As mere film watchers, we can never truly appreciate all the work it takes to make a movie. And one of the most important functions is, of course, choosing the actors who will portray the characters and bring them to life on the big screen. And when it comes to casting major films like Harry Potter, it’s more important than ever to get it right.
J.K Rowling had a lot of clout when it came to casting choices for the films and it makes sense, she was the one who created the characters and therefore was better equipped than anyone to spot actors who fit them perfectly. She had the final say on whether or not an actor could be offered a role in any of the films and it created a little bit of controversy. Rowling, a British author, decreed that all the roles should be played exclusively by British actors. This meant that many of the producers and directors’ top choices had to be scrapped as the actors were not from the United Kingdom. This seems a little petty (and limiting) but she surely had her own reasons behind this decision.
Harry Potter could have turned out very differently from the franchise we know and love today if different actors had been cast, but we think it turned out just perfectly. I mean, can you imagine a Harry Potter film without stars like Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Alan Rickman? It nearly happened. Here are 15 actors who were almost cast in the Harry Potter films.
15. They Thought Fans Couldn’t Handle J.K. Rowling As Lily Potter
Yes, you read that heading correctly; J.K. Rowling almost played the role of Harry Potter’s mother, Lily Potter. The Harry Potter author and creative genius was seriously considered for the role, particularly because she had the same eye color as Harry. However, in the end, the producers decided that having Rowling appear in the films may have been a little too much for fans to handle.
The role went to TV actress Geraldine Somerville instead, but we can’t help thinking that it would have been so fitting for Rowling to play the role of Harry’s mom, after all, she is in essence, the mother of Harry Potter and all the characters because she brought them to life. Still, perhaps it was better for her to concentrate on writing the books instead.
14. Rowling Really Wanted Bob Hoskins To Be A Part Of The Franchise
Professor Slughorn was a real character, and he will probably always be remembered for his penchant for “collecting” students he deemed worthy (and inviting them to his dinner parties). When the role first became available Bob Hoskins (best known for his role as Eddie Valiant in the cult classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) was considered for the role of this Hogwarts professor, but he lost out to Jim Broadbent.
Jim was excellent in the role, but J.K. Rowling was very fond of Hoskins and was eager to have him appear in the film franchise. She even promised to write a role specifically for him in the seventh book but unfortunately this never materialized. Hoskins passed away in 2014 at the age of 71, following a bout of pneumonia.
13. Naomi Watts’ Reps Said No
When you are a big name actor, you are in the fortunate position that studios will offer you roles, you don’t even need to go looking for them. But with so much demand you need a team of agents and reps to help you manage your career and the downside to that is that they will sometimes make decisions on your behalf that you may, or may not agree with.
That was the case for Naomi Watts, who was offered the role of Narcissa Malfoy, sister of Bellatrix Lestrange and the mother of Draco. Before the actress even had time to consider the offer, her agents had already responded to the studio, rejecting the role. The part was eventually played by Helen McCrory.
12. Helen McCrory’s Pregnancy Put Off Her Original Role As Bellatrix Lestrange
Get ready to be shocked; Helena Bonham Carter was not the first choice to play Bellatrix Lestrange.
We know it seems impossible to believe because the role seemed like it was almost created especially for the eclectic actress, but it was not the case. Helen McCrory (who you’ll remember from her role as Cherie Blair in The Queen) was originally cast to play the demented Bellatrix but her first pregnancy forced her to pull out of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The part was then offered to Helena Bonham Carter and in this case, we really think it turned out just right.
11. McKellen Didn’t Get The Part Because Harris Didn’t Like His Work
We’re sure that fans would have been delighted to see Ian McKellen (Lord of The Rings) play another powerful wizard in Harry Potter. And when Richard Harris, the original Dumbledore, sadly passed away, McKellen was considered for the role. And it would seem that the part was made for him, so why didn’t it work out?
Turns out that shortly before he died Harris had a few cutting words to say about McKellen’s work; describing him as “a dreadful actor”. The studio decided to respect the late Harris and chose not to offer the role to McKellen. They considered Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia), who was a close friend of Harris’, but they were concerned about his health problems so eventually the role went to Michael Gambon.
10. Tim Roth Took A Role In Planet Of The Apes Instead
There are rumors that J.K. Rowling handpicked Alan Rickman for the role of Professor Snape. Now, while we don’t know how true this is, it would have made sense. Alan seemed made for this role; he was excellent at playing serious, dark characters and of course, he had that voice.
But there were negotiations with another actor for this role as well and that was Tim Roth. A favorite in many Quentin Tarantino movies such as Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, Roth might have become the infamous Potions Master, but he decided to take the role of General Thade in Planet of the Apes instead. Probably not Tim’s best career choice ever, but we think it turned out for the best because Rickman was flawless (and deliciously scary) as Snape.
9. Jamie Campbell-Bower Was Almost Tom Riddle
Although Jamie did play a role in the Harry Potter franchise as the young Gellert Grindelwald he initially tried out for the role of the young Tom Riddle (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince). He, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your view) lost out on the role to Frank Dillane.
Jamie already had two successful film roles under his belt at the time he tried out for the part, including one in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and a small role in Guy Richie’s RocknRolla and it would seem that he was well suited for the role of Tom Riddle, so we’re not sure why he didn’t get it. Despite this, he has gone from strength to strength in his career with roles in the Twilight movie franchise.
