Chris Columbus Had Good Reason to Direct Only Two ‘Harry Potter’ Films

Why did Chris Columbus leave the ‘Harry Potter’ film franchise after directing the first two movies? The filmmaker recently explained his departure.


Jan. 2 2022, Published 11:54 a.m. ET

Chris Columbus
Source: Getty Images

HBO Max’s Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts features interviews not just with the cast of the Harry Potter film series but also with the directors behind the hit movies. As Potterheads well know, Chris Columbus directed the first two movies — Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets— before leaving the Harry Potter franchise to other filmmakers.

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After Chris’s departure, Alfonso Cuarón directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Mike Newell helmed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and David Yates took on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and the two-part Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

And as Chris explained recently, overseeing the blockbuster productions was no easy task.

Why did Chris Columbus leave the 'Harry Potter' franchise?

Emma Watson, David Heyman, Daniel Radcliffe, Chris Columbus, and Rupert Grint
Source: Getty Images

Emma Watson, producer David Heyman, Daniel Radcliffe, Chris Columbus, and Rupert Grint in 2002

In an interview marking Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’s 20th anniversary in November 2020, Chris told The Hollywood Reporter he decided not to direct the third Harry Potter film because of how exhausting and time-consuming it was to work on the first two.

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Sorcerer’s Stone took 160 days of shooting, which is ridiculously long. And then, immediately after we stopped shooting, we started shooting Chamber of Secrets, which was another 160 days. That’s roughly 320 days — not counting second-unit [filming] — back-to-back shooting.”

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After Chamber of Secrets, Chris “could barely speak” and felt “emotionally and physically exhausted,” he said. “I wasn’t seeing my kids, who were young at the time, growing up,” he added. “I was missing dinners with them. I thought, ‘I can’t do another six, seven, eight years of this. My kids will grow up, and I’ll never get to know them.’”

Chris executive-produced ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,’ too.

Even after he gave up the director’s chair, Chris didn’t leave the Harry Potter franchise — not immediately, at least. He served as an executive producer of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third film in the series.

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“As a producer, I don’t have to be there all the time,” he explained to THR. “I can be on the set a few hours a day. I can sit in on certain visual effects meetings, but it means I can get home in time for dinner, to see my kids in the morning to go to school. And by the time Azkaban ended, my family was ready to come back to the States. They missed their friends, and so it felt like the logical time to say goodbye.”

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He wants to make a ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ film.

After his Harry Potter films, Chris went on to helm Rent, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Pixels, and other films. But he’s eager to return to the world of Harry Potter with a film adaptation of the stage production Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson reprising their roles from the original films. “A version of Cursed Child with Dan, Rupert, and Emma at the right age, it’s cinematic bliss,” he said.

Chris went on: “If you’re a film nerd or cinephile, it’s kind of like what J.J. [Abrams] did with Star Wars. Star Wars really started to be great again when J.J. made the [Star Wars: The Force Awakens] and we had all the original cast back. … It was very moving. I think that would be the same situation for Harry Potter fans. To be able to actually see these adult actors now back in these roles? Oh, yeah. It would be amazingly fun to make that film — or two films.”

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