Chris Columbus, original director of the first 2 Harry Potter films, opens up about why he made the decision to step away from the director's chair.
American director, Chris Columbus, director of the first two Harry Potter films, has explained why he decided to leave the franchise after the second film's release. The first film, subtitled The Sorcerer's Stone, or The Philosopher's Stone in the UK, was released in November 2001 to worldwide critical acclaim, spawning off a number of sequels each based on the eponymous book series written by JK Rowling. Following the debut of the film series, the overall franchise has only grown more popular, with releases of theatre plays, theme park attractions, and spin-offs further exploring the Harry Potter universe.
After the extreme success of the original film, the studio was more than ready to continue onto the next film, which Columbus ultimately returned to make. All films in the saga mostly retained the same cast of actors, who were all from the UK and Ireland, per Rowling's request, led by the starring trio, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson, who portrayed Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger respectively. However, after the studio moved on to the development of the third film, Columbus decided to opt-out of directing.
Now, /Film has reported that, during an interview with THR, Columbus commented on his reasoning for leaving the franchise at such an early point. Furthermore, he also mentioned his shift to working as a producer for the rest of the Harry Potter franchise, allowing him much more time to focus on other areas of his life without having full creative control. Finally, he mentioned his family's desire to return to the US, and how departing from the films allowed him to do so. Read Columbus' full quote below:
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 back-to-back shooting. I wasn't seeing my kids, who were young at the time, growing up. 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.
While Columbus' desire to not completely overwork himself is the reason for his departure, it likely could have also been the pressure and difficulty that came with establishing such an iconic work of literature on screen. Particularly in the late '90s, during the development of the first film, all the crew originally had to work from were each of Rowling's books, with written descriptions of the character's appearances and personalities. Supposedly after several films were released, many directors after Columbus had his previous work to take inspiration from, making their jobs much easier than his originally had to be.
Columbus' completely understandable decision to put time with his family over his career can significantly emphasize the difficulties that come with not only moviemaking but also handling such an iconic property. Particularly for the time, most people in Hollywood would have likely chosen to focus on their careers in order to make it further into the industry but with Columbus' tough decision on the map, hopefully, it has become a much easier decision for others. Despite his early departure, Columbus still had a massive impact on the world of Harry Potter, and the franchise certainly owes him many thanks.