It’s been nearly five years since the last installment of the Harry Potter franchise made its big-screen debut, but the fandom shows no signs of winding down. Instead, this remains the best-selling book series on record, with a whopping 4.5 million print copies sold.
Fans of the series are clamoring for more from J K Rowling and Warner Brothers, and with a live-action adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them scheduled for next year, it seems that the magical world of Harry Potter has plenty more to offer.
With just over thirteen months to go until the release of this next installment, here are 13 Things You Didn’t Know About Harry Potter.
13. J. K. Rowling Has Been Sued Three Times For Copyright Infringement
First, Rowling was sued by Nancy Stouffer in 1999, author of the children’s fantasy series The Legend of Rah and the Muggles. Stouffer claimed that Rowling stole the word “muggle,” which refers to non-magical humans in Harry Potter, and to a race of mutated humans in The Legend of Rah. Stouffer also claimed that the name of our hero was taken from a series of activity books titled Larry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly. Obviously, there are some similarities here (Larry Potter sounds like a parody name!), but the court found that this was not enough to infringe copyright.
Another author, Adrian Jacobs (or more accurately, his estate) also claimed that Rowling had copied parts of his work titled The Adventures of Willy The Wizard: Livid Land. The short children’s book, Willy The Wizard does have some similarities to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: they are both about magical tournaments involving a water-rescue round. Rowling claimed that she wasn’t aware of the earlier work, and the case was found in her favor.
Finally, Rowling and WB were taken to court over the inclusion of a band called “The Weird Sisters”, when Canadian band “The Wyrd Sisters” refused to allow them the rights to their name. Making Rowling’s record a straight three-for-three, the suit was dismissed out of court.
12. Tom Riddle’s Name Was Taken From A Real-Life Gravestone
It seems that Rowling included some more names in the books that were borrowed from real life. She admits that several characters monikers were inspired by streets and landmarks in Edinburgh, including the famous Greyfriars Kirkyard where two tombstones read “Thomas Riddell” and “William McGonagall.” Presumably, Rowling was hanging out in the cemetery after dark to practice black magic, which enabled her to find fame and fortune with the Harry Potter franchise.
11. Nearly Headless Nick Nearly Had a Song
The Gryffindor house ghost, Nearly Headless Nick (John Cleese) could have treated viewers to a musical number as part of his Deathday celebrations in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. In the books, Harry, Ron, and Hermione attend a Halloween “deathday” party, celebrating the 500th anniversary of his botched execution. This scene was intended to be shown on the big screen, but didn’t make the final cut due to time constraints. Apparently, it wasn’t central to the plot.
10. Different Versions of the Books Exist
When the Harry Potter series was first introduced to the US, Scholastic (the US publishing company) changed various phrases throughout in order to make the language more “American.” The majority of this is found in minor changes between British and US English (truck vs lorry, dustbin vs trashcan, etc). Hagrid’s Scottish burr was toned down in the American editions as well. However, one major change is in the title of the first volume. The original Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone became Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a change that Rowling has since admitted to regretting.
The change was made at the behest of Arthur Levine at Scholastic, who felt that children wouldn’t want to read a book with “philosopher” in the title. “Sorcerer” was felt to be a more magical and child-friendly option.
Since the original publication, some other minor changes have been made by Rowling in subsequent additions – usually to correct minor points that were later found to be inconsistent. These include a change in price from seventeen to sixteen sickles for an ounce of dragon liver, and an edit to the title of a school book, among others.
9. Evanna Lynch Didn’t Land The Role of Luna Because of a Letter to Rowling
In a story that has become the stuff of internet-legend, a rumor exists that Evanna Lynch (who played Luna Lovegood) got the part because she wrote a moving letter to Rowling about her struggle with anorexia. The story goes that Rowling offered her the chance to audition if she beat the disorder, which she did. (Some versions even claim that she was offered the part outright if she recovered!)
In fact, Evanna did battle anorexia, and did write to Rowling many times, but this had no impact on her audition for the role of Luna. Instead, after her recovery, Lynch (who was at drama school) flew to London for an open audition for the part. While she has always been very open about how much her correspondence with Rowling helped her during her illness, the author had no idea that she was at the audition, and it certainly had no impact on the decision to cast her.
8. There Were Several Alternative Titles For Goblet Of Fire
The fourth in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was very nearly named something very different. Before the official title announcement, the book was listed at online retailers as Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament. In an interview, Rowling claimed that she also considered calling the book Harry Potter and the Triwizard Tournament, after the competition at the center of the book’s plot.
In J K Rowling; A Bibliography, it is revealed that the author had another three alternate titles for the book, before settling on ‘Goblet of Fire’. The other options were: Harry Potter and the Death Eaters, Harry Potter and the Fire Goblet, and Harry Potter and the Three Champions.
