Orientation class for a fantasy world

Tidbits: Even the most dedicated Hogwarts fanatic probably doesn't know all of this.

November 16, 2001|By Robert K. Elder | Robert K. Elder,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Clever Muggle (that's a non-magical person), think you know everything about Harry Potter and his wizarding universe? Think again!

With Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone opening today, Muggles and magicians alike have been clamoring over all things Potter - collecting as much information as they can about their favorite boy wizard and his first flight onto the big screen.

J.K. Rowling's Potter books are a worldwide phenomenon, with more than 110 million copies - in 47 languages - in print in 200 countries of aspiring wizards. But information about the film has been difficult to come by, as Warner Bros. guards hard facts about the film like a three-headed dog guards its dinner. Our spies inside Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry have uncovered a few secrets about the Potter books and Harry's creation and a cauldron full of fun facts about the film:

The original British title for author J.K. Rowling's first book was Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. The book's title was later changed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by U.S. publisher Scholastic. The movie, however, keeps its Philosopher's Stone name only for its British release.

Muggle money - gold, silver and nickel coins - is legal tender on the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom. More than 25,000 of the coins, featuring Harry on one side and Queen Elizabeth II on the other, sold out in less than five hours in September.

The bones of King Edward II are set in the walls of Gloucester Cathedral, where much of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was filmed. The cathedral in Gloucestershire, England, is one of the locations used as a double for Hogwarts, the school where Harry studies magic.

Rowling is most looking forward to seeing how Quidditch - a magical sport, sort of like soccer-meets-football on broomsticks - is portrayed in the film.

One rough cut of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was four hours long; the final cut of the film is 152 minutes.

The parents of Daniel Radcliffe, who plays 11-year-old Harry Potter, initially refused to let their son be cast in the role, wary of the pressures of being the world's most famous wizard. Radcliffe (now 12) previously starred in a BBC production of David Copperfield and John Boorman's The Tailor of Panama.

Because Radcliffe doesn't have Harry's bright green eyes, he was fitted with a pair of green contacts. The contacts, however, were uncomfortable, so Harry's sparkling emerald peepers were colored by computer for much of the film.

Verne Troyer, Austin Powers II's Mini-Me, makes an appearance in the film as a goblin teller in Gringotts bank.

When asked which of the Hogwarts houses she'd be assigned to, Rowling said: "Well, I'd hope for Gryffindor, obviously, but I suspect they might want to put me in Ravenclaw."

Potter fans can go through the "sorting ceremony" online and get assigned their own house at www.harrypotter.com.

Rowling chose the name Harry Potter because, she says, "Harry has always been one of my favorite boy's name. And when I was about 7 or 8, we had neighbors who were called the Potters."

Rowling gets many of her character names from maps. Snape, for instance, is an English village.

Radcliffe, Rowling and Potter all share the same birthday: July 31.

Here's how you pronounce the name of Harry's friend Hermione - Her-my-o-nee.

A female Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher will be appear in a future book, Rowling says.

The character Rowling most identifies with is Hermione: "She's a caricature of me when I was younger." And Ron, Harry's other best friend, is "a lot like my oldest friend Sean," Rowling said.

Rowling first got the idea for Harry Potter's universe on a stalled train between Manchester and London. "I was staring out the window and the idea just came. He appeared in my mind's eye, very fully formed," Rowling told People magazine. "The basic idea was for a boy who didn't know what he was."

Rowling wanted to be a writer since age 6 - although not exclusively for children. She wrote two unpublished novels for adults before making it big with Harry. Before she hit the big time as a Muggle writer of magical tales, Rowling studied French at Exeter University, worked at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and taught English in Portugal and Spain.

Much of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was written by hand in cafes, with Rowling's baby daughter Jessica asleep in a baby buggy.

The first Harry Potter book (302 pages) took five years to write. The fourth installment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (734 pages), took 10 months to write.

Rowling's favorite children's book is The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.

J.K. Rowling has said Harry Potter will be a seven-book series, so there are only three more to go. The next installment will be called Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Robert K. Elder is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

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