From the day the first film, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," was released on Nov. 16, 2001, fans and the now famous faces connected to the "Harry Potter" series sadly knew that it would at one point all have to come to an end.
Luckily, thanks to the depth of author J.K. Rowling's seventh "Harry Potter" book, the finale would be filmed in two parts, giving fans a longer goodbye than first anticipated with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." "Part 1" became an instant smash when it was released in theaters in November 2010, and big returns almost certainly await "Part 2" when it comes out July 15.
In anticipation of the release of the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" films over the past several months I've asked some of the big names connected to the series to reflect on their experiences with everything winding down to a close. Here's what they had to say.
The First Director
Known previously for writing and directing the family comedy blockbuster "Home Alone," and writing the screenplay for the beloved kid-oriented hit "The Goonies," Chris Columbus proved to be the perfect choice to direct the first two installments of the series.
At the helm of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," Columbus had the rare opportunity to work with a then-set of relatively unknown child actors -- Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron) Emma Watson (Hermoine) and Tom Felton (Draco) -- only to see them turn into superstars in the ensuing years.
"It's very bittersweet to go to the movie theater and sit down, to see these four kids growing old so beautifully in a sense and also, seeing them become better and better actors," Columbus told me. "I feel like a proud parent."
'Deathly Hallows - Part 2' Marks Finale Of 8-Film Run
Columbus, who produced the third film "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" after handing over the director's reins to Alfonso Cuaron, is glad that Rowling didn't keep the characters kids forever and gave them much bigger responsibilities as they aged.
"The funny thing is, there were only three books when we started making the films and J.K. was writing 'Goblet of Fire,'" Columbus recalled. "Working on those first three movies, we knew that things were going to get progressively darker as the kids got older, and I'm glad that the movies that followed have kept in line with that original intention."
The Key Supporting Player
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" marks the return of characters who died off earlier in the series, and to prevent spoiling plot details for those who haven't read the final book, I won't reveal how or why.
Among those coming back is Gary Oldman (Harry's godfather Sirius Black) who met his demise in 2007's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."
Oldman told me that his return to the set to film his role in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" wasn't like reporting for another job -- it was a family reunion.
"When I went back to the set, I saw these people who have been a part of it the entire time -- 10 years or whatever it is -- and when you go back it's like seeing your family. It was like, in a way, I had never been away," Oldman said. "I adore the people in the production and particularly Dan. We're very close. I feel very lucky to have been a part of it, and to play a key character. I'm very, very proud to have been involved and been a part of this phenomenon."
In addition to his film family, Oldman had real family on set as his 22-year-old son, Alfie, served as a production assistant on the film.
"It was a gas for someone to knock on your trailer door, and it's your kid, saying, 'Dad, they want you on the set,'" Oldman said with a laugh. "Now he's become part of the family, too."
While the seven books and eight films all have "Harry Potter" in the title, anybody even vaguely familiar with the "Harry Potter" experience knows there's much more to the experience than just the boy wizard.
True, while Harry is the pivotal character on which the story is hinged upon, he wouldn't be nearly as memorable a character if not for those around him, said Daniel Radcliffe.
"I think what makes the books and the films so successful is the range of brilliantly drawn, exciting, interesting and scary characters that are in them," Radcliffe told me. "This world is inhabited by so many very real people. It's made up of people that we love and people that we hate, and people we want to see meet their end and people we want to see saved."
"That's what makes 'The Deathly Hallows' so compelling," Radcliffe added. "We want to see where all of these characters end up."
Gary Oldman and Daniel Radcliffe in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."
Chris Columbus, Daniel Radcliffe and Maggie Smith on the set of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."