The Harry Potter film franchise is one of the most successful and most beloved book-to-screen adaptations ever since it began in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and now, the original director Chris Columbus has opened up about his experience on helming the first instalment in the franchise.
In an interview with Collider to promote his new film The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two, Columbus revealed that he felt overwhelmed with anxiety and under pressure on adapting the book into a feature film, stating “I thought I was gonna get fired every day.”
“The reality is the pressure of the world was upon us, and on me particularly because I knew if I screwed this one up it’s all over. You can’t screw up this book. So I had to go to the set every day with sort of tunnel vision in terms of not thinking about the outside world, and that was a lot easier 19 years ago before the internet blew up,” Columbus said.
The directed added, “The first film was fraught with anxiety for me. The first two weeks I thought I was gonna get fired every day. Everything looked good, I just thought if I do one thing wrong, if I fuck up, I’m fired. And that was intense. I didn’t let any of that show on the set, there was no frustration, I’m not a screamer, I get along with everybody and I want everybody to feel like they’re part of the family, so I just had to hide that side of my emotions.”
It’s no wonder Columbus was nervous about starting the Harry Potter franchise as not only was he under the pressure of having to adapt a successful and beloved book that would later evolve into a fully developed series, he also had to cast the right actors in the right roles for the remainder of the films – which his creative decisions thankfully paid off.
Columbus continued to explain he knew The Philosopher’s Stone would be a success after an early cut – that was almost three-hours long – was shown for audiences in Chicago which gathered favourable reactions.
“By the time we finished the film and we screened it in Chicago – it’s good luck for us to screen our films in Chicago, so back in the day when we could go to a movie theater we would fly to Chicago and show the film to an audience – the audience loved it. The audience just ate up the film. The film was two hours and fifty minutes long at that point and the kids thought it was too short and the parents thought it was too long.”