'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' countdown: Remembering 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'

EW-cover-Harry-Potter-614Once upon a time (in 2001, to be exact), there was an 11-year-old boy with a lightening bolt scar who was unaware of his extraordinary powers. And I’m not just talking his soon-to-be-discovered magical prowess, but also his jaw-dropping power to inspire millions of fans young and old to excitedly storm their local theaters to catch the first showing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. (The experience of seeing the film for the first time was priceless for many, and it certainly paid off for Warner Bros.: The studio bagged a record-breaking $33.3 million during the first day, beating the one-day record previously held by Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and $90 million during the movie’s opening weekend.) It’s appropriate that J.K. Rowling’s boy-wizard creation is nicknamed “the boy who lived” — Harry Potter might have survived Voldemort’s attack on his parents, but he’s also boasted incredible longevity on the big screen, continuing to cement himself as the beloved, albeit scarred, face of one of Hollywood’s most enchanting juggernaut franchises.

So, in anticipation of the Nov. 19 release of part one of the franchise’s final film — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — we’ve decided to take a look back at the movie that chronicled the bespeckled boy-wizard’s first trip to Hogwarts: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And remember how much we were all affected seeing Rowling’s bewitching, fantastical world brought so accurately to life on the big screen. Even EW critic Lisa Schwarzbaum — who gave Sorcerer’s Stone an enthusiastic B grade — understood the giddy admiration felt by Potter fans seeing their favorite Hogwarts landmarks from the comfort of their theater seats: “[Director Chris Columbus] translates places previously imagined by millions of readers into shiny images absorbable by millions more. These are pictures so inevitable (to a populace raised on David Lean epics and Macaulay Culkin vehicles) as to provoke a shiver or a sigh: This long, dense, special-effects-laden movie, crammed with subplots involving dragons, ghosts, bullies, evildoers, and moments spent in front of the dark, tantalizing Mirror of Erised that reflects Harry’s sad longing to be reunited with his dead parents, feels as familiar as worn flannel.”

True, it was impossible to not feel warm fuzzies buying a ticket to the film — I remember the heightened excitement that permeated throughout my theater in 2001 with each preview shown before Sorcerer’s Stone, and the eventual look of gleeful recognition that fell over theater-goers’ faces when they spotted locales like Diagon Alley, Flourish and Blotts, and Gringotts Bank for the first time. And they could thank Columbus for that vision, which was inspired not only by Rowling (who told EW that she had a surprising amount of input in the film), but also filmmaker David Lean, who adapted Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations in 1946 and Oliver Twist in 1948: “That sort of darkness, that sort of edge, that quality to the cinematography,” Columbus told EW back in 2001. “For the color palette, we talked about Oliver! and The Godfather, which have a sort of rich, almost Technicolor quality to them. When we entered Magicland — which is how we always referred to Hogwarts — I wanted each frame to be filled with a sense of wonder.”

And Potter fans definitely noticed Sorcerer’s Stone‘s wonder: There was nothing quite like seeing a theater full of hardcore Rowling devotees leave a theater satisfied with the very difficult adaptation, which reportedly cost $125 million to make. And it was indeed difficult — EW’s cover story on the first film describes how screenwriter Steve Kloves thought translating Rowling’s words to a screenplay was “a bitch,” seeing as how he had to write one film while setting up the story for six more. But, honestly, what Muggle didn’t want to immediately enroll in Hogwarts after seeing Columbus’ very impressive effort?

And then there are the film’s stars — Daniel Radcliffe as Potter, Rupert Grint as best bud Ron Weasley, and Emma Watson as overachiever Hermione Granger — whose precious adolescent cheeks were so pinchable back in 2001, it’s hard to believe they’ve grown into the good-looking and well-respected actors they’ve become: Radcliffe as a strong-jawed thespian who’s made an impression in film, on TV (Extras), and on Broadway (Equus); Grint as a buff, critically beloved star of small films like Driving Lessons; and Watson as a demure co-ed (she’s currently enrolled in Brown) whose intelligence, talent, and maturity rivals her big-screen alter-ego. (Oh, lord — who else feels old just thinking about how young these actors looked in Sorcerer’s Stone?) But while filming Sorcerer’s Stone, Robbie Coltrane — who was handpicked by Rowling to play Hagrid in the franchise — said the trio acted just like the kids they were (and not children who were about to become household names across the world): “They’d throw things at each other and play their Game Boys,” the actor told EW before the release of the movie. “They liked to get the makeup people to give them gashes. Daniel got one to give him a black eye, and he came in the morning and the other ones said, ‘OMIGOD! What happened? … [Columbus] was wonderfully patient. He should be sainted. The trouble with children is that they don’t have the same emotional memory adults have. I’d have been like, C’MON, YOU LITTLE S—! I WANT TO SLEEP! I HAVEN’T SLEPT FOR FOUR WEEKS!! But he doesn’t. He just goes, MmmmHmmm. It’s extraordinary how he gets performances out of them.” And Radliffe, whose overprotective parents almost didn’t allow him to play Potter, even impressed cast members back then with his ability to transform into “the boy who lived.” Said Coltrane: “He holds the film together. He’s in almost every frame … Dan is an 11-year-old with a 35-year-old heart. There [is] so much depth, so much going on behind his eyes, you realize: This is a kid who has lived a life. This is a kid who can appear haunted and troubled by his past. Yet he’s charming. That kind of maturity is hard to find in an 11-year-old.”

