Columbus knew that the first film could make or break the rest of his career, as beloved as those books were. He said, “The reality is the pressure of the world was upon us, and on me particularly because I knew if I screwed this one up it’s all over. You can’t screw up this book.” He said he had to focus and not think about that, but that it was “a lot easier 19 years ago before the Internet blew up.” A truer statement was never uttered. Even all these years later, a quick search on social media about these films will bring up critiques, but we didn’t all live perpetually online when the franchise started. Not as much, anyway. That didn’t keep the nerves from Columbus, though. He explained:
“The first film was fraught with anxiety for me. The first two weeks I thought I was gonna get fired every day. Everything looked good, I just thought if I do one thing wrong, if I f*** up, I’m fired. And that was intense. I didn’t let any of that show on the set, there was no frustration, I’m not a screamer, I get along with everybody and I want everybody to feel like they’re part of the family, so I just had to hide that side of my emotions.”
It obviously worked. While there are certainly fans who think of the first two films as less dramatic and more like a kid’s fantasy than the other ones, you can say the same things about the books. They seem to mature as the characters do.