Harry Potter: 23 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of The Prisoner Of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Poster

When taking a poll of Harry Potter fans, it would not be hyperbolic to say that the favorite book would end up being Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The third book in the series has always been a fan favorite. This, it would stand to reason that the film would also be one of the fan base's favorites to watch. Prisoner of Azkaban as a film is well-paced with great performances by the Hogwarts group,  and also introduces the audience to Lupin.

The film itself was brought to life by Alfonso Cuarón, who was brought in to direct the film. Cuarón was up to the challenge, and made a film which Potter-heads are pleased to call one of the best in the franchise. Rotten Tomatoes currently has the film at a very respectable 91% rating, making it one of the highest-rated Potter films. When a film series gets a new director on board, it can sometimes lead to disaster. Thankfully, Cuarón was able to work well with everyone and make a film for everyone to enjoy.

With a film franchise this big, there are things that undoubtedly go on behind-the-scenes which the public does not get to experience. Whether it is secret conversations which help steer the film, or a crazy prank, it likely happened during the making of this film. With a combination of a new director, established actors, and new faces, things are likely to go off the beaten path sometimes.

Thankfully, all of these moments were caught so that everyone can know about how this movie was made from the inside.

Here are 23 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of The Prisoner Of Azkaban.

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23 Alfonso Cuarón Designed Sirius’ Tattoos

Harry Potter fans know that Sirius Black did some time at Azkaban, but were surprised to see him covered in ink.

When Sirius Black showed up on screen in Prisoner of Azkaban, he looked much different than described in the books.

Cuarón's dark take on the Potter universe included making Sirius look like a real criminal.

Sirius' disheveled look included wild black hair, a grungy beard, and Nordic-inspired tattoos. Despite body art never being mentioned in the novels, both Cuarón and Gary Oldman enjoyed this take on the character.

Not only did Cuarón and Oldman create this vision, but they also designed the look themselves. Oldman was responsible for designing Black's hairstyle, while Cuarón took on the tattoos. One of the very visible tattoos refers to alchemical symbol for Grey Wolf, which ties in well to his Animagus form. With ink that looks this dangerous, it paints Sirius as someone that should not be messed with.

22 Gary Oldman Took The Role for His Kids

Hermione Sirius

Working on a series with the international scope of Harry Potter is sometimes reason enough to want to take on a role. However, some cast members had some different reasons.

Gary Oldman's casting as Sirius Black was a question mark for fans at first as he had never been a part of the fantasy-adventure genre before. However, he jumped directly in to the wizarding world so well that fans ended up being very pleased with the choice. The question is, why did Oldman end up joining the universe?

It turns out, that he was looking to impress his children. By becoming Harry Potter's godfather, he became very popular in the eyes of his kids.

According to Oldman, "You become incredibly cool to your kids, and you get a young fan base. So you became the cool dad at school."

21 Ian McKellen Turned Down The Role Of Dumbledore

Is it be possible that Gandalf the Grey could have also been Albus Dumbledore?

It turns out that Sir Ian McKellen was one of the many actors that was being considered for the role of Hogwart's Headmaster. Prior to Michael Gambon accepting the role, Ian McKellen was near the top of the list. However, he had personal reasons for turning down the role.

McKellen has stated that he had received criticism from Harris in the past, which affected his decision. Given the fact that he knew Harris had not enjoyed his performances, McKellen stated that he "couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I had known didn’t approve of [him].” 

As cool as it would have been to have Gandalf and Dumbledore share the same actor, it is for the best that Gambon was given the role.

20 JK Rowling Based The Dementors On Her Battle With Depression

Harry Potter Battling a Dementor in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

While Rowling's life took a turn to stardom once Harry Potter became an international best-seller, she did not always live a perfect life. 

Prior to Potter, Rowling was reportedly living off of government benefits and struggled to make ends meet.

Ultimately, she was treated for clinical depression during this time period. While this is very upsetting, it did lead her to a break-through which was included in Prisoner of Azkaban.

The way that the Dementors attack their prey was derived from how she felt while depressed.

Rowling says that a Dementor "feeds on you long enough to reduce you to...soulless and evil." Thankfully, Rowling had recovered from her depression and is now living a wonderful life with her family. Kudos to her for openly discussing her mental health with her fans.

19 Hermione Was Supposed To Only Slap Malfoy

When everyone's favorite witch punched Draco Malfoy in the nose, this was not supposed to be part of the script. Thankfully she did, as Malfoy finally got what was coming to him.

