour special and who was going to appear… or not appear… as the case may be. But after it premiered on New Year’s Day on Sky Max, NOW TV and HBO Max, the exercise in nostalgia has been a hit with fans around the world.
Here are the key moments in Return to Hogwarts:
Ralph Fiennes was very unsure about playing the villainous Lord Voldemort in Order of the Phoenix and Goblet of Fire, among others. He wasn’t keen on the idea of terrifying his nieces and nephews until his sister, Martha, responded: “What? You’re being asked to play Voldemort? You’ve got to do it!”
Harry Potter himself Daniel Radcliffe was entranced with his co-star, the apparently risqué Helena Bonham Carter and sent her a flirty note at the end of filming the final film in the series, The Deathly Hallows Part II: “I do love you and I wish I’d just been born ten years earlier so I might’ve been in with a chance.”
Emma Watson revealed exactly how intimidated Daniel was by Oscar winner Gary Oldman, who played his godfather Sirius Black. “I remember the Gary chat, you were like, ‘Listen Emma, you need to be cool, because Gary Oldman is a really big deal, and you need to be cool,’” she said.
“Which was really a projection of my own fears,” he responded, laughing.
But when they first appeared in The Sorcerer’s Stone, the young Harry Potters stars were oblivious to the fame of their elder co-stars, such as Alan Rickman, Richard Harris and Maggie Smith. They didn't know who they were so never had the chance to be starstruck.
Emma revealed the moment she ‘fell in love’ with Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) was during a tutoring session. “The assignment that had been given was to draw what you thought god looked like and Tom had drawn a girl with a backward cap on a skateboard. And I just don’t know how to say it – I just fell in love with him.”
She hastened to add that nothing “ever, ever, ever happened romantically” but that the pair “just love each other”.
Emma and her Harry Potter love interest, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), loathed kissing each other. Their first kiss was destined to happen and fans around the world waited in breathless anticipation, but the two stars themselves were dreading it. Emma said it was a ‘horrifying’ experience because, growing up together, they felt like brother and sister.
Emma very nearly didn’t return to the role of Hermione Granger for the Order of the Phoenix. She was overcome by the attention she was getting and the loneliness she felt.
“People definitely forget what she took on and how gracefully she did it,” said Tom. “Dan and Rupert had each other, I had my cronies, whereas Emma was not only younger, she was by herself.”
Harry Potter creator, author JK Rowling does appear in Return to Hogwarts, despite media reports suggesting she wasn’t appearing following controversy about her comments on trans-gender issues. Members of the cast distanced themselves from her remarks, but she does appear and talks about the difficulty of finding their lead actor.
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Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.