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Harry Potter Star Recalls Fun Hijinks On Set With Maggie Smith, Original Dumbledore Actor Richard Harris

Richard Harris and Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

The Harry Potter franchise famously took young, fresh faces and turned them into iconic actors over the course of 8 legendary films. While Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint skyrocketed to stardom as they grew up in the franchise, there were also some seasoned and well known actors in the original cast as well. One such actor talks about hijinks she got up to with Professor McGonagall’s Maggie Smith at the OG Dumbledore’s (played by Richard Harris) expense.

The Golden Trio were definitely involved in some practical jokes on set, and it appears as though the young wizards weren’t the only ones. In an interview with Express, Zoë Wanamaker, the actress who portrayed the fan favorite character of Madame Hooch, tells the story about how she and Maggie Smith got one over on Richard Harris. This is how she tells it:

You come across so many extraordinary people in this business and he was one of them. There was a day where me and Maggie Smith were sat in the makeup room doing crosswords and having a gossip when Richard comes in, in full costume and just falls asleep. Because he had the long hair and the beard, we tied it all up with little bows.

Richard Harris was the original Dumbledore, and his portrayal of the ancient wizard is one that fans adore. His long hair and beard with the elegant set of embroidered robes is a picture not many fans have forgotten. That image in my own head is now forever replaced with one of a toddler lovingly putting bows in her grandfather’s beard while he’s conked out in the living room, because the picture that Zoë Wanamaker is painting is absolutely adorable. 

Apparently it wasn’t so adorable to Richard Harris, because he woke up angry that shooting was getting cut short. I’m sure that his frustration with a work day shorter than he was used to was doubled when he saw himself in a mirror, covered in bows. In the same interview, Zoë Wanamaker lays out her amusement of Harris waking up angry in a full bow-covered Dumbledore getup:

Cut to about 4pm and one of the assistant directors comes in to say they were wrapping for the day because the kids can only work so many hours. Richard’s eyes open and he slowly lifts himself out the chair and he just screams ‘WHAT!’ in full costume. He was so pissed off. I could not stop laughing.

While it may sound like Richard Harris was having frustration that the set was shortening the days so the kids weren’t overworked, that’s probably not the case at all. It’s a great thing that the set of the Harry Potter franchise was conscious of the kids working there. However, Harris probably spent a ton of time in the hair and makeup chair to get transformed into the headmaster of Hogwarts, so he probably wanted to get as much done in character as he could to make up for it. 

Richard Harris was a great Dumbledore. Unfortunately his death around the time of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ release made it so the role needed to be recast (although, not by Ian McKellen). It sounds like his memory is alive and well in those who he worked with, though, even if it is a memory covered in bows.