The 'Roma' director hadn't even read J.K. Rowling's books until a profanity-laced tirade from his friend

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September 05, 2018 at 11:23 AM EDT

Director Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white quasi-autobiographical film Roma just made its North American premiere at Telluride Film Festival to rave reviews, but he apparently needed a bit of convincing when it came to one of his previous projects. Back in 2004, Cuarón directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a franchise film that was a bit removed from critical catnip like Roma or 2001’s Y Tu Mamá También. In a new interview with Vanity Fair, Cuarón explains that he took the Harry Potter job after some very strong words from his friend and fellow filmmaker Guillermo del Toro.

“I talked with Guillermo, as I always do, and he says, ‘What’s happening? Any projects going on?’ And I said, ‘I’m going for Harry Potter, can you believe it?’ And I even made fun of it. I hadn’t read the books or seen the films. And then he looks upset with me,” Cuarón recalled. “He called me flaco, that means skinny [in English]. He says, ‘F—in’ skinny, have you read the books?’ I said, ‘No, I haven’t read the books.'”

That only unleashed del Toro’s wrath. Cuarón continued, “He says, ‘F—in’ skinny, you’re such a f—in’ arrogant bastard. You are going right now to the f—in’ 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. At that time, the fourth book had just come out. And I read the first two, and I was halfway through the third, [and] that was the one they had offered me. And I called him and said, ‘Well the material’s really great.’ He says, ‘Well, you see you f—in’ …’ I mean, it’s just untranslatable from the Spanish…”

Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

Reflecting back on the film itself, Cuarón said, “As a filmmaker, it was almost like a lesson of humility, of saying how am I going to do it my own, but at the same time, respecting what has been beloved in those couple of movies?”

Read the full interview here, and check out EW’s A-grade review of Roma here.

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