According to Tom Felton himself, the script had originally called for Hermione to only slap Malfoy. However, the two actors got together to add more intensity to the scene.

Instead of including a simple screen-slap, the actors agreed to turn it in to a punch.

While the end product looks excellent on film, it took some work behind the scenes to get it right. Felton says that "she actually smacked me on the face pretty hard," and complimented her right hook.

Hermione always had it in her, and is actually the only one of the three to get their hands on Malfoy. Hopefully she enjoyed it!

18 Alfonso Cuarón Could Not Curse In Front Of The Kids

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Poster

If a director has never worked with younger actors before, it can be very difficult. Especially if the director has a tendency to curse.

Alfonso Cuarón's directing career included working mainly working with adults.However, upon taking on Prisoner of Azkaban Cuarón felt that he had to restrain himself since the lead cast consisted mainly of teenagers. Self-admittedly, he felt that he "had to restrain my language a little bit, because I have a very foul mouth." While Radcliffe, Watson and Grint had been working around adult actors for years, Cuarón did this out of respect for their youth.

Cuarón even had a "swear jar" on set which attempted to limit his cursing in front of the younger actors. What could the money have gone towards after production wrapped up?

17 Everyone Played A Big Prank On Daniel Radcliffe

Growing up on a movie set must be challenging for young actors, but comradery like this surely makes it easier.

As seen in the special features for Prisoner of Azkaban, Michael Gambon and Alan Rickman got together to pull a big prank on Harry Potter himself.

While filming a scene which included an extreme-close up on Radcliffe's face, the actors placed a remote-controlled fart machine near Radcliffe.

The two waited until the camera frame was close, and let the machine go. Radcliffe thought that it was some of the other young actors, but was surprised when it was two renowned older actors.

Thankfully this was all caught on film so everyone could share in the prank. Even Fred and George Weasley would have been proud!

16 Hogwarts Express Was Vandalized

Dementor on Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter

How is the train supposed to make it to Hogwarts when it is covered in spray paint?

Since films are not always shot in chronological order, there are scenes from the beginning of the film which had not been captured by the middle of production. Unfortunately, this means that filming can be delayed if something happens to a critical set piece.

The Hogwarts Express was apparently accessible to the public, and was vandalized in 2003 during filming. This ended up delaying the filming process while spray paint was removed and broken windows were repaired.

Since this film includes some critical scenes on the train, the set needed to be in perfect shape.

Thankfully production was not delayed too long, as the film still made its intended release date in 2004. Perhaps a better protective spell should be cast next time?

15 Cedric Diggory Was Not Played By Robert Pattinson

Harry Potter films are not always completely reminiscent of what happened in the novels. However, there was a critical piece of Prisoner of Azkaban which was left out of the production.

Readers of the books know that the Seeker on the Hufflepuff Quidditch Team is Cedric Diggory. While he has a much bigger part in The Goblet of Fire, Diggory is supposed to make his first appearance in the third film during a pivotal Quidditch game. Yet when the game takes place, Robert Pattinson is nowhere to be found.

Instead of taking the time to introduce Diggory to the film, an unknown actor takes the role. Furthermore, this actor is not given any screen credit so no one knows who he actually is.

However, according to the books, this is supposed to be Cedric Diggory. Given his importance to the future stories, introducing him here would have been a wise decision.

14 The Main Cast Wrote Essays To Understand Their Characters

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) receives his Firebolt in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Film teams have a variety of ways to ensure that actors get into character before filming. Some actors keep a journal with the same voice as their character, but Alfonso Cuarón had a different way of approaching the task for his three main actors.

Keeping in true fashion with their characters being in school, Cuarón tasked Harry, Ron, and Hermione with completing an essay about their characters.

Radcliffe, Grint and Watson each approached the essay in their own way, which hilariously mirrored how their characters would have.

Watson went above and beyond with her task, while Radcliffe completed the bare-minimum. On the other hand, Rupert Grint did not even hand in the assignment!

While Grint claimed that some outside circumstances prevented him from doing the assignment, he admitted that “It’s quite Ron-ish not to do it. I think [Cuarón] kind of appreciated that.”

13 Dudley Dursley Has No Dialogue In The Film

Despite being a big part of the Harry Potter universe, Harry's adoptive brother has very little impact on this film.

