There are so many books being turned into Movies or TV Series at the moment. This feature chats about the good bits, the bad bits and is never afraid to ask the ultimate question: Page or Screen?
.So, first the facts:
Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone was published 1997 after 6 years of writing by J.K.Rowling. The initial print run by Bloomsbury was for only for 500 copies, 350 of which were given to libraries. This is now one of the seven book series that has sold over 450 million copies worldwide.
The film, of the same name, was first released on November 16th 2001 and made over $90 million (USA) and £16 million (UK) in it’s opening weekend.
Check out my review of the book.
Warning: the following post does contain some very small spoilers for both the book and the film.
(If you have read the book but not seen the film then you will be fine!)
There is so much to talk about with this film that I can tell you now, I am not going to fit it all in. But here it goes…
HARRY, HERMIONE & RON
Fun fact: did you know that Rupert Grint sent in a video of himself rapping about why he should play Ron as his audition tape?
Re-watching this film now you can see just how new to acting these three are, but what is also very apparent right from the start is the chemistry between them and the potential for what they would become. Dan Radcliffe just looks like Harry Potter should do. On top of that he has got the mannerisms, charm, bravery and vulnerability down to a tee. And more then that he is totally believable as a boy full of wonder and amazement as he enters this totally new world full of magic.
Fun fact: On a few occasions they had to stop filming due to the fact that Emma hadn’t just learnt her own lines, but everyone else’s in the scene and could be seen on camera mouthing everyone’s lines.
At times Emma Watson possibly slightly overplays Hermione, but in a totally forgiving way, because the rest of the time she is faultless. She portrays Hermione’s personality to perfection and is a brilliant amount of annoying yet loveable. But Rupert Grint is the one out of the three who, for me, was the best casting decision. His chemistry with Dan and Emma is just perfect (I realise I have said that word a lot!) and his expressions and comic timing is flawless.
Fun fact: Dan was meant to wear green contact lenses so his eyes matched Harry’s in the books. However his eyes reacted badly to them so after only two days he stopped wearing them, therefore Harry in the film has blue eyes. Dan also had bad reactions to the glasses he wore and it was 2 weeks into the filming before Dan’s dad discovered it was due to a nickel allergy.
If there was ever an award for casting then the Harry Potter series would win it hands down. Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Richard Griffiths, John Hurt, Warwick Davis, Julie Walters … the list goes on.
Fun fact: A lot of the older characters cast in this film series were blackmailed by children in their family to take on the role, or they would never speak to their parents/grandparents etc again.
J.K.Rowling was determined to have a British cast and she really did get her wish with the entire series. Sure, there are a couple of other nationalities thrown in there, but it is mostly British and really is a showcase of the talent we have. I can’t write about them all so instead I picked a few of my favourites from this first film.
Robbie Coltrane was actually the first to be cast and was J.K.Rowling’s choice for Hagrid. He captures Hagrid’s heart and personality perfectly. One of my favourite scenes with Hagrid has to be his first scene in which he breaks down the front door and stomps into the room, totally scaring the life out of all the characters there only to say “Sorry ’bout that.” and follows to pick up the door and put it back in place. Makes me laugh every time. Plus, that now very famous line …
Another favourite of mine has got to be Julie Walters, who we only see for a few moments at the beginning of the film, but wow did it make me excited to see her in further films. She was exactly what I imagined Molly would be with her big heart and even bigger family following behind her. And finally, John Hurt as Mr Ollivander was the perfect mix of wondrous and slightly creepy and because of him I will never say the word “curious” in a normal voice ever again.
How someone even starts to take a fictional world and create it physically is beyond me. It’s not just about the big things like Hogwarts or Platform 9 3/4 but all the little things that make it believable. I bet you never notice the feet on the blackboards or knew that Robbie Coltrane’s body double was a former English Rugby player wearing a massive sculpted ‘Hagrid’ head?
The magic is in the film making and they really do a incredible job, especially due to the fact that the technology that was around in the later films was not for these fist few, so being able to make believable scenes full of magical things was really such a triumph.
Fun fact: the filmmakers originally wanted to use Canterbury Cathedral as a filming location for some of the Hogwarts scenes, but the Dean of Canterbury refused to allow it, saying that it was unfitting for a Christian church to be used to promote pagan imagery.
I have been lucky enough to visit the studio and walk down Diagon Alley and the level of detail that went into that place is just amazing. Apparently when J.K.Rowling came to visit the set in the early days she stood with a tear in her eye, because it was exactly the way she had imagined it when writing the book.
The creatures created for this film are incredible and the amount of work that must have gone into every single one of them in mind boggling. They capture each creatures personality perfectly and there were a few occasions when I was totally freaked out by the scariness of some of the creates. My absolutely favourite had to be the Goblins though, they were just perfect.
And finally, the Great Hall, one of the most important sets for the entire film series. Sure there were CGI additions: the ceiling, floating candles, falling snow, the main point of the Great Hall was making it real, right down to the real York stone floor which although added to the cost, also added to the realism of the set and to every scene that took place in it.
Adapting a 300 page book to a 2 hour film is no easy feat, especially when you are introducing the audience to this magical world that you’ve created on screen. But this one was flawless. Sure there were parts of the book that didn’t make it into the film, but that is expected and made no difference to the feel of the film as a whole.
The mix of perfect casting, incredible sets and a little bit of magic thrown in really made this first film and the introduction to the world of Harry Potter something special, and set the bar especially high for all future HP films.
SO, THE BOOK OR THE FILM?
With me it all comes down to detail, and for me the book has it in tons. Plus the smell of my Harry Potter books has got to be one of my most favourite smells ever.
I have another Harry Potter Giveaway, this one for a HP inspired bookmark, which is totally gorgeous and I wish I could keep for myself!