And hard to find in a 21-year-old, yet Radcliffe still seems to exhibit it, if the widespread anticipation for Deathly Hallows is any indication. (In fact, Potterphile friends of mine are already planning what to wear while waiting in line at midnight Friday.) But no doubt plenty of you are already watching Potter marathons to prepare for Nov. 19. So, tell us, Muggles — looking back at Sorcerer’s Stone, do you still feel like it holds up today? Do you feel old seeing an 11-year-old Radcliffe? What was your Sorcerer’s Stone theater experience like? Had you read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone before seeing the movie? (Let us know in the poll below!) And check back on EW tomorrow to remember the second film in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!

Comments (113 total) Add your comment
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  • Liz

    I’m so excited and tear up every time I read an article about how long it’s been since the start. The world raised Harry Potter and I’m so proud of who he becomes in DH, I can’t wait to see it play out!

    • Seddie is meant to be

      Its been forever, I can remember how painfully bad the performances by the child actors were at the time, they have gotten better but they are still far inferior to the books, as for the movies, they have only become watchable starting with the 5th one – the best actor of them all is the one who plays Luna

      • steph

        my friends and I would play drinking games to the first movie – we had to stop halfway through most times!

      • AcaseofGeo

        Seddie, What confundus spell are you under??? Those kids were believeable and adorable from the very first frame. Yes they have definitely grown as actors, but they were fairly AWESOME to begin with. (And, yes, I like the books better, but hard to argue against either movie OR film).

      • Galic

        I have an exact opposite feeling re: the kids. Radcliffe might be the most perfect casting job in any film. He IS Harry Potter.

      • Zoot

        You are so off. Daniel Radcliffe was an accomplished actor long before Harry Potter. Watch him in David Copperfield.

      • Liz

        The only gripe I have about DR as Harry Potter is the eyes. They are not Lily’s eyes. Also, the piss poor casting of Lily and James. They were 21 when they died, the actors who played them were clearly not that young. Especially James. Very poor casting.

      • Borjan

        Liz, that’s pretty silly. What’s wrong with the eyes? It doesn’t matter if they arent GREEN, they just have to be like Lily’s eyes – so her eyes in the movies are blue. Rowling said she didn’t want to force him to wear contacts.

        As for the ages, even Rowling herself admitted she might’ve made them a bit TOO young when they married. It’s an alternate continuity – just pretend the timelines are different. Though they DO get a lot older as well, which makes the Dawson-Casting even more egregious – the same actors playing characters who never age because they are dead and only appear as ghosts or in flashbacks … at least they hardly appear as a whole.

      • Audrey

        It has been wonderful to see their performances grow and see them develop as actors. That being said, I can’t help but cringe when I see the first two films… all wide-eyed reaction shots, shoddy timing and silly-looking special effects. As a thirteen-year-old watching the films then, I was transfixed. As a twenty-four-year old watching them now, I’m just bored! They really pick up with PoA, and from then on each is better than the one before.

      • Jerry

        I thought Luna was painful to watch in the 5 movie. I thought the acting in the first few films was just fine.

      • Sam Benson

        If any of you have seen the BBC comedy “My Family” there is an actor who plays Michael on the show who would have been the perfect Harry Potter and I always thought he should have been casted for the role instead of Daniel Radcliffe

    • Borjan

      Just in case you didn’t recieve my first message (I don’t know if it was addressed to you, sorry), here goes:

      Nothing wrong with the eyes. It’s neer stated that they must be GREEN – only that they must match Lily’s. The film version of Lily therefore has blue eyes to match Daniel’s colour. Though green eyes ARE more unique, saying they are ‘not Lily’s eyes like that is a sign of not doing the research. If the two actors who play Harry and Lily had DIFFERENT coloured eyes in the movies, that would be a different story.

    • Celia

      Same here! Can’t wait! I had not read the first book (or even knew it existed) before I saw the movie. The first HP book I read was Prisoner of Azkaban followed by Goblet of Fire, so imagine my shock when I showed up to watch Sorcerer’s Stone and it was nothing like the books I’d read. However, I think that’s when I was officially a fan of the series.
      I still have this issue of EW. It was so exciting to actually SEE HP for the first time. :D

    • erin

      :: lightening bolt scar ::

      Should be :lightning: bolt.