Dudley Dursley is present for Harry's big blunder at the beginning of Prisoner of Azkaban, which involves Harry "blowing up" his Aunt Marge. While the first film showed him picking on Harry, and later films showed his progression into a junior thug, Prisoner of Azkaban does nothing of the sort. Apart from being shown laughing in the background while watching television, he does not influence anything in the plot. Furthermore, he does not have one line of dialogue in the entire film.

Although it was just the third film in the franchise, this must have hurt actor Harry Melling's ego quite a bit to be given the silent treatment.

12 The director Never Read Any Harry Potter Books

Having some prior knowledge of the source material for a film can be considered a huge asset. Especially considering the deep history of the Harry Potter universe. Now, is it at all possible that the director had never read a Harry Potter book before? It certainly is.

Prior to making Prisoner of Azkaban, Alfonso Cuarón had never read a Harry Potter book before.

Considering that he made one of the most beloved films in the franchise, this is difficult to believe.

However, Cuarón himself stated that "I just thought that it was a big, big kid's franchise. I thought it was something really silly".

Since he had never experienced anything with the franchise before, this can be forgiven. Especially since he did wind up reading them before making the film.

11 Christopher Lee Was Considered For Dumbledore

Fans were almost very close to have two veteran Dracula actors in the same film.

As previously mentioned, when Richard Harris passed away there were multiple actors tapped to take on his role of Albus Dumbledore. While the role would ultimately go to Michael Gambon, fantasizing about what could have been is a passtime of fans.

One of the actors asked to take on the role was Christopher Lee. Lee is most well-known for his work in monster films, as well as being featured in both Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings franchises.

Ultimately, Lee turned down the role due to personal reasons. Given his renowned ability to play villains, perhaps it was for the best that he did not end up playing Dumbledore, who is considered one of the ultimate good guys.

10 Harry Breaks Wizarding Law Without Punishment

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter With Illuminated Wand in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

As previously mentioned, Alfonso Cuarón had not read any of the Harry Potter novels prior to directing this film. However, if he had it would have avoided an fairly embarrassing error with his film.

Potterheads know that the use of magic outside of school while a wizard is underage is considered breaking the law. In fact, Harry is charged with underage wizardry in the fifth installment of the series. However, Prisoner of Azkaban begins with Harry practicing a charm multiple times while in his bedroom at The Dursley's house.

Practicing his "homework" outside of school should have landed Harry with an expulsion, but this was not addressed during the film.

Perhaps it was deliberately left out, however it is a very apparent error to most fans when watching the opening minutes of the film.

9 M. Night Shyamalan Was Asked To Direct The Movie

James McAvoy Split

Not only were multiple actors offered to fill roles during production for this film, but Warner Bros. was also looking for a brand new director for the franchise. Following Chris Columbus' first two Potter iterations, there was a vacancy in the director's chair. While some heavy-hitting directors were offered the chance to direct, there is one surprising name that stands out.

M. Night Shyamalan is well-known for his twist-ending films, such as The Village and The Sixth Sense. His resume had bolstered during the time of this film, and the film studio was targeting him to direct. Shyamalan turned the film down in order to concentrate on his own films.

Unfortunately, his films would be critically-panned from 2006 until 2015. Now he's experiencing a career renaissance.

8 Tom Felton Sneaks Food On To The Set

Slytherin Students

Draco Malfoy cannot even be trusted to stick to a designated lunch time.

Malfoy is undoubtedly one of the most dastardly people in the Harry Potter universe. His hatred for Harry runs deep, and he is responsible for most of the despicable insults that come at Harry and his friends. While Malfoy may be awful, the actor who portrays him is very likable. Tom Felton relishes in the character he helped build, but has revealed that he has one problem while working on films.

Felton has admitted tendency to sneak food and sweets onto the film set in his costume. This issue became so widespread that costume designers had to sew his pockets shut to prevent him from bringing any snacks in front of the camera. Draco may be awful, but perhaps he is just "hangry."

7 Gary Oldman Taught Daniel Radcliffe To Play Guitar

When they are not casting spells, some members of the cast are melting faces on the guitar.

It is a little-known fact that Daniel Radcliffe is a big music fan.

Upon hearing this, Gary Oldman - who is a musician himself - took it upon himself to bond with Radcliffe over music. The two actors ended up working on the base guitar, with Oldman teaching Daniel how to play "Come Together" by The Beatles.

