Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone What's Up With the Title?

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What's Up With the Title?

The title is reasonably self-evident, at least on the surface. It's the story of a boy named Harry Potter looking for something called the Sorcerer's Stone. Hence: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. (We know, we know; we're in Captain Obvious mode here. Bear with us.)

Beyond that, however, there's an interesting wrinkle in the title that you might not be aware of. We wrestled a bit with what to call this film for a while, because while it's called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the United States, it's called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in Great Britain and almost everywhere else. That was actually the original name of Rowling's book, and what it still goes by in most of the world.

Why? When they bought the American rights to the book, Scholastic didn't think that kids would want to read a book with the word "philosopher" in the title, and so they changed the name (along with a few other bits of the language, like changing the English "mum" to the American "mom").

Of course, no one thought the books would become such beloved cultural icons…or that someone would want to make a movie out of it and market it in both England and the U.S. (as well as every other nation with a functioning projector).

And the problem is this: you can't make the first installment of the Harry Potter franchise without dropping the name of the Stone in question. It's kind of a big deal in this story. So not only do you have two very large national audiences expecting two different titles, but also you have characters in the film that will repeatedly mention the phrase "Sorcerer's Stone" or "Philosopher's Stone."

The producers, knowing they couldn't change the title back to Philosopher's Stone without seriously spooking the herd here in the States, adopted an ingenious solution. Every time a character in the film needs to say "Philosopher's Stone," they shot the scene twice: the second time, the actors said "Sorcerer's Stone" instead.

To this day, if you pick up a version of the film in the UK and compare it with one bought in the U.S., you can spot the differences.

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