harry potter and the philosopher's stone premiere

Maggie Smith and Richard Harris, pictured outside the Magical Menagerie.

Headmaster and Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts, Dumbledore and McGonagall are Harry’s stern but stalwart educators in the ways of the magical world.

Oscar winner Smith dipped into her own past to help create the teacher, who she decided was Scottish. “I suppose McGonagall is slightly like Miss Jean Brodie,” she says with a laugh. “Just a bit later in the day”. The equally venerable Harris says he did precisely nothing to prepare for his role. “How can you research it?” he asks. “The only thing I did was practice his voice: the rhythms, how gentle and precise his speech would be”. So it wasn’t difficult to capture the old wizard’s imposing but eccentric demeanor? “Eccentric?” he says with mock shock. “I forgot about that. “Reshoot, please!”“

Although both of these thespians have decades of experience under their robes, neither has starred in a movie of such magnitude. “I don’t know if I can handle being in a successful picture” Harris says dryly. “I’m used to failure”. For her part, Smith suspects that McGonagall’s intimidating aura may keep pre-adolescent fans at bay. “They’ll probably just give me a wide berth,” she says. - Premiere magazine, 2001