16 years ago on May 23rd, the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie premiered in New York at Radio City Music Hall. This movie, directed by Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón, is the second highest rated movie of the entire franchise on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 86 percent, only behind of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
To celebrate 16 years of this iconic film, here are 16 trivia facts from the movie that make us love it even more:
In order to acquaint himself with his three lead actors and actress, director Alfonso Cuarón had each of them write an essay about their characters, from a first-person point of view. Emma Watson, in true Hermione fashion, went a little overboard and wrote a sixteen-page essay. Daniel Radcliffe, like Harry, wrote a simple one-page summary, and Rupert Grint, like Ron, never even turned his in.
Alfonso Cuarón had the idea that when the dementors approached the Hogwarts Express the rain would turn to ice. However, due to his thick Mexican accent the visual effects team misheard “ice” as “eyes”. They went as far as to draft a storyboard which depicted eyes falling from the sky, which they presented to a stunned Cuarón, who instantly corrected their mistake.
During the filming of the sleeping bag scene, director Alfonso Cuarón, Sir Michael Gambon, and Alan Rickman played a practical joke on Daniel Radcliffe (who had requested to have his sleeping bag next to a girl whom he liked at the time), by hiding a remote-control-operated Whoopee Cushion in his sleeping bag. According to Cuarón, Daniel tried really hard to stay in character while everyone else was laughing.
Originally, the script called for Hermione to slap Malfoy as opposed to punching him. During rehearsal for the scene, Tom Felton told Emma Watson to slap him, however, he had intended for her to not actually hit him, and thus was taken by surprise when Emma smacked him across the face as hard as she could. Emma said she felt terrible about it afterwards, and didn’t know what she was thinking.
J.K. Rowling said she “got goosebumps” when she saw several moments in this movie, as they inadvertently referred to events in the final two books, she stated “people are going to look back on the film and think that those were put in deliberately as clues.”
Alfonso Cuarón had never read the Harry Potter novels, nor seen the first two movies, when he was offered the job of director. It was Guillermo del Toro who convinced him, saying: “Don’t be stupid; read them immediately.”
Director Alfonso Cuarón had the idea to have Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) wear everyday clothes more often than their Hogwarts uniforms in order to show more of the characters’ personalities. He also gave the rest of the Hogwarts students permission to wear their uniforms any way they wanted to in order to bring a greater sense of realism to the wizards’ school, hence why some of the students wear the uniforms very neatly, while others have the shirts and ties hanging out.
Alfonso Cuarón had the idea to better establish the layout of Hogwarts, to make it seem more like a real place, and not simply a group of sets. “We started linking spaces,”, Cuarón said.
You see that there’s the Great Hall, and right outside the Great Hall, you see a hallway leading you to the staircases. And you take those staircases to the Gryffindor dorm. Or if you walk over the wooden bridge, you exit into a little garden of monoliths. When you go past the monoliths and down this specific path, you get to Hagrid’s hut.
Essentially the entire layout and structure of Hogwarts, and its grounds, were altered for this movie, and remained more or less the same for the following sequels.
It was Alfonso Cuarón’s idea to have a Hogwarts Choir singing as the students enter the school, and he suggested using “Double, Double Toil and Trouble” from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. John Williams agreed, so the tune, and lyrics, ended up being used throughout this movie, titled “Double Trouble”. The Shakespeare/Macbeth motif was used to the extent of this movie being marketed under the tagline “Something wicked this way comes”. And, coincidence or not, the lines in the play are spoken by witches, who are called the “Weird Sisters”.
The symbols under Sirius Black’s picture on the “Wanted” poster translate as “more or less human.”
Filming was halted following the vandalization of the train used as the Hogwarts Express.
During filming, all of the pockets on Tom Felton’s robes were sewn shut to prevent him from sneaking food on-set.
Rupert Grint appeared on-set with his hair dyed blond, as a prank on his castmates. Not knowing it was a prank, Daniel Radcliffe thought the script called for Ron to have blond hair.
This was the first movie in the franchise to extensively utilize real-life locations, as much of the first two movies had been shot in the studio.
During the “Time Turner” sequence, you can hear the sound of a clock’s second hand ticking.
This movie broke U.K. box-office records when it grossed £5.3 million on its opening day of release, May 31, 2004, making it the biggest opening day and single day of all time.