  • Michael

    I too am dressing up for the midnight premier! My friends and I are going as Dobby, Hagrid and Voldemort!

    • erin


  • Alli

    I saw Sorcerer’s Stone the day it came out- I was a senior in high school and my parents took me out of school so we could see it together. It blows my mind to think at that time Goblet of Fire was just out and we had no idea how it would all end.

    • Casey

      You were a senior? …I was 9 when I saw Sorcerer’s Stone. I still remember how excited I was that Hogwarts and everything and everyone was exactly as I had imagined. My cousin still tells me how I talked his ear off and ate all the popcorn during the movie.

      • steph

        LOL, I would have been a senior that year too. Thanks for making me feel old ;D

  • Mary

    I’ve been rewatching some of the films with my son, starting with POA. We haven’t seen them in a while but for the most part they hold up beautifully. Daniel Radcliffe has been a truly wonderful Harry. I wish them all the best of luck.

    • chris

      My daughter is seven – she saw the first three films with me this week during my HP-marathon. ;-)
      She loves them.

  • Just Jules

    I hear they were in production on the series for exactly 9-3/4 years… :D

  • brandinb

    I was a senior in high school as well. We skipped school and went to see a matinee on the day it was released. The local news was there filming all the people dressed up in wizard hats. It is crazy to think it is all ending soon. I am eagerly waiting for 12:00am on Friday.

  • Daisy Steiner

    Why is it called ‘The Sorcerer’s Stone’ in the US, but ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ everywhere else? I never understood that.

    • Traci

      The US publisher didn’t think American kids would understand the word philosopher. They wanted something that sounded more magical. One of the names they suggested was “Harry Potter and the School of Magic” the author and the editor settled on Sorcerer’s Stone.

      • Celia

        Translation…they thought Americans would be too stupid to know what a philosopher was. Lol.

      • Vickie

        @Celia: Actually no. Philospher just has a slightly different connotation over here, less magical than its meaning in Britain.

    • BFD

      The publishers thought US readers wouldn’t get it. The altering for US audiences wanned over the subsequent publications, allowing.

      My disappointment is the lack of release of the Stephen Fry read audio books in the US.

      • Traci

        I’m so used to Jim Dale. I hear Steven Fry and I’m thinking “who is that strange person reading Harry Potter” Everyone has their own favorite though. I’m sure you can order them online. The problem is you are dealing with the rights of the American vs British publishers so they can’t put the British audiobooks out in our stores.

      • Charles

        I’ve never heard Stephen Fry and I’m sure he’s probably great. But Jim Dale is simply marvelous as he does all the voices and makes it almost a one man play. I’ve heard all the books and sometimes still marvel at his wonderful skill at bringing the books alive. Also loved him as the narrator of “Pushing Daisies”.

      • SA

        Some friends and I just recently rewatched the first and second movies and spent the entire time marveling at how young the actors look. And then we stopped, and remembered that those actors are our age, and we looked just that young when those movies came out too. Its kind of a weird feeling.

      • Daisy Steiner

        You can get most of the Stephen Fry-read books on youtube.

    • Cara

      They figured most American kids wouldn’t know what a philospher’s stone was…plus, of course, the stone in the book isn’t a proper philosopher’s stone anyway.

      Lots of books have their titles changed when they go from the UK to US markets, and vice versa… For example, Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s “The Truth About Stone Hollow” (the original, US title) became “The Ghosts of Stone Hollow” in the UK… And the Madonna movie “Madonna: Truth or Dare” became “In Bed With Madonna” in the UK. So dumbing-down titles happens both ways!

    • Lisa Simpson

      It has more to do with the development of language than dumbing it down for Americans. The word “philosopher” has lost any connotation it had with alchemy and the occult, with the exception of its connection to the phrase “philosopher’s stone.” And, as Cara pointed out, the stone isn’t an actual philosopher’s stone anyway, as a philosopher’s stone was used to turn base metals into gold (hence its connection to alchemy). Sorcerer’s stone is actually a bit more accurate, even though the original Nicolas Flamel was an alchemist.

      • James G

        Actually, the stone in the books and film both turns metal into gold AND liquid into the elixer of life

      • Lisa Simpson

        Ah well, it’s been a long time since I’ve read the first book and seen the movie, and I’ve forgetten so many of the details.

        However, the meaning of the word philosopher has changed over the centuries, and until fairly recently included scientists.

    • sd

      because to an american a philosopher is one who studies thought and general issues. the contemplate life, happiness, socrates. It has no connection to wizardry or the world of harry potter to us.

