Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, reminded audiences of the unexpected decision to have Alfonso Cuarón direct the third installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and how crucial this decision was to the series’ success.
Christopher Columbus directed the first two Potter flicks, and it was widely assumed that he would continue helming the entire franchise, but the director stepped down due to the toll the grueling shoots took on him. Cuarón boarded the Hogwarts Express for The Prisoner of Azkaban. The director moved the films to move toward a darker tone and set the series up for success, Radcliffe told Empire.
“[The Harry Potter producers] got Alfonso Cuarón to come in and direct the third one. Now, by the standards of modern cinema, that decision just looks very smart and good. At the time, I think we can forget how absolutely left-field that choice seemed, as the guy who’d just done Y Tu Mamá También. But again, it’s one of the decisions that our producer David Heyman made that really shaped the next few years of the series and allowed us to go to a darker place.”
Cuarón served an important role in the wizarding world, making it a better if not more grim place.
Radcliffe remembers being surprised the day Columbus announced his departure. He says, “I remember the moment on the second film where Chris came in and said that he wouldn’t be doing any more films. He came in to talk to us about that. I remember being pretty like, ‘Whoa, what happens now?'”
Columbus stepped down and transitioned to a producing role due to health and family reasons. Columbus told The Hollywood Reporter. “I was naive. I thought, ‘Oh, I have energy to do all seven of these movies.’ But that wasn’t the case.” After finishing the second film, Columbus “ could barely speak” and was “emotionally and physically exhausted.”