Acting is a fantastic business to break into. If you are talented and/or good looking, you can make a pretty nice sum of money to retire on in your twilight years, if you don’t mind putting up with the paparazzi. Combine your talent and/or looks with a phenomenally successful book-turned-film-series and you're on to a winner.
J.K. Rowling was sitting on a delayed train when she dreamt up the scrawny 11-year-old boy called Harry Potter, a seemingly normal child who finds out he is, in fact, a wizard. After completing her manuscript for the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling began approaching publishers to check out interest in her book. Unfortunately for her at the time - but for them now - twelve publishers actually rejected the book before she found one who gave her and her wizard fantasy book a chance.
Since then, Rowling has written six sequels and 3 spin-offs. She has sold 450 million copies of the Harry Potter books alone (not to mention the sales of her newer novels), has earned herself $1 billion and turned her books into an overwhelmingly successful film series. Not bad for a woman who, before writing the first Harry Potter book, was an unemployed Arts graduate.
Since the first book was published in 1997, just 17 years ago, they have become the second best-selling book series in history, while the films are to date the most successful film series ever. Being on the Harry Potter gravy train was a ride and a half for anyone involved, not least the actors who played the characters created by Rowling. Some already-big name stars were pulled in to take on iconic roles. For other actors, their turn in the series launched a hugely profitable career. Here are the ten richest actors from the Harry Potter film series – which even includes a real-life divorced couple!
10 10 Helena Bonham Carter ($24 million)
Helena Bonham Carter is the first of several Oscar-nominated actors on our list and kicks off our top ten. Her performance as the evil Bellatrix Lestrange was widely acclaimed by critics and fans alike; the actress was described at the time as a “shining but underused talent” in her supporting role.
Bonham Carter first appeared as Bellatrix in the fifth movie in the series – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Her success as an actress both predates and postdates the Harry Potter series - before landing the role as Miss Lestrange, Bonham Carter had been acting since the age of 16 and had several awards and nominations under her belt. Since the series ended, she has played the Queen Mother in an Oscar-nominated performance in The King’s Speech and, most recently, has been filming her part in the upcoming Cinderella remake as the Fairy Godmother. Married to famed Hollywood director Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter has starred in several of her husband's blockbusters.
Helena actually ruptured the eardrum of her cast mate (Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom) in the name of doing her character justice – albeit it accidentally. She stuck her wand in his ear while filming!
9 9 Ralph Fiennes ($25 million)
English actor Ralph Fiennes took on the difficult role of the most evil and notorious Dark Wizard of all time: Lord Voldemort, aka Tom Riddle, aka You Know Who, aka He Who Must Not Be Named... He first stepped into the sweeping robes of Harry’s mortal enemy in 2005, for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and remained a central part of the cast until the final film.
Prior to his Harry Potter role, Fiennes had been a stage and screen actor since the 1980s. Like Helena Bonham Carter, he too had an Academy Award nomination under his belt. Between filming the Potter movies, he took on a variety of other roles including an Emmy-nominated performance in Bernard and Doris.
Since filming finished as the terrifying Lord Voldemort, Fiennes has filmed several movies. He played a supporting role in 2012’s Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, as Judy Dench’s replacement as M and is set to star in the upcoming Bond 24 in the same role.
8 8 Robert Pattinson ($32 million)
An actor who only appeared in one Potter film, Robert Pattinson was cast in the dishy role of Cedric Diggory in the fourth instalment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Before landing the role he was relatively unknown but since then, his star has soared.
After building a fan base in the biggest movie franchise of all time, he was offered the lead role of Edward Cullen in the Twilight Saga film series, which were released between 2008 and 2012. This film series experienced massive popularity worldwide and Pattinson quickly became a household name and the poster boy in many teenagers’ bedrooms.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 was Pattinson’s last release – but he has a few movies in the pipeline.
7 7 Tom Felton ($35 million)
Tom Felton took on the role of Draco Malfoy, yet another of Harry’s enemies (he had a few, didn’t he?). Felton was a child when he was cast as the pale, blonde and incredibly spoiled Draco. However unlike most of the kids who landed leading roles in the film, Felton had previous big-screen acting experience under his belt.
Prior to filming Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Felton had acted in The Borrowers and Anna and the King. He was a central supporting cast member for all eight Potter films. Since these wrapped up has been busy filming several films; his newest work is the upcoming In Secret, which is set to hit screens later this year.
