The Harry Potter book series took the world by storm and the story of The Boy Who Lived was a phenomenon by the late 1990s. Of course, that meant the books were destined to be adapted for the big screen, and director Chris Columbus was the one who was tapped to take a crack at it for Warner Bros. Pictures. The pressure was on for the Home Alone director to deliver the fantastical world that fans have been imagining in their heads for years. That’s why an early cut of the movie screened for audiences was almost as long as the theatrical cut of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which came close to hitting the three-hour mark.
In a recent interview with Collider, Columbus recalled just how much anxiety he felt, worrying that he was going to get fired every single day. The director said:
“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.”
But he made it to the end of the production, and when they were ready to screen the film for the first audience to ever see a Harry Potter movie, they went to Chicago. Initially, producers wanted an audience outside of the usual test screening audiences in New York and Los Angeles, and they figured the largest city in the Midwest would give them a different perspective. This was a tradition that carried on for every Harry Potter movie in the franchise, and fans lucky enough to see these test screenings were usually treated to longer versions of the movies. In the case of The Sorcerer’s Stone, they saw nearly 18 extra minutes. Columbus recalled:
“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 films to an audience — the audience loved it. The audience just ate up the film … [it] was 2 hours and 50 minutes long at that point and the kids thought it was too short and the parents thought it was too long.”
Some of this footage can be seen in deleted scenes on the home video release of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone. In fact, some of those scenes have been put back in the movie when they air on television, depending on which channel is showing them. But these scenes were cut for a reason, and the theatrical cut is actually better for it.
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