The bond between Harry and Sirius is one of the tightest ones on screen, so it is important that the two actors be comfortable with one another. Sharing their music strengthened the bond between them off-screen, which certainly translated on-screen.

Radcliffe ended up listing this as one of his favorite moments that he has ever experienced on set before due to how much he looked up to Oldman.

6 Michael Gambon Never Read Any Harry Potter Books

Most fans would read the Harry Pottter books the moment that they were released to the public. How is it possible that one of the most beloved characters in the films has never ready any of the Potter books?

Michael Gambon joined the Potter cast during the filming of Prisoner of Azkaban as the newly cast Professor Dumbledore, but he did not know who that was before he was cast.

Gambon had not read any of the novel prior to joining the cast, and was learning about the universe as things progressed. He stated that "If you are an actor all you have is the script you are given. If you read the book you might get disappointed about what's been left out".

Considering that when a scene is left out of a film legions of fans get upset, perhaps he is on to something.

5 Daniel Radcliffe Was Told To Imagine Cameron Diaz

Who knew that Daniel Radliffe had a thing for one of the Charlie's Angels?

Directors often use various techniques to craft the proper reactions from their actors on film. Sometimes this means that actors have to dive in to emotional places to feel certain emotions. Other times it means that they need to experience things exactly as their characters do. However, Cuarón had a different technique to use in this situation.

In order to get the performance he wanted out of Radcliffe, Cuarón asked him to picture something in his mind. What Radcliffe did not expect is that he would be asked to picture Cameron Diaz in a bathing suit.

Needless to say, Cuarón says that he got the performance he wanted out of Radcliffe that time.

4 A Ticking Clock Is Audible Throughout The Final Act

The score of a film is very important part of the cinematic experience. A poorly written score can take viewers out of the moment if it does not match the tone of the film. However, a well-written score only adds to the feelings of drama or suspense that the director is looking to create.

Prisoner of Azkaban's final act is essentially a race against time.

Harry and Hermione are racing to save Sirius before getting caught. Their stressful adventure is underscored by the sound of a ticking clock, which only adds to the anxiety of the situation. By including the essence of time in the film's background music, it allows the audience to understand the gravity of the situation.

It may not be the most important part of the film, but without it, the tone would change completely.

3 Cuarón's Wife And Daughter Appear In The Film

One of the many staircases at Hogwarts

Not only is making a movie difficult for the actors, but it can be taxing for the film crew as well. A great film takes a lot of time to produce, and can mean extended time away from family. Instead of remaining away from his family for too long, Alfonso Cuarón did the next best thing. He brought his family into the movie itself.

Various scenes include framed pictures of famous wizards and witches which are visible throughout Hogwarts, yet are seldom identified. However, one is directly related to the director himself.

During the scene following Sirius Black's attempted break-in to the Gryffindor Common Room, there is a visible picture of a mother soothing her crying baby. This is a unnamed cameo of Cuarón's own wife and infant child. That's not a bad way to ensure your family can hang out at work!

2 Dumbledore Whistles The “Mexican Hat Dance”

Michael Gambon as Dumbledore in Harry Potter

Michael Gambon's take on Albus Dumbledore made him into a much more lively character. This included having Dumbledore make jokes about others, as well as doing some things that fans did not picture Dumbledore doing.

Towards the end of the film, Dumbledore is heard audibly whistling "Jarabe Tapatio", which is more widely known as the "Mexican Hat Dance".

Considering that JK Rowling has not revealed any south-of-the-border Wizarding schools, this is likely a homage to Cuarón's Mexican heritage.

Gambon's much more active portrayal of Dumbledore was very well-received, all the way down to how playful he became following Prisoner of Azkaban.

1 Cuarón Was Surprised That Warner Bros. Chose Him To Direct

Harry Potter Prisoner of Azkaban Daniel Radcliffe Emma Watson Rupert Grint

The list of people that were approached to direct this Potter film is very large, but the studio landed on Alfonso Cuarón. Given some of the other available directors, this was a surprise to most fans, and Cuarón himself.

Prior to directing Azkaban, Cuarón was most well known in North America for his adaptations of A Little Princess and Great Expectations. Both of which are good films, but do not measure up to the scope of a Harry Potter film.

Cuarón was surprised that he was chosen given the adult content of his last film.

Ultimately, any of these concerns proved to be inconsequential as Cuarón would wind up making one of the most popular films in the franchise, as well as other very popular films to add to his resume.


Do you have other Prisoner of Azkaban trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!

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