If us Potterheads were given a chance to look at the Mirror of Erised, we would probably see the poster of the Harry Potter reunion. I was ecstatic when the moment finally arrived and I refreshed my HBO Max home page to find the Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts out there, all ready for me to watch.
I remember coming out of the theatres after watching Deathly Hallows: Part 2, bawling my eyes out because the fact that I would not see my favorite trio on screen anytime soon just gave some unexplainable pain.
Then I remembered, ‘Whether you come back by page or by big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.’ Since then, we’ve all waited for the doors of Hogwarts to open for us once again, for us to look at the Great Hall and marvel at our childhood, once again.
I have waited too long to actually use this, so if you’re a Potterhead, be proud. You’ve done your waiting. 11 years of it. (Oops, only if it was a year more, the reference would fit so well). In Azkaban. For a world without Hogwarts is nothing better than Azkaban.
So are you ready to look at the highlights of Return to Hogwarts? I am sure your answer is – Always.
1. The Return of the Trio And The Story Behind Their Casting
The reunion began with the iconic theme of the series playing in the background. The Hedwig Song still has the capability to give us goosebumps, doesn’t it? And when it is coupled with Emma Watson entering the Great Hall, for a moment you feel like you’re in heaven.
Any reunion is built upon nostalgia and this one was no different. We saw Watson walk through Platform 9 ¾ and Diagon Alley. If you’ve grown up watching the Harry Potter movies, then this is bound to make you emotional.
Watson’s introduction was followed by the introduction of various other actors who have been part of the Harry Potter films including Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and Alfred Enoch (Dean Thomas).
Daniel Radcliffe first appeared on screen just like Emma, walking through the iconic locations shown in the films including 4 Privet Drive and King’s Cross Station. In the background, there was a beautiful narration of lines from the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone including the iconic phrase “The Boy Who Lived”. That reminds me, if you haven’t read the books, you must.
By now, an OG Potterhead would have already had half of the goosebumps and this is just the beginning. Rupert Grint’s introduction was not as dramatic as Watson or Radcliffe’s but nevertheless, they compensated for it by shooting in the sets of The Burrow, better known as the house of the Weasleys.
The three chatted sitting in the Gryffindor common room, just in front of the fireplace like we knew them in the films. The big highlight of the reunion was how Rupert, Daniel and Emma talked about their memories beginning from the first film itself.
A part of me smiled tearily every time behind the scenes footage was shown from the shoot of each film. You can literally see Harry, Ron and Hermione grow up through those small glimpses of the shoot itself.
Apart from the trio, all our other beloved Hogwarts students also shared their experiences of shooting several iconic scenes including the climax of Chamber of Secrets, Sirius Black’s introduction and the Triwizard Tournament.
Teary already? I have not even got to the legends.
One of the most beautiful bits of the reunion was the story behind how Daniel, Rupert and Emma were casted as the three main leads in the story. There are adorable clips of young Emma, Rupert and Daniel reacting to working in the movies and also a scene which was shot with all three to see how they looked together on screen – Honestly, don’t you two read?
Another beautiful moment is the one where Emma and Daniel talk about their dance in the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Harry and Hermione has been one of the most beautiful representations of friendship between opposite sexes without any romantic undertones and I will forever cherish that.
The dance in the Deathly Hallows was so soft and beautiful despite it having absolutely no sexual or romantic connotations. I don’t recall too many other scenes having been shot so beautifully. Emma rightly pointed out that she could not have done a scene like that with anyone but Daniel, and we approve!
2. The Legends Who Made Harry Potter What It Is
The Harry Potter movies are what it is not only for the on point casting of the Hogwarts students but also for the legendary actors who helped give life to Rowling’s universe such as Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy) and Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid).
One of the best parts of the reunion was the moment when Robbie Coltrane says (and I am paraphrasing) that ten years from now, he may still not be there unfortunately, but Hagrid will.
The way the actors talk about the experience of shooting the films is simply beautiful because it not only takes you back to the time when you watched the films but also makes you fall in love with the Wizarding World once again.
Ralph Fiennes describing how Radcliffe and he shot the final scene in Deathly Hallows can never not make you realize why you fell in love with the universe in the first place. I almost screamed when Gary Oldman appeared while the cast discussed Prisoner of Azkaban.
Daniel Radcliffe and Gary Oldman sitting in the Potions classroom discussing the relationship between Sirius and Harry is the highlight of the year for me, already. But that is not all.
