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Chris Columbus: In Appreciation Of the First Harry Potter Director

by Conor O'Brien
Chris Columbus

In this week’s In Appreciation Of, we look at director Chris Columbus, who introduced Harry Potter to film audiences.

Welcome to In Appreciation Of, where we highlight actors, personalities, filmmakers and projects that have made an undeniable impact on popular culture.

If you’re a film fan, you’ll find individual directors have their own talents or strengths.

For Chris Columbus – whose filmography includes Home Alone 1 & 2, Mrs. Doubtfire and the first two Harry Potter films, his skill seems to be working with children.

More specifically, getting them to a place where they’re comfortable on camera.

Before we go further, let’s see what Columbus’ young stars have said about him:

“I don’t think anyone could have started the series in the way that Chris did. I don’t think anyone else could have wrangled 30 kids and kept us all focused and happy in the way that he did.

“I’m incredibly lucky to have worked with all of them, but honestly the person that I think had the greatest influence on me out of all of those [directors] is Chris Columbus.”

Daniel Radcliffe, GQ (2022)

“I remember meeting Chris Columbus and Robin Williams. But they just seemed like very nice guys to me — I didn’t understand who I was meeting.”

Mara Wilson, Entertainment Weekly (2018)

By signing on to direct Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (or Sorcerer’s) Stone, Columbus had a behemoth task ahead of him.

Not only was he introducing the Wizarding World to audiences, he was also working with largely inexperienced young actors.

In the past, Columbus discusses feeling stressed during his time making Potter, saying: “I knew if I screwed this one up it’s all over.”

This is hardly surprising, considering all the elements he had to consider while putting those films together.

Who knows whether the new Harry Potter reboot casting will be any different?

It’s a testament to Columbus that all three of the kids he picked – Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson – have all gone on to have continued acting careers.

Of course, the Harry Potter trio are far from the only child actors that Columbus has worked with.

He directed Mrs. Doubtfire, which featured established actors Robin Williams, Sally Field, and Pierce Brosnan.

Columbus cast Mara Wilson who would later play Matilda in the popular film of the same name just a few years later.

He also brought in Matthew Lawrence, of the Lawrence brothers. He would later star in Boy Meets World as Jack Hunter in the last few seasons.

And, of course, Columbus was there at the beginning of Macaulay Culkin’s journey with Home Alone and its sequel.

For whatever reason, he seems to have found a very specific niche. Mentoring young actors early in their careers and getting them ready for major, big-screen films.

The old saying it’s not to work with animals or children. Chris Columbus has certainly done his share of the latter.

If you count the Harry Potter owls, he’s done both in one project.

Who knows what this esteemed director will do next?

Whether return to Harry Potter or something else entirely.

Either way, it’s clear that Columbus has already made his mark in cinematic history.

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