Alfonso Cuarón Got ‘Confused’ by ‘Harry Potter’ Director Offer and Found It ‘Really Weird,’ Then Guillermo del Toro Called Him an ‘Arrogant A–hole’

Alfonso Cuarón marked the 20th anniversary of his film “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” with a new interview in Total Film magazine, in which he admitted that he felt totally strange when Warner Bros. called to offer him the chance to direct the third “Harry Potter” movie. Chris Columbus was stepping aside from the director’s chair after helming “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets,” but the Mexican director behind the erotic road trip drama “Y Tu Mamá También” didn’t exactly scream “Harry Potter.”

“I was confused because it was completely not on my radar,” Cuarón said. “I speak often with Guillermo [del Toro], and a couple of days after, I said, ‘You know, they offered me this Harry Potter film, but it’s really weird they offer me this.'”

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Del Toro realized what an opportunity the “Harry Potter” franchise was, so he gave his longtime friend and fellow director some tough love: “He said, ‘Wait, wait, wait, you said you haven’t read Harry Potter?’ I said, ‘I don’t think it’s for me.’ In very florid lexicon, in Spanish, he said, ‘You are an arrogant asshole.'”

Del Toro’s words were even more harsh. As Cuarón revealed at the Telluride Film Festival in 2018, del Toro actually launched into a tirade and said: “Fuckin’ skinny, you’re such a fuckin’ arrogant bastard. You are going right now to the fuckin’ bookshop and get the books and you’re going to read them and you call me right away.”

“When he talks to you like that, well, you have to go to the bookshop,” Cuarón admitted, adding that he quickly fell in love with the series after reading the books. “I called [del Toro] and said, ‘Well the material’s really great.’ He says, “Well, you see you fuckin’…,’ I mean, it’s just untranslatable from the Spanish.”

Speaking to Total Film to mark the movie’s 20th anniversary, franchise producer David Heyman said he just had a hunch that Cuarón was the right person for the job even if on paper it was a strange choice.

“I’d seen ‘Y Tu Mamá También,’ which I loved, and I oddly thought he’d be the perfect director for the third ‘Potter,'” Heyman said. “That’s not what some might think. Can you imagine what some thought Harry, Ron and Hermione would get up to? ‘Y Tu Mamá’ was about the last moments of being a teenager, and ‘Azkaban’ was about the first moments of being a teenager. I felt he could make the show feel, in a way, more contemporary. And just bring his cinematic wizardry.”

“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” opened in the U.K. on May 21, 2004 and hit U.S. theaters on June 4, 2004. Reviews for the film were outstanding and it went on to gross $804 million at the worldwide box office.

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