No discussion of Harry Potter is complete without acknowledging the Queen that is Helena Bonham Carter. Apart from Alan Rickman, I cannot think of any other actor who seems to have been lifted right out of Rowling’s descriptions of the book except Helena Bonham Carter when she played Bellatrix.
One particular scene comes to mind, when in the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Hermione disguised as Bellatrix enters the Gringotts Bank and Carter has to play Hermione disguised as Granger. I think no other actor could have done it as well as Carter did. She deserves a tribute of her own already.
3. Those Who Were Missed
A Harry Potter reunion is not a reunion without Professor Snape. The man who I missed the most in the reunion was without a doubt, Alan Rickman. Any other answer is wrong.
No other actor could have played Severus Snape as well as Alan Rickman. Rickman was not just an actor but the representation of Snape himself if we were to extract him out of the pages of the books.
Every time some footage of Rickman appeared on screen, I could feel my eyes become teary. Imagine if he was here today, smiling and sharing moments from his experience of shooting Harry Potter.
There will always be this huge void in any Harry Potter reunion or discussion and that will be the absence of Alan Rickman. The reunion does try to give a heart-warming tribute to his brilliant performance. There are glimpses of Rickman during shoots and Watson, Radcliffe and Grint shares their experiences of working with him.
It stirs your heart when Emma tearily mentions how Alan Rickman would always consider her opinion during the shoots and never treated her a child or as someone immature. Imagine Professor Snape listening to Miss Know-It-All. I am craving a behind the scenes moment now.
Then came the legend that is Richard Harris, who played Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films i.e. The Sorcerer’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets. Everyone from Daniel to Felton had kind words to share about him.
Every tribute was accompanied by adorable behind the scenes footage of the actors and commentary from the directors who were behind each film. Richard Harris was succeeded by Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore in subsequent films, though Gambon does not appear in the reunion.
It was a little strange that Michael Gambon was hardly mentioned in the reunion despite having portrayed Dumbledore in the majority of the films after Harris passed away. Dumbledore’s death scene, featuring Gambon has been one of the most important scenes in the series.
The clip was a part of the reunion but nobody really talked about Michael Gambon’s fine portrayal, which, if I may say so was no less that Harris’ portrayal of the Headmaster.
Another big name that was missing was Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall) who was a part of every Harry Potter film but was hardly mentioned. David Thewlis (Remus Lupin) was also hardly mentioned, though all of these actors featured in clips of the films.
Rupert Grint spoke in detail about the hilarious scene from Goblet of Fire, where Ron has to dance with McGonagall but did not mention much about Maggie Smith. There is no clear statement about why they were missing, and no explanation why they were hardly mentioned.
Coming back to the tribute, another very heartfelt tribute was that of Helen McCrory, who played Narcissa Malfoy in the series. She was a part of the last two films only and her role was comparatively short, but yet she made her own mark.
It is not a surprise that an actor of McCrory’s stature was able to make such a lasting impact despite having minimal screen presence. Isaacs and Felton, who had the most time on screen with McCrory spoke in detail about their experience working with her.
4. The Tale of The Malfoys
Surprisingly, the Malfoys got a lot of space in the reunion. Just Pureblood stuff, after all.
Draco Malfoy has been interpreted as one of the tragic characters of the series, though he was one of the most arrogant pricks in the books as well as the movies. In the Half Blood Prince, when Draco is bestowed with the responsibility to murder Albus Dumbledore, we do see a slightly different side of him.
Feel free to tell me if I am lying, but one of the main reasons people (especially girls) have a soft corner for Draco is because of the actor playing it. I mean, it’s Tom Felton after all. I guess the makers of the reunion knew of this special fanbase that Draco has.
In the reunion, Jason Isaacs talks a lot about Draco’s relationship with his father and how being a part of an abusive family impacted his behavior to a great extent. There’s also a deleted scene where we see Lucius behaving with Draco in an abusive manner.
So, the films did try to showcase the reason why Draco was the way he was and also focused on various scene from the Half Blood Prince which enables us to question the evil in Draco. My personal favorite Draco moment is definitely the one where at the end of Deathly Hallows, Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy ask him to walk over to the side of the Dark Lord, but he does not.
Draco’s character is very well woven in the books and the films have more or less remained true to Rowling’s work. In the books too, Draco’s character has various grey shades which Isaacs and Felton talk about in the reunion as well interpreting it as Draco’s way of seeking his father’s approval.
