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Where Tom Riddle (aka Lord Voldemort) failed in his quest for immortality, the Harry Potter film franchise succeeded...and no Horcruxes were needed along the way! The eight silver screen adaptations of J.K. Rowling's bestselling fantasy novels will live on forever — not only as some of the most lucrative studio tentpoles in box office history, but also as a rare cultural phenomenon rivaled only by other mega-brands like Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With the movie version of Sorcerer's Stone having recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, HBO Max brought a good chunk of the Potter cast together for a reunion special that looks back on the production and legacy of each magical undertaking. A nice little appetizer ahead of the main course that is Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumebldore (in theaters April 15), Return to Hogwarts gives the actors a chance to reflect on how this spell-casting universe profoundly changed their lives forever.
"Every part of my life is connected to Potter," says Daniel Radcliffe, who played the titular boy wizard, during a discussion with co-stars Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger). "I don't think I fully appreciated the reach that these films had when we were in them. The amount of people that have said things like, 'These are the only films my dad and I watched together. We can't talk about anything else and we watch Harry Potter together. That's been our thing.'"
"It's amazing to be a small part of that," adds Grint. "Just seeing it live on and finding new mediums like the stage show [Cursed Child] and Fantastic Beasts, it's living forever and it's amazing to see it."
Watson, meanwhile, opened up about the ambivalence she felt over returning to the part of Hermione for the fifth installment: Order of the Phoenix. "I could see that at times, I was lonely," admits the actress, who did end up finishing out the series through Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2. "I think I was scared. It got to a tipping point where you were like, 'This is kind of forever now' ... The fame thing, it finally hit home in a big way. No one had to convince me to see it through. The fans genuinely wanted you to succeed and we all genuinely have each other's backs. How great is that?"
"We never talked about it on the [set] because we were all just kids," Radcliffe remembers. "As a 14-year-old boy, I was never going to turn around to another 14-year-old and be like, 'Hey, how are you doing? Is everything OK?'"
For longtime Potter producer David Heyman, the beautiful thing about this franchise is how it runs the gamut of swirling, indescribable emotions we all experience as young adults. Millions of viewers around the world got a chance to come of age alongside these actors and see their own adolescent trials and tribulations play out on the big screen. "One of the things that was unique about Harry Potter ... was the fact that you get to see young children grow into adults," he says. "And to see that journey on film...I don't think we've ever seen that before, I don't know if we'll ever see it again."
"It's so ingrained in me as well. I measure my life with these movies," says Grint. "Someone says, 'When did you pass your driving test?' And I'm like, 'Order of the Phoenix.'"
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts is now streaming on HBO Max. All eight Potter films are currently available to watch on HBO Max and Peacock.
Peacock & SYFY WIRE are both owned by NBCUniversal.