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Behind the scenes: James & Lily Potter

From photos to flashbacks, Harry is given glances of his parents throughout the films, and their characters remain an integral presence in the story.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

Extracted from Harry Potter: The Character Vault
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Throughout the course of the films, Harry Potter is given glances of his parents, James and Lily, through the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and in photos given to him in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In their adult years, James and Lily are always fashionably dressed, but modestly and casually, in muted colours and classic tailoring.

Harry looking into the Mirror of Erised
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

While at Hogwarts, James belonged to an earlier group affectionately known as the Marauders. These Gryffindor students, who include Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew, learned to become Animagi to help their fourth member and friend – Remus Lupin, a werewolf. These young wizards band together, and for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban director Alfonso Cuarón, ‘band’ was the operative word.

Initially, the Marauders were to be seen in a flashback in the movie, and so Cuarón gave some thought as to who they were and what they looked like. ‘I was adamant about grounding everything, including the characters, in reality. When I read the books, for me it was very clear that the universe that J.K. Rowling wrote is not a precious one; I think it’s very mischievous, even wicked.’ With that playful idea in mind, Cuarón looked to the Muggle world for inspiration on a group of four young men who had formed an alliance. ‘We had seen flashbacks of [Harry’s] parents, and I thought that James was actually a very cool dude. And this is when I started thinking that the flashbacks should look as if they were the Beatles, circa the late sixties/early seventies.’ Cuarón felt that James reminded him of John Lennon; Gary Oldman remembers the Fab Four equivalent a little differently, however. ‘James was like Paul – good-looking and sure of himself – and Sirius was like John as he was a little bit reckless, a bit of an anarchic troublemaker.’

Moony Padfoot Prongs and Wormtail at Hogwarts by the lake
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The Marauders weren’t seen on-screen until Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but Cuarón’s influence remained. James Potter wears round wireframe glasses and has a mop-top haircut; each of the Marauders has fledgling sideburns. Their Hogwarts robes of that earlier time have thinner collars and their trousers’ waistlines are set lower on the hips.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’s titular group is seen in a photograph featuring a more mature group of Marauders surrounded by other members of the Order. Being a few years later, their clothes are firmly rooted in the seventies: midi-length peasant dresses embellished with velvet, Nehru collars, and fisherman’s caps, albeit with a wizardy approach.

Harry Potter: The Character Vault book cover

Extracted from
'Harry Potter: The Character Vault'