We cannot miss out on the adorable Dobby when talking about the Malfoys. There’s a glimpse of the iconic scene where Harry tricks Lucius into freeing Dobby. Toby Jones, who played Dobby in the movies also talks about his experience.
5. Rupert Grint and Emma Watson Talk About RoMione’s Kiss
The only kiss that Ron and Hermione shared in the entire series is the one in Deathly Hallows Part 2, after destroying Hufflepuff’s Cup, one of the Horcruxes. In the reunion, Emma and Rupert explained that it was one of the grossed things they ever did!
We even get to see the original shooting footage of the kiss, where the awkwardness between the two are clear. Emma and Rupert had grown up like siblings while they shot for the Harry Potter series for 10 years. So obviously it was awkward to kiss someone you’ve considered your brother throughout.
The Harry Potter fandom has quite polarizing views about the pairing of Ron and Hermione. While one group considers it to be the perfect endgame, another group absolutely detests it. No matter which group you belong to, there’s a comforting chemistry between Rupert and Emma, as friends and companions, which none can deny.
The kiss between Ron and Hermione was one which everyone wanted to be on the sets for, as Daniel Radcliffe himself confirmed. So yeah, whatever be your opinion, this reveal was definitely one of the goofiest moments in the reunion.
6. Bonnie and Daniel Talk About Harry and Ginny’s Relationship
I personally absolutely love Harry and Ginny’s love story much more than Ron and Hermione’s because it is simple and sweet. It is not over exaggerated and smoothly running and gives us Muggles the hope that we can definitely land our crushes someday!
Daniel and Bonnie shared pretty good chemistry since they were kids and first met in the Chamber of Secrets and Rowling developed it in a pretty linear way throughout the books. My favorite moment of Harry and Ginny is definitely when they kiss during Deathly Hallows Part 1, after Harry chains up Ginny’s dress.
It directly made Harry a part of the Weasley family, which makes this relationship even more special. Bonnie and Daniel talk about the way the relationship between Harry and Ginny progress, with clips from the movies to drown you in nostalgia.
But the makers largely ignore Bonnie’s experience of playing Ginny Weasley, like they always have, throughout the films. Ginny Weasley is one of the most sensible and sensitive characters in the books and one out of the many bad things about the Harry Potter films is the largely one dimensional treatment of Ginny.
While Ron and Hermione’s budding romance does get some development in the series from the first film itself, Harry and Ginny’s romance remains like a half-baked subplot which this was never the case in the books.
This is also one of the reasons why Harry and Ginny has less admirers, especially among the ones who have only seen the films. (I know I am saying this a lot, but read the books.) The reunion makes the same mistake.
While Rupert and Emma gets a lot of time to talk about the RoMione romance, it is only Daniel who speaks about the Romine Harry-Ginny romance mostly while Bonnie Wright hardly gets a line or two. This is unfair to Ginny’ character as well, because this is not how she was in Rowling’s books.
Ginny definitely deserved better treatment in the movies. At least, Bonnie could have been given more than four five lines in the reunion. When you have a stunner like Bonnie Wright, it is almost criminal to not let the chemistry between Daniel and Bonnie flourish as Harry and Ginny.
7. The Dramione Case: Tom and Emma About Their Off-Screen Relationship
Yeah, I know you all would complain if I did not include them. After all, all I can see on Twitter are pictures of Tom and Emma together with love quotes celebrating Draco and Hermione as a pair. I guess people still can’t differentiate between the actor and the character.
While Tom and Emma share a very sweet chemistry off-screen and also talk about the relationship (which, by the way is absolutely platonic) off-screen, Draco and Hermione is a ship that is dead since day 1.
We live in an age where Ross and Rachel and Damon and Elena are called toxic couples and the same age ships Draco with Hermione, where Draco has only been abusive to Hermione. No, Draco can seek his father’s validation all he wants but it does not justify bullying and abusing other students.
He had genuine hatred for Hermione because she was a “mudblood”, and also hated Ron with all his heart because of his financial standing. I don’t see how this can ever be a ship. Nevertheless, to each his own.
Tom and Emma are definitely good friends in real life, and if you were craving for some good moments between the two, the reunion will satisfy your expectations. Tom mentioned that he always had a soft spot for Emma and earlier Emma had gone on record to say she had a crush on Felton.
So yes, you get some Tom-Emma moments too.