8. Kate Winslet’s Agents Rejected The Offer For The Role Of Helena Ravenclaw
Films require draw card actors, the more famous actors they can bring into the movie, the more fans it will bring to the theaters. And in the case of Harry Potter, producers had their eye on award winning actress Kate Winslet to join the star-studded cast and play the role of Helena Ravenclaw (or rather, the ghost of Helena Ravenclaw). Even though it was a small role, it was a crucial one and having Kate could have made all the difference to the film franchise.
But alas, it was not to be. Winslet’s representatives turned the role down before Kate even became aware of it and the role went to Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald instead. Makes you wonder how Kate reacted to her agents’ decision?
7. J.K. Rowling Wanted Only British Actors
It may surprise you to know that Robbie Coltrane was not Warner Bros’ first choice for the role of Hogwarts’ gamekeeper, Rubeus Hagrid. The actor that was tipped for the part was, in fact, the late comic genius Robin Williams. There was a little bit of a standoff between the studio and Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling; the studio insisted that there be at least one big name American actor in the film while Rowling insisted that the part should be given to a British actor. In the end, Rowling got her way (and really who can argue with her?).
Coltrane was superb, a real gentle giant, who stole our hearts as the big bulky groundskeeper with such a soft heart, but we can’t help but wonder what Williams could have done with the role. And now we’ll never know…
6. Robson Green Was Almost Sirius Black
Chris Columbus was keen for Robson Green to play the part of Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban but sadly he was leaving the franchise and handing it over to director Alfonso Cuaron. Cuaron didn’t think much of Chris’ suggestion and instead opted to offer the part to Gary Oldman. It’s rumored that Oldman was not that keen on the part, but took the job because he needed the paycheck (don’t we all?).
Perhaps the reason for this decision was because Robson Green, although well-known, is mainly a TV actor, while Gary Oldman has enjoyed a successful movie career with many outstanding roles in movies such as The Dark Knight, The Fifth Element, and The Professional, to name only a few.
5. Hugh Grant Said No Due To Scheduling Conflicts
Here’s one that seems like a real pity; can’t you just imagine Hugh Grant as the self-centered Defense Against the Dark Arts master? Granted Kenneth Branagh did an outstanding job, but we are sure that the smooth Hugh Grant could have definitely pulled off this role in style!
Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict, Grant was forced to turn down the role and it went to Branagh instead. He did a good job as the charming but cowardly Lockhart, but we can’t help but wonder how different Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets would have been with Hugh Grant in his place. Although we should add that the role of Lockhart earned Branagh the London Film Critics Award for British Supporting Actor of the year in 2002.
4. Too Little Screen Time For Rosamund Pike
If you’ve read the Harry Potter books you’ll have noticed that Rita Skeeter had much more of a presence in the novels than she did in the movies. Maybe you’ve wondered why this is? Well, once again, it comes down to the casting for the role.
Initially, the beautiful Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) signed on to play the part of the nosy journalist in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but then she discovered that she would also need to appear in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where she would have had very little screen time. As a result, she decided to quit the role. It was taken over by Miranda Richardson but because of the recasting drama, much of Rita’s role was cut from the films.
3. Tilda Swinton Is Against Boarding Schools, So She Refused
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than the incredibly talented Emma Thompson pulling off the role of the quirky Professor Trelawney, but it almost happened. This role was first offered to Tilda Swinton, who you’ll remember from her roles in movies such as Burn After Reading and Constantine.
Tilda was offered the role, but immediately turned it down and for a pretty unusual reason as well. Firstly, there were scheduling conflicts that prevented her from taking the part, but she also stated that she was morally against boarding schools, and since this was the premise for the movie, she was not interested. She said that she felt boarding schools were very cruel and slammed the Harry Potter franchise for romanticizing them. Wow, okay then.
2. Hatty Jones Was Too Old To Play Hermione
Hatty Jones is best known for her role in the 1998 live action film adaptation of Madeline. So far, this is the only movie that she has starred in. She was chosen for the role in this movie due to her height, eagerness, and her physical attributes. She was one of the thousands of girls who auditioned for the part of Hermione Granger. She was super cute in Madeline and is clearly a talented young actress, but it was eventually decided that the role would be offered to the equally talented Emma Watson.
Hatty and Emma were the final two choices and it was then decided by the producers that Hatty was too old for the role, at that time she was 13 and Emma was 11. We think they definitely made the right choice on this one!
1. Liam Aiken Wasn’t From The UK So He Didn’t Get The Part
After eight blockbuster movies, Daniel Radcliffe is firmly cemented in our minds as Harry Potter. But it could have been very different. Back when casting for the very first movie, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was still on the go, the role was actually first offered to another actor– Liam Aiken. You may remember Liam from movies such as Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) and Stepmom (1998).
Liam worked on Stepmom with director Chris Columbus, who was so impressed by the young actor that he was his first choice for the role of young Harry. Aiken was even offered the role, but it was quickly retracted. The reason? He wasn’t an English actor. It’s not the first big role he’s missed out on either; he turned down the leading role of Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense because his mother felt he was too young for such a serious role. Shame. Hopefully he’ll get his big break soon.