12 Actors Who Almost Starred In The Harry Potter Series
Warner Bros. had quite the task on their hands when they endeavoured to bring the magical world of Harry Potter to life on the big screen following the incomparable success of the book series. As to be expected, author J.K. Rowling had a large influence on how the films were created and who was cast and often put her foot down on actors the studio turned to first. Unsurprisingly, many fans of the books took issue with how certain things and people were depicted on-screen and, of course, with omissions that were taken. It turns out that lot of Hollywood’s finest were eyeing up roles in what was sure to be one of the biggest film franchises of the decade, and while the end result pleased many people, it could have looked and been quite different had these people been cast instead. Check out 12 actors who almost landed a part in the Harry Potter film series!
12. Rosamund Pike – Rita Skeeter
Before her big roles in Jack Reacher and Wrath of the Titans, and of course, her breakout role in Gone Girl, Rosamund Pike was the first actress considered for the part of gossip journalist Rita Skeeter in 2004’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Fresh off the success of her part in Die Another Day, Pike was hesitant to take the part after learning it also contracted her to the fifth film even though the role was rather small, and so she ended up rejecting it. As a result, Miranda Richardson was cast instead, but the studio also reduced the role further after not getting their first choice and fans were shocked by how minimal a part Skeeter’s character was given versus her roles in the novels.
11. Peter O’Toole – Albus Dumbledore
Unfortunately Richard Harris’ health took a serious turn after the filming of the second movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and, although he believed he would pull through his battle with Hodgkins, Harris passed away two weeks before the film premiered. With the studio having to cast a new actor in the iconic role, they first turned to Harris’ lifelong friend and celebrated actor Peter O’Toole, with Harris’ family also hoping his friend would take over for him. In the end, Warner Bros. passed on casting O’Toole after they became concerned that due to his age his health would not see him through the remaining six films, causing them to set about recasting yet again, this time deciding on Michael Gambon who was eight years younger.
10. Naomi Watts – Narcissa Malfoy
Incredibly, Hollywood A-lister Naomi Watts could have been in the series, as she was first considered for the role of Draco Malfoy’s mother Narcissa Malfoy. As it turns out however, for reasons unknown, Watts’ agency did not want her participating in the films and rejected the offer, although it didn’t really matter as Helen McRory pulled off the role perfectly.
9. Bob Hoskins – Horace Slughorn
The late, great Bob Hoskins is well known from Who Framed Roger Rabbit but has had an impressive career overall and was the first one considered for the role of the fame-loving new Potions master Horace Slughorn. Although he was the actor in initial talks for the part he ended up losing the role to Jim Broadbent who did very well in the role, so while Hoskins would have been great, fans were just as happy with Broadbent’s performance.
8. Kate Winslet – Helena Ravenclaw
While many were upset by the lack of Peeves the poltergeist in the films, ghosts still played a central role and had many famous faces including John Cleese taking on the parts. By the end of series, one ghost in particular was still influential, Helena Ravenclaw, and as it turns out, it was celebrated actress Kate Winslet who was first offered the part. Apparently, Winslet never got to give her say on taking the part as like Watts, her agency rejected the offer for her. In the end the role went to Kelly Macdonald, who did a great job; however, everything is just that much better when Kate Winslet is involved.
7. Hugh Grant – Gilderoy Lockhart
No knocks to Kenneth Branagh who got the role, but Hugh Grant in the Harry Potter franchise would have been amazing. The charming and hilarious British actor was the first choice and was offered the role which he accepted, meaning Grant was that close to being the unbelievably daft but unbelievably charming Lockhart. To our dismay however, he had to leave the film after scheduling conflicts interfered. The early 2000s were a busy time for Grant but, after learning this news, many fans would have loved if he had dropped one of his other films in favor of Harry Potter.
6. Patrick McGoohan – Albus Dumbledore
Clearly the re-casting of Albus Dumbledore was not easy; however. the drama around the role started with the initial casting, and before Richard Harris was given the role, Patrick McGoohan was the frontrunner for the part. Known for his roles in Danger Man, The Prisoners and Braveheart, McGoohan wanted to accept the offer, but turned it down because of concerns about his own health. This decision opened the door for Richard Harris who, as mentioned, passed away after the second film due to his own health issues.
5. Robin Williams – Rubeus Hagrid
Following Robin Williams’ tragic death there were many rumors about roles he had reportedly been interested in but didn’t get, and apparently one of those roles was as Rubeus Hagrid in Harry Potter. It seems Williams was very interested in the role and was also, apparently, Warner Bros.’ favorite to play the part, but unfortunately, it was never offered to him as J.K. Rowling was adamantly against the casting. In fact, it was after the decision on Williams did Rowling make it clear that all actors in the film had to be British, and since she had final say on all casting choices, that’s the way it went. Of course, Williams stature didn’t help his case as the role went to the impressive figure of Robbie Coltrane for the half-giant character.
4. Tilda Swinton – Professor Sybill Trelawney
It is no question that Tilda Swinton does strange very, very well, so it is not entirely surprising that the talented actress was first offered the part of Divinations professor Sybill Trelawney. Swinton had already appeared in a major book franchise brought to the big screen in The Chronicles of Narnia and was a natural choice; however, she turned it down citing the ever common scheduling conflicts. Later on, she made a comment on not participating in the film because she “doesn’t believe in it” and by that she meant boarding school, something she is vehemently against, apparently. Really, no is complaining because the wonderful and extremely talented Emma Thompson got the role and played it expertly, as she does everything.
3. Tim Roth – Severus Snape
Now, Tim Roth is an amazing actor, incomparable to most really thanks to the extent and range of his abilties, but to imagine anyone aside from Alan Rickman as the famous character of Severus Snape is completely ludicrous. As it turns out, Rickman almost didn’t have the role though, as Tim Roth was reportedly the first choice, but he made the decision to drop out of the casting process in order to star in Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes as Thade. Bad decision for him, great decision for Rickman.
2. Ian McKellen – Albus Dumbledore
As mentioned, following Harris’ death the casting process of his replacement was a difficult one and with many names being tossed around, one of the biggest had to have been Sir Ian McKellen. While it is unclear why McKellen wasn’t the forerunner for the part, it seems it was because Dumbledore’s character was too much like his iconic character Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings franchise. Another reason that has been given is because Harris had reportedly called McKellen a “dreadful actor,” so McKellen felt taking the role would have been disrespectful. Given Gambon’s disappointing performance, many wish McKellen had reconsidered.
1. Liam Aiken – Harry Potter
While many of the previously mentioned actors were only minor roles, a lot of fans don’t realize how close they were to getting a Harry Potter that wasn’t portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe. Young actor Liam Aiken had been in Stepmom, starring alongside Julia Roberts, which was also directed by Harry Potter director Chris Columbus and so he was given the role right off the bat, only to have it taken back almost immediately. Unfortunately for Aiken, he wasn’t British and as explained, there was no way any of the actors weren’t going to be authentically British, especially Harry Potter himself. Of course, Radcliffe was an amazing Harry Potter and thinking of anyone else in the role is just impossible.
Honorable Mention: J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling, the creator of the entire franchise, isn’t an actor, but she gets an honorable mention because she was seriously considered for a role in the film versions. Rowling was reportedly up for being cast as Lily Potter; however, she and producers saw that it was just too much for the “mother” of the series Harry Potter to play the literal mother of Harry Potter, and Rowling backed out.