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The Actors Who Were ALMOST Cast in the Harry Potter Films

by Ted Ryan 29 days ago in movie · updated 28 days ago

The twenty-four actors who nearly landed roles in the Potter saga

As J.K. Rowling’s magical series about the boy wizard celebrated its twentieth anniversary this month, I wanted to reflect back on the iconic series - and look back on the actors who almost played the iconic literary roles on screen.

Harry Potter is a film series based on the eponymous novels by J. K. Rowling. The series is distributed by Warner Bros. and consists of eight fantasy films, beginning with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and culminating with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.

It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the iconic characters - which saw the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint shoot to stardom while acting opposite acting legends such as Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Dame Maggie Smith and many more. Yet, there were twenty four actors who very nearly landed roles in these films before they went to the final casting choices. We’re going to look back on the potential casting the producers and directors considered throughout the series.

𝗛𝗮𝗹𝗲𝘆 𝗝𝗼𝗲𝗹 𝗢𝘀𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗮𝘀 𝗛𝗮𝗿𝗿𝘆 𝗣𝗼𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿

At the time when Steven Spielberg was planning to bring Harry Potter to the screen, he had in mind an actor for the role: Haley Joel Osment, the hero of Sixth Sense. When Spielberg backed out of the project, the actor was no longer considered and also because of the fact that he was not British.

𝗧𝗵𝗼𝗺𝗮𝘀 𝗕𝗿𝗼𝗱𝗶𝗲-𝗦𝗮𝗻𝗴𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝘀 𝗥𝗼𝗻 𝗪𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗹𝗲𝘆

Thomas Brodie-Sangster aka the kid from 'Love Actually' revealed that he auditioned to play Ron. Despite missing out on the role, Thomas took it all in his stride.

𝗛𝗮𝘁𝘁𝘆 𝗝𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝗛𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗚𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗿

The initial search to find the perfect young actress to play Hermione Granger finally came down to two candidates - Hatty Jones, who had already starred in Madeline and Emma Watson, at that stage an unknown actress. The producers eventually chose Emma because they felt she had exactly what they were looking for, but it was close between the girls.

𝗥𝗼𝗯𝗶𝗻 𝗪𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗮𝗺𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝗛𝗮𝗴𝗿𝗶𝗱

Late legendary comedic actor Robin Williams was Warner Bros' first choice to play Hogwarts gamekeeper Hagrid. However J.K. Rowling who had final refusal on all of the film's casting choices, was adamant that all of the actors in the film be British. Thus, the role went to Robbie Coltrane.

𝗧𝗶𝗺 𝗥𝗼𝘁𝗵 𝗮𝘀 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗳𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗼𝗿 𝗦𝗻𝗮𝗽𝗲

Tim Roth was first in line for Professor Snape's role but he dropped out to film Tim Burton's The Planet Of The Apes. The role was then given to Alan Rickman.

𝗛𝗲𝗹𝗲𝗻 𝗠𝗰𝗖𝗿𝗼𝘆 𝗮𝘀 𝗕𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗿𝗶𝘅

Helena Bonham Carter was initially not slated to play Bellatrix Lestrange. Helen McCroy originally had the role in the bag. However, her first pregnancy forced her to pull out of shooting Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix so Bonham Carter got the role. Luckily, McCroy snagged the role of Narcissa Malfoy, Bellatrix's sister in the final three films.

𝗛𝗲𝗻𝗿𝘆 𝗖𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗮𝘀 𝗖𝗲𝗱𝗿𝗶𝗰 𝗗𝗶𝗴𝗴𝗼𝗿𝘆

Back in the 2000's, Henry Cavill, now known to the world as Superman, was considered for two roles that incidentally ended up going to Robert Pattinson. After losing out on the role of Cedric Diggory in 2005's Goblet of Fire, Henry Cavill was another franchise’s first choice among fans, Edward Cullen in the Twilight saga. By the time that film began casting, Cavill was too old for the immortal vampire role and Pattinson was ultimately cast in that role.

𝗝.𝗞. 𝗥𝗼𝘄𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝘀 𝗟𝗶𝗹𝘆 𝗣𝗼𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿

Rowling was offered the role of Lily Potter. However she explained on her official site why she turned it down: "The filmmakers did ask me to play Lily Potter in the Mirror of Erised scene in the first film, but I really am not cut out to be an actress, even one who just has to stand there and wave. I would have messed it up somehow."

𝗥𝗼𝗯𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗚𝗿𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝗮𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗿𝗶𝘂𝘀 𝗕𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗸

It's so difficult to imagine anyone other than Gary Oldman in the role of Sirius Black but it very nearly happened. Originally Robson Green was cast in this pivotal role, however when the film changed directors, Robson was replaced with Gary Oldman.