8. The Rowling Factor: Was JKR Not Invited To The Reunion And Why?
The rollercoaster ride spanning almost two and a half hours had only one caveat, the absence of the woman who was the brains behind the place that was, is, and will always be there to welcome us home. Save for some clips collected from the archives, JK Rowling was left out by HBO Max and I can’t exactly say that this was unexpected for a hoard of reasons.
Whether she was invited and she refused to appear or whether she was not included at all is not clear as of now, but either way, there are reasons for it as you may already be aware.
The most prominent one of them was the release of innumerable transphobic tweets by JK Rowling which made her fanbase almost plummet into a state of dilemma overnight. I remember having got the hint of those tweets from Facebook and then I opened her Twitter handle and what I saw made my jaw drop. She had disregarded the gender conformity of trans people and had tried to justify her statements with derogatory (and lame) points like it is unsafe for trans women to enter the washrooms assigned for females and had written essays exaggerating her opinion. That started the rift between JKR and her fans (including myself) and people started calling her out publicly.
It hurts when the creator of the only place where help is always given to those who ask for it denies your existence altogether. That’s exactly what my gender-fluid friend who happened to be a Potterhead was having to go through at that time and that’s exactly what millions of people like him around the world suffered from.
JKR is a fishy character for more reasons than one though. And I believe that hypocrisy leads the list. I won’t buy into Dumbledore being gay till the time she points out a line in the book that subtly hints at it. These internet stunts to incorporate fake inclusivity when called out by the fans have been a total fallout for JKR. And talking about inclusivity; why were the Asian and Indian characters so underdeveloped? Why is Cho Chang such an embarrassing parody of a PTSD character just to make Ginny the alpha when it comes to being a fit for Harry? Why are Parvati and Padma used as fillers to serve as dating fodder for the leads? And don’t even get me started on the “Black Hermione” stunt and her answer to the how-wizards-used-to-poop question. The last one was hilarious not gonna lie (google it lol).
For me, though the problem is not about Harry Potter not being the most inclusive text but the denial of it. She has continued to make statements claiming she has been inclusive which was absolutely unnecessary. When I read the books or watched the films, I was not concerned about how politically correct it is, but about how much I enjoyed it.
I am sure it was the same for many of you and not having non-white characters did not ruin my experience in anyway. However, JKR constantly trying to prove that she is inclusive is what irked the fanbase of Harry Potter majorly.
Now let’s talk galleons, shall we?
Gringotts, the underground bank is run by the tiny goblins has been a part of a serious controversy after JKR got accused of using it as an antisemitic trope and was accused of making a caricature of the Jews after the former Daily Show host Jon Stewart pointed out the resemblance with the 1903 book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The compilation of all these stains on JKR’s image might have somewhat influenced HBO Max to not include her in the Reunion.
As the self-proclaimed biggest Potterhead of the planet, I can understand the point of view of the people who criticize her incessantly but I will beg to differ with them on a personal level. Harry Potter at the end of the day was written for children and to give them a world which made them feel included. It is this that the actors in the reunion too emphasize on.
As Emma, Rupert and Daniel struggle to control their tears as they describe their last day of shooting and talk about how the pages of Harry Potter will always be a place where children with a difference can feel welcome. Harry Potter changed many lives, including mine own and despite all of Rowling’s comments it is hard for me to hate her because she gave me a childhood and a home which was always there for me.
So maybe Goblins are just goblins at the end of the day. Maybe JKR didn’t think of inclusivity or social constructs and focussed on making it as engaging and exciting for children as possible. Maybe Harry Potter doesn’t necessarily need to conform to the post-structuralist point of view and be as politically correct as possible. Social and political correctness is definitely desirable in any form of literature but the absence of it does not make it unreadable and no one is bound to follow political correctness while writing or even in making of a film. The pages of Harry Potter are portkeys that help me escape from the dins and bustles of my hectic life and it will remain to be so regardless of all the imperfections that it might have. After all this time? Always.
Also, I am a firm believer in one philosophy and I must implore you all to do the same: Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living and above all, those who have not read the Harry Potter books.
9. About Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts
HBO Max’s Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts is a retrospective special that will tell the making-of story through all-new in-depth interviews and cast conversations, inviting fans on a magical first-person journey through one of the most beloved film franchises of all time.
Filmmaker Chris Columbus will be joined by cast members Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman, Tom Felton, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, among others.
The special will honor the magic behind the making of the films and the beautiful family created at Warner Bros. Studios London two decades ago. It will also celebrate the unparalleled legacy of the Harry Potter film franchise.