How Harry Potter changed my life: part 2

From Zoe Wanamaker to Robbie Coltrane, the HP stars talk to RT


Zoë Wanamaker
Rolanda Hooch


“I became aware of Harry Potter on the set of My Family, when Gabriel Thomson [who played her son], sat with his nose in the book and couldn’t be prised away. I’ve always loved magical stories, so I started to read it as well.

“The books were phenomenally imaginative and very visual, so they were always going to translate brilliantly onto film, and when I was asked to play Rolanda Hooch I knew exactly who she was. I based her on an eagle: she’s strong and mother-like and I could imagine her fiercely protecting her chicks. That is where the contact lenses I wore came from.

“Walking onto the set at Alnwick Castle (above) to see the kids dressed up with their broomsticks was wonderful – just how I imagined it”

Robbie Coltrane
Rubeus Hagrid

“When they announced they were turning the Harry Potter books into films, I had read them all up to that time, to my boy, who was about nine then. I loved reading them to him and found that the wee one had fallen asleep and I’d be thinking, ‘Oh, what happens next?’ So I’d always be some four chapters ahead of him.

“So when JK Rowling said that she wanted me to play the part of Hagrid he was incredibly excited and told all his wee pals. All of a sudden I had a whole new audience of little doe-eyed children. That was quite odd, at my age, for that to happen so late in life. And I’m really lucky that I don’t really look like Hagrid. Children hiss at Alan Rickman in airports – but I don’t get any of that. They see me buying frozen fish out of a cabinet, and say, ‘No he’s not… he’s not big enough, he’s not tall enough…”

“My son’s 18 now but he and his girlfriend still sit and watch the Potter films. There was a place in his development where being a Harry Potter fan was a bit uncool and he left it for a while, but then they all come back to it.

“An actor’s life is all about letting things go and finding something new, but Harry Potter’s been extraordinary, unlike anything else in my professional life, and I’m sure unlike anything that’s likely to happen to me again. I think we all
felt that, really.”

Maggie Smith
Minerva McGonagall

“I am deeply grateful for Harry Potter but I did so little in it that I got to the point of thinking they could make do with just the hat. I was forever doing reaction shots.

“Now that we’ve finished filming, the odd thing is that you think of those young actors who have spent half of their lives doing it – we are talking really small kids who were nine and ten and now I don’t know what they are going to do. And, God, they worked hard. Daniel Radcliffe was so lovely to work with. I’m so glad I insisted they see him for the part.”

Richard Griffiths
Vernon Dursley

“Mr Dursley, how do you feel now the excitement is all over? ‘Over the moon, Bob, over the moon. Us Dursleys have been stuck with Potter since he was a baby. You couldn’t take him anywhere! He let a snake out at the zoo, filled the house with a blizzard of letters, flying cakes, ballooning aunties and we had vampire things attacking us… then to cap it all, we’ve had to abandon the house. It’s been a nightmare on Privet Drive! So when you ask how I feel now it’s all over, I say, over the moon, Bob, over the… Bob? Hello?’

“Richard Griffiths, who played Vernon, when asked how he felt about the ending of Harry Potter, said, ‘Don’t ask’ and closed the door of the darkened room from which he refuses to emerge.”

Gary Oldman

Sirius Black

“I get up in the morning and, with no disrespect to anyone, I don’t have to dig a hole in the road. There could be many worse things that I might have to do than appear in these films that have a real pedigree, and that so many people get pleasure from. A car picks me up, and I go to work, and I’m in Harry Potter. So it’s not bad.

“When you’re in a bit of a slump, maybe sometimes the thought of going weighs heavy. But I’d always find that once I walked through the door and I was on the set, it was fine. In lots of ways, it was a nice thing.

“When you’re working with young actors, you have to be something of a role model, and I think that was one of the responsibilities I had with Harry Potter. They do look up to you, as I think Daniel Radcliffe did. And knowing that, to then be cynical about it – whether about the film or about acting in general – it’s not good.

“You’ve got to be there, you’ve got to be on time, you’ve got to know your lines, you’ve got to know what you’re doing, you need to set an example. You have to deliver, and with Harry Potter I always made sure I delivered.”

John Hurt
Mr Ollivander

“I have to be honest and say the main reason I originally played Mr Ollivander was because my children (11 and 8 at the time) would never have spoken to me again if I hadn’t! They came to the set – as a surprise, they had no idea where they were going – and their excitement and incredulity was wonderful.


“I have now, of course, watched many other children and young people have that same experience. At the last premiere I attended, a huge cheer went up from the crowd, people screaming and applauding – John Lennon must have returned, I thought, but no, it was Alan Rickman…”