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Original Director Felt Guilty Leaving ‘Potter’


  • Director Chris Columbus discussed his work on the “Harry Potter” films during the reunion special. 
  • He had fond memories working with the young cast, and the actors felt like they could just be kids.
  • Columbus felt guilty leaving the series, and 3 more directors took his place over the years.

Chris Columbus was the first of four directors to bring the “Harry Potter” films to life, and after the roaring success of the first two movies, it was hard for him to walk away.

The cast and crew recently reunited for the


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special “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts,” and the director said he still feels guilty about leaving the series.

Being the first director of the series was no easy feat, but Columbus made the young cast feel comfortable

After Columbus’ daughter convinced him to read the first three “Harry Potter” books, the director was so inspired that he flew to Scotland to pitch his vision to controversial author J.K. Rowling

Columbus’ ability to bring the beloved stories to the big screen could’ve largely been due to his dedication to creating a comfortable filming environment.

Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter, said that level of comfort started at the audition process and extended to the set.

“My memory of it is that it seemed effortless to you,” Radcliffe said.

But the director wasn’t as confident as the young actor believed.

“Well on the first film, I was dying the entire time. But I just always believe you cannot bring that kind of anxiety,” Columbus said. “I want everyone to feel comfortable. I want everyone to feel like it’s a family. I want everyone to feel like they’re home.”

The director said he ‘always felt guilty’ leaving the series after the first films

chris columbus and rupert grint on the set of harry potter

A few different directors took over the job after him.

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“I do not know of another human being who could’ve started the series in the way you did,” Radcliffe told Columbus.

Although he called it “the greatest experience” of his life, Columbus didn’t stick around after the first two films. He told The Hollywood Reporter in 2021 that, at the time, he was “emotionally and physically exhausted” and missing out on time with his own children. 

“I’ve always felt guilty about leaving. I really did. When I said goodbye to you guys, I was like, I can’t believe I’m leaving these guys,” Columbus told Radcliffe during the reunion special.

The actor told the director that he doesn’t think he ever got “enough credit” for his achievement on “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets.”

After Columbus left, Alfonso Cuarón directed “Prisoner of Azkaban,” Mike Newell directed “Goblet of Fire,” and David Yates directed the final four “Harry Potter” films.

Many of the stars recalled how grateful they were that Columbus allowed them to ‘be kids’ on set

Rupert Grint, who played Ron Weasley, said that Columbus was “such a dad” and made them feel like “part of his family.” And Radcliffe echoed that the director made the set a fun place to grow up. 

“Looking back, I am sort of amazed at the fact that I wasn’t ever like completely overwhelmed by it,” Radcliffe said. “But I also think that was again part of Chris, and the whole crew, just like they kept us having fun the whole time … We were very much just like kids being kids on a set.”

Draco Malfoy actor Tom Felton agreed, saying, “Columbus basically just let us be kids. I never recall feeling like we were working.”

Looking back on the experience, Matthew Lewis who played Neville, said it probably took “a tremendous amount of patience” to work with the young, enthusiastic cast.

Many of the cast members noticed a shift with later directors, who started treating them more like adults.

“It was probably only a couple of films in that I sort of started to feel nervous,” Alfred Enoch, who played Dean Thomas, said.



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