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HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE

About The Production (Continued)
In addition to the tireless search for the child actors to play the roles of Harry, Ron and Hermione, there was also the not insignificant matter of casting the adult roles. "We asked Jo who she saw playing these characters and wherever possible, followed her suggestions," Heyman attests. "For instance, Robbie Coltrane was the first person she mentioned for Hagrid, and Robbie was the first actor we cast in the adult roles."

"Jo definitely had some ideas about casting and for me, a lot of these same actors came into my head while reading the book," Columbus says. "I put together a list of my dream cast. And every one of them said 'Yes.' That never happens. This is certainly the best cast I've ever worked with."

Robbie Coltrane makes no bones about his reason for accepting the role of Hagrid, the gentle, if not gentle-looking, giant. "My son would have killed me if I hadn't, so there was no question of me not doing it!"

Coltrane describes Hagrid as "a bit lacking in social skills. I don't think he would ever be asked to join the golf club, but he's a good sort of fellow who likes dragons and things like that. He's actually pretty fearless and very fond of wild animals, which most people are afraid of. He's a giant and generally they aren't very nice, but he's got the good genes and takes the children under his wing."

Like director Chris Columbus, Richard Harris., who plays Hogwarts' all-knowing Professor Dumbledore, was introduced to the world of Harry Potter by a child close to his heart. "I was asked to play the part and I wasn't going to do it for various reasons," Harris recalls. "Then my eleven year-old granddaughter Ellie telephoned me and said quite simply, Papa, if you don't play Dumbledore I will never speak to you again!' So I didn't have much choice in the matter!"

In fact, Harris claims that Dumbledore proved to be the most difficult part he has ever played. "Dumbledore's presence is felt right through the books, even though you don't see much of him," Harris explains. "He's a very important figure in the stories and I needed to find a rhythm and a metre in this beautifully written dialogue in order to be able to play the part."

Harris chuckles, remembering one magical casting moment. "Chris Columbus asked me to meet the young cast and I came out to the studio and read with them. When I finished the reading, Rupert Grint, the boy who plays Ron Weasley, turned to me and said: 'Mr. Harris, that was quite a good reading. I think you'll be quite good in this part!"'

Alan Rickinan also found himself subject to pressure from the smaller members of the Potter community to play the role of eccentric Potions Professor Snape. "I have lots of nephews and relationships with friends' children," Rickman says. 'They weren't so much excited as insistent that I do the part!"

Although Rickman didn't read the novel until after he read the script, he quickly came to appreciate the story's universal appeal. "It's like any great play or novel which obeys certain rules of storytelling," he observes. "You're gripped from the first page and as you keep turning the pages, you get involved with the characters and want to see what happens next. It's a simple rule, but one which requires great talent."

Dame Maggie Smith had already read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer 's Stone when she was asked to play the role of Professor McGonagall. "I thought it was such a terrific book for kids," Smith remarks, "and I was greatly interested to see how they were going to create this magic on film. What people don't realize is that jobs like this don't come up very often — this story has captured everyone's imagination! And how often do you get to walk around as a wizard wearing great clothes?"

For Smith. Harry Potter offered the added attraction of working with fellow David Copperfield

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