10 Things We Learned About Harry Potter While at Celebration 2015


At the recent Harry Potter Celebration at the always-wonderful Universal Orlando resort, we were treated to a special, incredibly intimate press conference featuring actors from the original "Harry Potter" films. Michael Gambon, who played Professor Dumbledore (after Richard Harris died), Evann Lynch, who played Luna Lovegood, and James and Oliver Phelps, who played Fred and George Weasley, respectively, were seated inside the Leaky Cauldron and gamely answered questions from a small assortment of press. (If you haven't been to the Leaky Cauldron, inside the recently opened Diagon Alley section of the Wizarding World, it is definitely a must.) It was a wonderfully informal gathering, made all the livelier by free cups of warm Butterbeer (yum!) But it was also quite informative.

Below are ten things we learned from the gathering, and if you want to read even more from the stars – straight from the Harry Potter Celebration – please read our interview when the Phelps brothers and Lynch. (These anecdotes are definitely skewered towards Gambon and Lynch, so if you want some Phelps goodness, please consult our interview.)

1.) It Was Michael Gambon's First Time at the Wizarding World
When someone asked Gambon what he thought of the Wizarding World, the actor was so new to the surroundings that he just started listing off things that were around him, kind of like Steve Carrell in the first "Anchorman" ("I love lamp"). Gambon's answer, word-for-word, follows: "This is it. It's very good. It's very nice. I like the chandeliers. It's very good. I've just walked in. I like the beams across the roof. It's all very accurate." Yes.

2.) It's Bringing in Generations of 'Potter' Fans
James Phelps said that, the "Harry Potter" franchise is "unique in that it's the first franchise to have theme park attractions like this." And he is right – it's the first franchise, especially one this new, to have two entire lands devoted to it. He then shared a funny observational story. "I saw a guy with his grandkids. The kids were like, 'We've got to go to Hogwarts.' But he didn't know what's going on." Of course, chances are he went and had the time of his life anyway.

3.) For Gambon, 'Potter' Is About Danger
When asked why the "Harry Potter" stories resonate, Gambon had a simple explanation: "It's children and danger; children looking at life through imagination and the danger of all these monsters." He then paused and asked us: "Is that right?" After a mother moment he concluded that he was, in fact, right. "I think that's what it's about."

4.) James and Evanna Love Coming Back
Many of these actors were just here for the opening of Diagon Alley last summer. And from the sounds of it, they'll be back anytime Universal asks them. James Phelps said, "We have such a great time when we come here. If we didn't, we wouldn't come. The fans are lovely too; they're very warm. They'll say hi but they won't invade your privacy. When you come here, you see the adulation for what you've done and that's a unique experience." Lynch (who is, it should be noted, a die hard Harry Potter fan) added: ": It's so much fun for us and to come back every year and be met with that same passion. We had so much fun on the films and being actors in this industry, you don't always get that warm reception and to have something that's always going to be a part of you. For me I was into it long before the films. So I can't detach myself from the films." Oliver then added about the Celebration: "It's more than just a bunch of Potter fans going on the ride, it's a whole weekend."

5.) Gambon Was Pretty Confused
It sounds like the experience of shooting the "Harry Potter" movies was a pretty baffling experience for the veteran actor Gambon. "I never really knew what was going on in Harry Potter, because Dumbledore is such a small part," the actor confessed. "I just pretend all the time. And then in the other scenes, they tell me that I've read them but I haven't read them very carefully." Still, he admitted: "But that's my fault."

6.) Evanna Was Really Looking Forward to This Weekend
When the stars were asked about their plans for 2015 (the Phelps brothers are big cricket fans and looking to do some traveling), Lynch shot back with an insanely charming answer that certainly made the folks at Universal Orlando happy. "I can't really look past the weekend. I've been looking forward to this weekend since we were asked to come a couple of months ago. That's a really boring answer." It's not boring; it's adorable.
7.) Gambon Barely Worked with the Young Actors
Being the elder statesman of the "Harry Potter" franchise (and the Phelps brothers and Lynch pretty much being "kids" when filming took place), someone asked Gambon what it was like working with child actors. His answer was typically amusing and slightly confused (he was like this the entire time and it was super-endearing). "They didn't tell me there were many children in it. For me, you become unaware of the children involved, because you don't see them. They're ushered away from the set as soon as the scene is done. I didn't meet many children." That's right folks, while filming "Harry Potter" Michael Gambon didn't meet many children. Just let that marinate.

8.) Evanna Doesn't Consider Luna A Feminist
It's always interesting to think of the "Harry Potter" characters are real life people, so when someone asked Lynch whether she thought Luna was a feminist, she shot back with a thoughtful answer that gave the character some real dimension. "To be honest, I don't think Luna thinks of feminism because I don't think she thinks there's a divide. She's unaware of a lot of things – that people think she's weird and people don't like her – she doesn't look at things and says, 'This person is being mistreated.'" Lynch then added: "She has love for everyone and appreciation of everyone. I think the idea that people would be prejudice about their sex would be ridiculous."

9.) Gambon Has An Idea For the Prequel
Of course, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," the upcoming prequel film that is being written by J.K. Rowling and is set to be directed by longtime "Harry Potter" filmmaker David Yates, was on everyone's mind. When someone asked Gambon about the prequel movie, he gave a rambling idea of what the prequel should be – something like "Dumbledore Begins." "Which one is that? He'd be growing up a young guy and starting his career in magic and in the building. He'd be worried about his money and doing well and running things. Because that's what you really want to do – be controlling." After an awkward moment of silence, he addressed the small crowd. "You're supposed to laugh." Then: "Anyway... I don't know."

10.) Gambon Is Not Going on the New Ride
As she pointed out in our interview, Lynch had yet to ride the Escape from Gringotts ride at Diagon Alley. But she was anxious to all the same. One person who definitely was not was Gambon. Just read this quote and luxuriate in it. "No way! I love it and came six years ago and got on that one that's the really bad one. I nearly died. Dan Radcliffe was sitting next to me and I kept my eyes shut and I was praying and feeling awful and he was grinning. I am so old but I can't stand it. I would love to go on but maybe if you paid me some money." Keep in mind the following: 1.) he is calling the relatively tame Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey "the really bad one." 2.) Daniel Radcliffe terrorized him by taking him on the ride. And 3.) he will only go on this new ride if you pay him. What a genius!