Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was unsurprisingly a smash hit when it came to theaters in 2009, but some of the stories from behind the scenes of the production are just as interesting as the tale being told on the big screen. For the sixth film in the Harry Potter film series, most of the actors and crew members had been around the set for a long time, but new challenges, on and off the set, kept them on their toes.
In a film with an equal amount of dark material and witty comebacks, the actors, directors, and other crew members had plenty of opportunities for behind-the-scenes drama, and in some cases - like the Harry-Ginny kissing scene - comedy as well.
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Maggie Smith Underwent Breast Cancer Treatment During Filming
British actor Maggie Smith discovered she had breast cancer during the mid-2000s, but the disease didn't stop her from working. In fact, Smith was filming her role as Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince while undergoing chemotherapy.
During a 2009 interview, the actor recalled how difficult it was to work on the project while going through such an ordeal: "I was hairless. I had no problem getting the wig on. I was like a boiled egg." Smith also said chemotherapy made her feel "horribly sick. I was holding on to railings, thinking, 'I can't do this.'"
Smith beat the cancer and has been acting in various projects ever since.
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Alan Rickman Wrote A Note, Found After His Passing, In Which He Voiced Frustration About David Yates’s Approach To Snape In 'HBP'
After Alan Rickman passed from pancreatic cancer in 2016, a collection of his personal letters was auctioned off in 2018 for charity. Two letters suggested he wasn't happy about Snape's treatment in the film series, at least up through Half-Blood Prince.
Film producer David Heyman wrote a letter to Rickman thanking him for making Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets a success: "I know, at times, you are frustrated but please know that you are an integral part of the films. And you are brilliant."
In another note, titled "Inside Snape's Head," written during the filming of Half-Blood Prince, Rickman said, "It’s as if [director] David Yates has decided that this is not important in the scheme of things; i.e., teen audience appeal."
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Actor Helen McCrory, Who Played Narcissa Malfoy, Was Originally Cast As Bellatrix In The Previous Film
Helena Bonham Carter added to her resume of quirky characters by bringing Bellatrix Lestrange to life in the final four Harry Potter films, but she wasn't the first person cast for the role. The original actor slated to play Bellatrix was Helen McCrory, known for her performances in projects like The Queen, Peaky Blinders, and Skyfall.
But McCrory couldn't commit to filming Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because she was pregnant. McCrory was eventually cast as Bellatrix's sister, Narcissa Malfoy - Draco Malfoy's mother - in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
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Emma Watson Initially Said She Wasn’t Sure She Would Return To Play Hermione In The Film
After filming five Harry Potter movies, Emma Watson wasn't sure she wanted to be on screen as Hermione Granger anymore. During a 2006 interview, Watson was asked about returning to film the final movies after Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Her response didn't please the fandom: "I don't know yet. Every film is such a huge production, and it's a long time."
Of course, she eventually agreed to finish the series, avoiding any "We want Watson" fan protests.
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Ginny’s Quidditch Barrel Roll Took The Visual Effects Team Six Months To Create
Bringing the magical world of wizards to life is no easy feat. The scene where Ginny Weasley does a barrel roll during a Quidditch match proved difficult for the visual effects team.
Nicolas Aithadi, a visual effects artist who worked on some of the Harry Potter films, described the challenge in a 2010 interview with Art of VFX:
We worked on this shot for about six months to create the most realistic character possible. Working out all the details from the eyes to the hair. For a while she looked good, but she didn’t quite look like herself. We ended up making it, but it was a battle.
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Daniel Radcliffe Apologized For Having ‘The Lips Of A Horse’ During His Kiss With Bonnie Wright
During a 2009 cast interview with MovieWeb, the then-teenage cast of the film was asked about their dating lives, which led to a discussion of Daniel Radcliffe's on-screen kiss with Bonnie Wright, who plays Ginny Weasley. Cool as a cucumber, Radcliffe managed to go the self-deprecating route:
I saw the film again a couple of nights ago at the premiere. My God, my lips are like the lips of a horse. They're like distending independently away from my face and trying to encompass hers, so I apologize, Bonnie.
Wright was game for the playful interaction and responded with a solid, "I didn't notice. Don't worry."