Richard Harris only agreed to taking the part of Albus Dumbledore after his eleven year old granddaughter threatened never to speak to him again. Patrick McGoohan was originally offered the role but had turned it down due to health reasons. Ironically, Harris had health issues of his own, dying of Hodgkin's lymphoma shortly before the release of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Author J.K. Rowling insisted that the principal cast be British and she got her wish, with two exceptions - Richard Harris was, of course, Irish, and Zoë Wanamaker, though she has made her name as a "British" actress, was actually born in the United States, which is also the case of Emma Watson who was born in France. Other non-Brits in the cast include Verne Troyer, born in Michigan, USA, who plays Griphook (the second Goblin in Gringots' Bank) and Chris Columbus daughter, Eleanor Columbus, who played Susan Bones.
The trouble-making poltergeist Peeves (played by Rik Mayall) does not, in the end, appear in the movie nor in deleted scenes on any home editions of the film. Mayall claimed he didn't find out that he was cut from the final cut until he saw the movie himself. Ultimately Peeves was never used in any of the Harry Potter films.
There was a huge media outcry in Gloucester, England when it was decided to use the local Cathedral for some of the Hogwarts scenes. Protesters wrote letters by the sack-load to local newspapers, claiming it was blasphemy and promising to block the film-crew's access. In the end, only one protester turned up.
The movie is known as "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" everywhere except the USA and so every scene in which the Philosopher's Stone was mentioned was filmed twice (once with the actors saying "Philosopher's" and once with the actors saying "Sorcerer's") or redubbed (notably, one of the times Hermoine says it in the library, her face isn't shown). The reason for this was to keep the films consistent with the book series: the US publisher, Scholastic, had changed the title (and corresponding text) to "Sorcerer's Stone". The title change was done with the consent of author 'J.K. Rowling', but she has since said that she regrets having granting permission, and as a fledgling author she wasn't in a strong enough position to fight it at the time.
Platform 9 3/4 was filmed at King's Cross, but on platforms 4 and 5. J.K. Rowling has admitted that she mixed up the layout of London's King's Cross railway station when she assigned the Hogwarts Express to platform 9 3/4, reached by using magic between platforms 9 and 10. She meant the location to be in the inter-city part of the station, but 9 and 10 are actually among the rather less grand suburban platforms. The movie conformed to the book: the platforms seen as 9 and 10 are in real life inter-city platforms 4 and 5. However, there is, in fact a "Platform 9 3/4" at King's Cross. It's located in the walkway area between the real platforms 9 and 10, as a treat for fans of Harry Potter.
Harry Potter's birthday is stated in the books to be 31 July 1980, as author J.K. Rowling was born on 31 July 1965. By coincidence, actor Richard Griffiths (Uncle Vernon) was born on 31 July 1947. Actor Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) was once reported to been born on 31 July 1989, but this was merely a publicity stunt. In fact, Radcliffe was born on 23 July 1989.
Warner Bros. originally considered making the entire "Harry Potter" series as a set of CGI animated films, or attempting to combine several of the novels into a single movie. The studio's reasoning mainly had to do with concern over the rapid aging of child actors-if production ran too long on any of the films, or if production was delayed between sequels, the leading actors might have to be recast. Author J.K. Rowling vetoed both the ideas of combining books and an animated film, so the studio decided instead to produce all seven (later eight) films back to back so the same child actors could play their roles in every film.
On the Quidditch trophy that has Harry's father's name on it, there are additional inscriptions for M. McGonagall and R.J.H. King. The latter being a reference to John King, the supervising art director on the film.
Nicolas Flamel, mentioned as the creator of the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone, has figured as a plot device in novels featuring characters such as Batman, Indiana Jones, and Robert Langdon of The Da Vinci Code. He was (possibly) a real alchemist (born in France around 1330) who was believed by some people to have produced the Philosopher's Stone. Since there were mysterious circumstances surrounding his death in 1418, it has been rumored that he lived for hundreds of years. The book/movie gets his age right.
Alan Rickman was hand-picked to play Snape by J.K. Rowling, and received special instruction from her as to his character. Rowling even provided the actor with vital details of Snape's back story not revealed until the final novel.
In the trophy cupboard, to the right of the Quidditch trophy, you can see the "Service to the School" trophy with part of "Tom M. Riddle" engraved on it; the trophy and the name on it are confirmed by Ron in a deleted scene from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
The Wizard's chess-set Harry and Ron were playing, the red queen is from the Lewis Chessmen, the most important of all chess pieces dating from the 12th Century. They were found in 1831 on a beach in Uig, Lewis. 78 pieces were recovered in all, and are now in the care of the National Museum of Scotland and in the British Museum in London.
