‘Harry Potter’: Why the Great Hall Constantly Smelled Like Rotting Food

Harry Potter started out as a book series that was then turned into eight movies. Today, there’s a theme park, recipes, candy, an interactive website called Pottermore, and much more. It has a massive fandom, and it seems new tidbits about the movies and characters continue to be revealed. One interesting fact is about the Great Hall, where all the meals and a few important events took place. The movie production team wanted to stay as close to the books as possible, so all the food was real food that the cast could eat. However, that came with a consequence, and changes had to be made for the rest of the films.

Danielle Radcliffe as Harry Potter smiling at an owl perched on his arm
Danielle Radcliffe as Harry Potter | Peter Mountain/Getty Images

The Great Hall

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The Great Hall is quite impressive, and the movies did an excellent job of bringing it to life. There are floating candles, and above those are an enchanted ceiling that changes with the weather outside. In the Great Hall, the professors sit up front at the high table. There are four long tables for the students to sit at within their house. According to Screenrant, the order of the house tables change in each film. The Yule Ball also takes place here as well as the house sorting ceremony. In England, Warner Brothers Studio offers a tour of the actual Great Hall that was used in the films. BuzzFeed mentions the inspiration and model for the hall in the movies came from the Christ Church College Great Hall at the University of Oxford.

The food in the Great Hall was real

According to an article in Seventeen, director Chris Columbus wanted to make sure the movies’ food was authentic to the descriptions in the book. So, all the food, whether on-screen or not, was real, and every actor on the set could eat it. However, the food spoiled quickly under the hot production lights, which created an awful smell. Mirror reported that actor Warwick Davis, who portrayed Professor Flitwick and goblin bank teller Griphook, let readers know the behind-the-scenes details.

In an interview, Davis said about the food, “a lot of great feasts happened in there. You may film them for three or four days and the first day you step in there, they serve you a plate of food with lots of meats, vegetables, and roast potatoes and you can eat the food.” He then goes on to say after the first day, they were told not to eat the food and had to pretend because the food had sat out all night. Then by the fourth day, Davis said you could smell the rotting food before you even entered the Great Hall, and the smell was overwhelming. However, to take care of the stench problem for the later movies, the production team decided to freeze the food and created molds to make it look realistic.

The first viewing 

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Harry, Hermione, and Ron first enter the Great Hall in a large group led by Professor McGonagall. In true Hermione fashion, she explains she read in a history book that the ceiling isn’t real; just bewitched to mimic the sky. This was the first time the characters are entering the hall to be sorted by the Sorting Hat. What most may not know is that it was also the first time for the actors. By doing this, their reactions are authentic. If you want to re-watch the movies and see the fantastic feasts, you can rent all the films on Amazon Prime.