  • Traci

    I was able to see it with some of my friends on midnight the night before as we had a friend who managed a movie theater. Then we took the school age kids from the daycare where I worked to see it over Thanksgiving break (I read the book aloud to them in the months leading up to the film). It was great to see it once with a bunch of 20 somethings then again with a theater full of 6-12 year olds.

  • LIZ

    My brother insisted that I and our Mom go see Sorcerer’s Stone on her birtday. He’d already seen it and wanted to watch it again because he was impressed with how the quidditch match was conceived, staged and filmed. I thought the movie was charming but I didn’t really get into the whole Harry Potter phenomenon until I read Goblet of Fire a year later. I’ve been addicted to the books and movies ever since…

  • Jello

    The kids were so precious in SS now in DH gorgeous young adults. :)

  • PNK

    I just rewatched Sorc. Stone and it is so good! Same with Chamber, and of course the stellar Prisoner/Azkaban, Goblet, and Order of the Phoenix!
    Films 3, 4, 5 set a huge artistic, authenticity, and magical action bar!
    Deathly Hallows looks to continue to awesome magic. LOVE RADCLIFFE

    • Celia

      Just watched them too on ABC family. I get so emotional now when I see the earlier films, because I can link all of them to certain moments in my childhood. Also, it’s SO crazy to see the cast look so young. And it’s especially crazy to see Richard Harris playing Dumbledore.

    • JS

      The thing that always amazes me is the change in the depth of the movies (and books) starting w/ Prisoner of Azkhaban and accelerating even further with the later movies/books. The stories go from relatively simplistic to complex – something that I can only compare to the transition from the Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings. The stories grow along with the audience.

      It a bit off topic, but it’s this exact thing that makes me wonder if The Hobbit movie will be successful. Unless the book is heavily adapted, it will represent a “shrinking” and simplification of the LOTR world that I don’t think will be well received. The HP series has set the bar for growth of a series.

  • chocolateislove

    Harry Potter has basically defined my life. I’ve been reading the books since I was in second grade, and now I’m a freshman at college. I really think it has brought together a generation of kids who grew up reading it and I’ll be sad when it’s done. But it’ll never be gone.

  • Eve

    Hahaha, I still find it ridiculous how you Americans felt the need to change it to “Sorcerer’s” Stone. I mean, I was six when I read it the first time and I knew what a philosopher was. We Canadians don’t underestimate the vocabulary of our children!

    • Brit speak

      I believe this was addressed further up thread, but it has more to do with the term philosopher lacking an attachment to the occult in the US vernacular. It’s just semantics and philospher has a very distinct meaning in the US that is perhaps different than other places. Why would Kant, Decartes or Nietzsche need a type of rock to help them make magic? Philosphers don’t really rely on magic. They are great thinkers. It’s really not that far fetched to believe that things translate differently, if you take a moment to actually think about it. After all, simple words like “fanny” have COMPLETELY different meanings on either sides of the pond. If you grew in Canada, then you were likely more exposed to the British versions of things, than perhaps people in another country that isn’t part of the British Commonwealth is.

    • Zoot

      It has nothing to do with underestimating anything. It’s a geographical thing between the U.K. and The U.S.. Brits call the cover over a car’s engine a bonnet. To us, a bonnet is something to wear on our head. No right or wrong, just different.

  • chattypatra

    By the time the first movie came out I had already read the book a dozen times. Therefore, my expectations were extremely high, and the movie didn’t meet them. I actually cried like a baby because I was so upset that lines had been given to the wrong characters and that scenes had been added which weren’t in the book, when so much material had been skipped. Of course, now I feel differently about it and love the movie for what it is. The kids were so cute! Deathly Hallows is my favorite novel of the series after Prisoner of Azkaban, so I really want to see these last two movies. Thank you, Ms. Rowling!

  • Sal

    I’m in the 3rd group… still haven’t read any of the books. But I hope to finish them all before Part 2 comes out.

    • Liz

      It’s crazy to me that there are people that haven’t read the books! I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s because HP has been such a huge huge huge part of my life. I can’t even remember life before I knew Harry, Ron and Hermione, because “There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other” :)

    • b

      The books >>>>>>> the movies.

      If you’ve seen the movies, you will be shocked at the amount of information (backstory, world building, etc) that was left out of them, starting with #3. I mean, it’s to the point where I honestly don’t see how people who haven’t read the books even understand what’s going on in the movies, but you must just have an entirely different narrative for it in your head than I do.

    • GS

      Wow, you must read very slowly. I read all 7 of the books in 3 weeks this summer. Once I started I couldn’t stop until I was finished. I had not seen a movie or read a book before then and I was 38 years old. Now I’ve read all the book and seen all the movies and can’t wait for DH. The trailer for DH is what made me decide to finally read the books and I wouldn’t watch the movies until I had read all the books. The books are better but the movies are great on their own as well. Great casting for the most part.

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