7. J. K. Rowling Admits Occasionally Regretting Hermione Ending Up With Ron
While most fans are happy with the way that the romantic relationships turned out, there are a number who feel that it would have made much more sense for Harry and Hermione to end up together… and it seems that Rowling herself admits that it would have made sense.
In an interview republished in part by The Sunday Times, she said “For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron. It was a choice I made for very personal reasons.” Later in that same interview, she points out that Harry and Hermione would have been better suited. “In some ways Hermione and Harry are a better fit and I’ll tell you something very strange. When I wrote Hallows, I felt this quite strongly when I had Hermione and Harry together in the tent!”
6. Daniel Radcliffe’s Stunt Double Was Paralyzed During Filming
In 2009, while practicing a scene for The Deathly Hallows movie, stunt double and competitive gymnast David Holmes was flung against a wall in the WB studios when a stunt went sideways. The 25-year-old broke his neck, and despite being rushed to hospital, was told that he would be paralyzed from the waist down.
Holmes now modifies and drives racecars, and is an ambassador for the Royal National Orthopedic Unit.
Interestingly, Holmes is credited as playing Adrian Pucey in the credits to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, but that was an error in the credits. Adrian was actually played by actor Scott Fearn.
5. Jamie Waylett (Crabbe) Was Cut From The Film After Being Arrested For Drug Possession
Fans of the films were surprised to see Crabbe cut from the big screen after the first six films, despite being present in all the books, but it seems that this was due to his problems with the law.
Waylett didn’t cope well with the pressure of fame, and in 2006 was accused of having a problem with cocaine and marijuana. A series of tabloid articles alleged that he was constantly using, and even going to Harry Potter premieres while high. Then, in 2009, his car was searched and found to contain bags of weed and a knife (carrying a knife over a certain size is illegal in the UK) and plants were found at his mother’s house.
He was charged with possession and sentenced to community service. After being cut from the films, he ended up spending time in prison for his participation in the London riots of 2011 (including possession of a Molotov cocktail) and cannabis possession.
4. Daniel Radcliffe Also Admitted To Substance Abuse
Waylett wasn’t the only actor to succumb to problems with substance abuse, as Daniel Radcliffe himself admits that he regularly got blackout drunk while filming the final movies. While he was legally old enough to drink, this was obviously an issue, and he has spoken out in multiple interviews about how unhealthy and reclusive he became in his late teens.
In 2010, he decided to kick the booze, and has been (mostly) sober since, although occasional reports will pop up claiming that the star has been spotted with a drink. He credits Gary Oldman with helping him realize that he had a problem, as Oldman has also struggled with alcoholism.
3. Nicholas Flamel is a Real Historical Figure
Nicholas Flamel appears in the Harry Potter franchise as the wizard and alchemist who discovered the Sorcerer’s Stone. While he’s never on screen, he’s a major part of the book, mentioned several times as the owner of the stone.
However, Flamel wasn’t created for the book. He actually lived in Paris in the 1300s, and was successful scribe and a wealthy member of Parisian society. After his death in 1418, rumor spread that he was actually an alchemist, and had discovered the mythical stone that would turn lead into gold. He has been mentioned in several other novels and films, including The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown).
2. Neither Emma Watson Nor Tom Felton Expected To Be Cast
It’s a good thing that Emma Watson’s friends wanted to play Hermione, or she would never have been cast! The star didn’t plan to attend auditions for the part, but when casting agents came to her school to hold open auditions, she joined in with her friends “for a laugh”. Luckily, the agents saw her potential.
Tom Felton actually did audition, but went for the role of Harry Potter first. After being turned down to be the Chosen One, he tried out to play Ron, and then finally landed the part of Draco Malfoy. On top of this, he admits to not having read the books until after he was cast – although at that point, he did his research.
1. Harry Potter Isn’t Over Yet
While the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione are over, Rowling continues to provide new stories and information for her fans. On the website Pottermore, she has published new material expanding on the existing universe in the form of essays and short stories (including some of James Potter’s adventures at school). She has also been involved in the creation of an upcoming London play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which debuts next year. She’s also dropped hints about an American school of witchcraft and wizardry to appear in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, prompting speculation about a new series taking place in the US.
The Harry Potter fandom has even spread beyond the realm of fiction, with an interactive online Hogwarts (with actual courses in topics such as History of Magic), a real-life Quidditch League, a Harry Potter themed bar and a hotel with Harry Potter themed rooms to sleep in!
Between seven novels, eight feature films and, as we mentioned, even more material beyond the original series, there are many things about Harry Potter that fans should know. Did we miss anything essential? Let us know in the comments!