Richard Harris Thought Fawkes Was A Real Bird In Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets

From Buckbeack to Fluffy the three-headed dog to all kinds of dragons, the "Harry Potter" films brought to life numerous magical creatures from the books. But few are as endearing and memorable as Fawkes the Phoenix, Albus Dumbledore's companion and defender, and the savior of Harry Potter (one too many times).

Harry first meets Fawkes in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" after being sent to the headmaster's office in lieu of the suspicious "Heir of Slytherin" activities occurring at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, Harry encounters the bird on "Burning Day," the worst possible time to make an acquaintance with a phoenix.

When it is time for a phoenix to die, they burst into flames and are reborn from their ashes. While filming this scene, which marks the first on-screen appearance of Fawkes, director Chris Columbus (who helmed the first two films) and the crew used a full-size hatchling animatronic to make the bird look realistic. They succeeded so well that actor Richard Harris (who played Dumbledore in the first two films) believed it was a real, well-trained bird.

Richard Harris Was Impressed

During the "Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts," Chris Columbus and Daniel Radcliffe shared the story behind one of their greatest laughs while filming "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."

In the scene, Harry visits Dumbledore's office for the first time and watches the bird catch fire before learning more about the Phoenix from the Hogwarts headmaster. The animatronic puppet was made with such thought and precision that Richard Harris was in absolute awe of him, and thought it to be a real bird.

Columbus said:

"You and I had one of our greatest laughs together with Richard Harris ... we had an animatronic version of Fawkes the Phoenix, and it was this big red bird that doesn't exist. Richard came in and looked at the Phoenix and said, 'Wow, they train these animals marvelously these days.'"

Radcliffe added:

"They had a camera inside the eyes so they could see Richard looking at it, and then they were like, 'Well, we don't want to break the spell, so we'll just keep the bird reacting and moving.'"

Harris thought the bird was responding to him, and the crew didn't have the heart to tell him that it was a mechanical puppet.

Richard Harris passed away shortly after the release of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." He was replaced by Michael Gambon, who took over the role of Dumbledore for the rest of the series.