All the cars in Privet Drive are Vauxhalls, no matter the time period. The Dursleys own a silver 2000 Vauxhall Vectra estate. All other cars parked in the drives are Vectra estates in the present day, with Astra Belmont and Cavalier saloons from the late 1980s in the pre-titles prologue.
In the film, the scar on Harry's forehead is off-center. This was done at J.K. Rowling's request. Due to the artwork on the covers of her books, many people have assumed that his scar is supposed to be in the center of his forehead. The books, however, never specify exactly where on his forehead the scar is located.
The exterior used for King's Cross Station is actually St Pancras Station which is just down the road. This was used because the facade of St Pancras is more visually appealing than that of King's Cross.
John Williams composed a piece of music specifically for the movie's trailer, and it is found on the soundtrack as "The Prologue". As of March 2002, he has done this only once before, for Steven Spielberg's Hook. (However, on the collector's edition of the soundtrack for Jaws, a previously unreleased track appears called "Shark Attack" - this was only used in the trailer for that movie - in 1975.)
West Anglia Great Northern Trains, the company that owns "Platform 9-3/4", affixed one-quarter of a luggage trolley forwardly "disappearing" into the wall so as to allow fans (and their parents) to take pictures of themselves seeming to disappear into the wall.
Director Chris Columbus wanted to work with DP John Seale and asked the studio to hire him to shoot the picture, but at that time Seale was committed to shooting Timeline. However, production delays for the latter film enabled Seale to be available for the movie's photography period.
Ron's choice of opening in the final chess match is called Center Counter Opening (or Scandinavian Defense), which, due to its asymmetrical nature, is said to be a highly unpredictable and difficult opening for either side, that rarely results in a draw.
The filmmakers attempted to go the extra mile of matching the kid's appearances to how the novel describes them, by fitting Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) with green-colored contact lenses, and similarly make Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) wear fake buck teeth. But when Dan's eyes reacted strongly to the contacts, and Emma couldn't talk clearly with the fake teeth in her mouth, these ideas were dropped.
In the flying lesson the whistle 'Madame Hooch' is wearing is called a 'Boatswain's Call' and was originally used in the early Navy (before PA systems) to signal an order, because the whistle could be heard from one end of the ship to the other. It is now used in the Navy as a ceremonial whistle.
In order to give Hogwarts Castle an authentic look and feel, much of the filming was done at locations around England, including Christ Church, Oxford, Durham Cathedral, Gloucester Cathedral, and Alnwick Castle. In fact, the only sets that were built for Hogwarts were the Great Hall, the Grand Staircase, and the Gryffindor Common Room. In the later films, additional sets would be built for the various classrooms and other locations around Hogwarts.
Tom Felton did not read any of the Harry Potter books before auditioning, and at the audition the director was asking each contender for the role of Malfoy what their favorite part in the book was. When it was his turn, Felton said his favorite part in the book was the part at Gringrotts, which is what the previous contender had just said. The director saw through this very quickly and thought it was very funny.
At the time this film was in production, only four of the eventual seven books in the series had been published. J.K. Rowling was retained as a consultant on the film, not only to ensure consistency with the first book, but also to avoid conflicts with her vision for the later entries. It has been confirmed that at least one line of dialogue was removed from the script to avoid a contradiction with the then-unpublished "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix".
In the second book of the series, "Nearly Headless" Nick invites Harry to his "deathday" party, celebrating the 500th anniversary of his demise in 1492 (a fact that fans have used to place the entire book chronology in the years 1991-1998). 1492, is, of course, the year that Christopher Columbus made his famous voyage to the New World; this film's production company is "1492 Pictures", a deliberate reference to director Chris Columbus' famous namesake.
At one point, Harry mentions that during his trip to London, he heard Hagrid profess his love for dragons and his desire to own one. The scene that Harry describes was filmed but deleted from the movie.
This movie, the first in the 'Harry Potter' franchise, has the equal highest number of Academy Award nominations by a 'Harry Potter' movie totaling to three. The other series entry to do this was the final film in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. This is the only 'Harry Potter' movie to be Oscar nominated for the Best Costume Academy Award.
The Restricted Section scene was filmed in the Duke Humfrey's building at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. They have very strict rules about not bringing flames into the library. The makers of Harry Potter were the first ever to be allowed to break this rule in hundreds of years.
Had Julie Walters known that fellow Midlander Mark Williams would be cast as Molly Weasley's husband Arthur in the following film, she would have played up their shared accent, feeling this would have helped signpost their family's perceived uniqueness in the magical world.