6 6 Rupert Grint ($36 million)
A net worth of $36 million earns Rupert Grint his spot on our list, just missing out on the top five. Aged just 11 when he was cast as Harry’s best friend, Ron Weasley, Grint effectively grew up in the Harry Potter studios with some of his younger cast mates.
Playing the protagonist’s best friend, and one of the most significant supporting roles, you might think Grint would be further up the list. However, his acting career has taken a significantly less commercial turn than those of his co-stars since the films wrapped.
Grint played his character for all eight Harry Potter films, between 2001 and 2011. He was cast at the age of 11 and, by the time the film series concluded, he was a fully-fledged man at the age of 23. Outside of his work with the Harry Potter series, Grint has appeared in numerous other films, many of which were UK-based independent films. Just last October he made his stage debut and he has recently finished voicing a character in the upcoming British 3D animation, Postman Pat: The Movie.
5 5 Emma Watson ($40 million)
Sitting pretty at number five is the beautiful Emma Watson who took on the role of Hermione Granger, bookworm and Harry’s second-best friend. Watson was the youngest core cast member, at just 9 years of age when casting took place. JK Rowling gave Watson her personal seal of approval, stating she was perfect for the role.
Emma blossomed into a beautiful young woman and in 2009 made her modelling debut for Burberry’s Autumn-Winter collection. She has also maintained her acting career; her performance in 2013’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower was critically acclaimed. Aside from acting and modelling, Watson is something of an academic, with 18 months at Brown University under her belt which she has deferred to focus on acting.
4 4 Gary Oldman ($40 million)
One of the most enduring actors of this generation, Gary Oldman has been acting since 1979. To the delight of many Potter fans, Oldman was cast as Sirius Black - Harry’s godfather - starting from the third instalment, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Oldman had already acted in many and varied roles throughout the course of his career before starring as Black in the Potter films. One of his most significant roles was as Lee Harvey Oswald in 1991’s 'JFK'. His casting came just after something of a career slump in the early 2000s but his popularity has since rebounded.
He played Commissioner Gordon in all three films of The Dark Knight franchise and, collectively, his films have taken in over $9.6 billion worldwide!
3 3 Kenneth Branagh ($55 million)
Though he only appeared in one of the Harry Potter films, Northern Ireland man Kenneth Branagh is worth the comfortable sum of $55 million. His role as pompous professor Gilderoy Lockhart was in the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Like some others on our top ten, Branagh was a movie star before taking on his Potter role - the late 1980s and 1990s had brought him no less than four Oscar nominations. Since his Potter role, all the way back in 2002, he has added another nomination to that list for 2011’s My Week with Marilyn.
Branagh’s ex-wife is the next star to appear on this list...
2 2 Emma Thompson ($64 million)
Just missing out on the top spot is our first Academy Award winning actor, and Kenneth Branagh’s ex-wife, Emma Thompson. She appeared in three Potter films as Sybill Trelawney, the eccentric Divination professor.
Thompson was one of the best-known castings in the series, having won several awards (most significantly an Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe) for her performance in 1992’s Howard’s End, a British film which received widespread acclaim.
Since finishing up filming her role as Trelawney, Thompson has enjoyed continued success, receiving several nominations for her performance in 2013’s Saving Mr Banks, and endearing fans worldwide with her eccentric behaviour at 2014's Golden Globes.
1 1 Daniel Radcliffe ($86 million)
The cream of the crop is none other than Harry Potter himself; Mr Daniel Radcliffe. Joining Rupert Grint and Emma Watson to complete the world famous trio that is Harry, Ron and Hermione, 11-year-old Daniel Radcliffe was cast after a nationwide search for the perfect Harry in 2000.
Completely unknown before the first film (complying with JK Rowling’s wishes), Radcliffe was soon a household name appearing in film theatres all over the world as the bespectacled, scar-headed Harry Potter. The role, which Radcliffe took on for over a decade, was well received and he too has enjoyed continued success since leaving the much-loved character behind.
His first on-screen post-Potter release was the 2012 horror film, The Woman in Black, which received positive reviews. He has dabbled successfully in theatre and even lent his voice to The Simpsons in late 2010 – the highlight of any actor’s career, surely!