- Chris Columbus said Richard Harris thought Fawkes was a real bird in the second “Harry Potter” film.
- Fawkes the phoenix was actually an animatronic that could move.
- Daniel Radcliffe said that no one wanted to “break the spell,” and made the bird react to Harris.
Director Chris Columbus said that Richard Harris, who played Dumbledore in the first and second “Harry Potter” films before his death, believed that the animatronic Fawkes the phoenix was a real bird.
“So you and I had one of our greatest laughs together with Richard Harris,” Columbus told actor Daniel Radcliffe during the “Harry Potter” 20th anniversary special, which premiered Saturday on
. “We had an animatronic version of Fawkes the phoenix, and it was this big red bird that doesn’t exist in real life.”
“Richard came in, and looked at the phoenix, and said, ‘Wow, they train these animals marvelously these days,'” Columbus added.
Fawkes is Dumbledore’s pet phoenix who first appears in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” Harry first meets the bird in Dumbledore’s office on a “burning day,” where the phoenix bursts into flame and arises from its ashes anew. Later in the film, Fawkes brings Harry the Sorting Hat (and thereby the sword of Godric Gryffindor) and blinds the Basilisk.
According to Radcliffe, those in control of the bird were unwilling to “break the spell” for Harris, making it react to him.
“That, of course, got into a cycle where Richard was like, ‘The bird is responding to me,'” Radcliffe said. “We never told him.”
“No, we never told him,” Columbus said. “He just thought it was a real bird.”
In a previous interview with Insider, Columbus called Harris’ death “a devastating loss” for the film series. He explained that Harris was his first choice to play Dumbledore and he “couldn’t imagine anyone else” in the role. After Harris died, Columbus told Insider, the director had had “long” conversations with Peter O’Toole about taking over the role, but O’Toole “eventually decided, because he was best friends with Richard, that he didn’t feel it was right to step into those shoes.”
Harris died at age 72 of Hodgkin’s disease, The Guardian reported, only a month before the premiere of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” in 2002. That was his last appearance in the franchise, and he was succeeded by Michael Gambon as Dumbledore in the subsequent Harry Potter films.
“Richard was classic, probably one of the funniest men I’ve ever met,” Columbus said later in the HBO Max reunion special. “He was this devilish 11-year-old trapped in a 70-plus-year-old man’s body. He just had that glint in his eye, which made him the perfect Dumbledore, by the way. He was brutally hilarious.”
“Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts” is available to stream on HBO Max now.