𝗝𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗜𝘀𝗮𝗮𝗰𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗳𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗼𝗿 𝗟𝗼𝗰𝗸𝗵𝗮𝗿𝘁

Jason Isaacs didn't originally audition for the role of Lucius Malfoy. Instead, he auditioned for the role of Lockhart, but came in second to Kenneth Branagh. He was annoyed when producers and casting directors asked him for the role of Lucius Malfoy thereafter.

In fact, he didn't want to portray two villains in children's films as at the time, he was already set to play Captain Hook in the 2003 film, Peter Pan. It wasn't until his entire family started pestering him to take on the role of Lucius Malfoy, letting him know how special of an opportunity it was, that he thought it over.

𝗧𝗼𝗺 𝗙𝗲𝗹𝘁𝗼𝗻 as Harry Potter… Or Ron Weasley

Tom Felton originally auditioned for the role of Harry and the role of Ron, before landing the part of Draco. "I'm very grateful I am in the film at all, but even more grateful that I got the character of Draco", he said during an interview with MTV.

𝗟𝗶𝗮𝗺 𝗔𝗶𝗸𝗲𝗻 𝗮𝘀 𝗛𝗮𝗿𝗿𝘆 𝗣𝗼𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿

Originally the role was offered to American actor Liam Aiken who had worked with director Chris Columbus on the film Stepmom. However the offer was almost immediately retracted. Author J.K. Rowling had forbade any non-British actors from starring in the films, so the role was offered to Daniel Radcliffe.

𝗦𝗮𝗼𝗶𝗿𝘀𝗲 𝗥𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘀 𝗟𝘂𝗻𝗮 𝗟𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗴𝗼𝗼𝗱

Saoirse Ronan auditioned to play Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter franchise but lost the role to Evanna Lynch.

𝗣𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗢'𝗧𝗼𝗼𝗹𝗲 𝗮𝘀 𝗗𝘂𝗺𝗯𝗹𝗲𝗱𝗼𝗿𝗲

Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris were very good friends throughout their careers. Harris' family had hoped that O'Toole would take over the role of Dumbledore after Harris passed away. However, O'Toole decided to pass as he had health concerns of his own and didn't want the filmmakers to potentially be left in the same situation as they were when Harris passed away. Michael Gambon was then cast, and successfully made the role his own.

𝗧𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗮 𝗦𝘄𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗼𝗻 𝗮𝘀 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗳𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗼𝗿 𝗧𝗿𝗲𝗹𝗮𝘄𝗻𝗲𝘆

Though the wonderful Emma Thompson gave Professor Trelawney all of the quirks, character and personality that she could muster, it was Tilda Swinton who was initially offered the role. She turned it down immediately due to scheduling conflicts, and because she stated she was morally against boarding school.

𝗞𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗪𝗶𝗻𝘀𝗹𝗲𝘁 𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗚𝗿𝗲𝘆 𝗟𝗮𝗱𝘆

Kate Winslet was the first choice for the role that ended up going to Kelly Macdonald. Unfortunately Kate never even got to consider taking on the Grey Lady; her agent rejected the role on her behalf.

𝗡𝗮𝗼𝗺𝗶 𝗪𝗮𝘁𝘁𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝗡𝗮𝗿𝗰𝗶𝘀𝘀𝗮 𝗠𝗮𝗹𝗳𝗼𝘆

Before Helen McCrory stepped into Narcissa Malfoy's shoes, Naomi Watts was offered the role. However, like Kate Winslet, Naomi didn't have the chance to turn down the role herself, her agent rejected it before she could even consider it.

𝗕𝗼𝗯 𝗛𝗼𝘀𝗸𝗶𝗻𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗳𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗼𝗿 𝗦𝗹𝘂𝗴𝗵𝗼𝗿𝗻

The late Bob Hoskins was considered to star as the Hogwarts professor who had a passion for 'collecting' his students. Hoskins would have fit in perfectly in the Potter franchise. Still, Bob lost the role to Jim Broadbent who is remarkable as the eccentric Potions Master.

𝗥𝗼𝘀𝗮𝗺𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝗣𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗮𝘀 𝗥𝗶𝘁𝗮 𝗦𝗸𝗲𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗿

Rosamund Pike signed on to play the gossipy Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. After learning that she would also need to sign on to The Order of the Phoenix despite minimal screen time, Rosamund left the role behind. As a result Rita Skeeter is played by Miranda Richardson.

𝗛𝘂𝗴𝗵 𝗚𝗿𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝗮𝘀 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗳𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗼𝗿 𝗟𝗼𝗰𝗸𝗵𝗮𝗿𝘁

Hugh Grant was the first choice for the self-absorbed Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Gilderoy Lockhart. Grant was offered the role and he even accepted it. However, scheduling conflicts got in the way and Grant had to step away from the role.

𝗕𝗶𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗮𝘀 𝗫𝗲𝗻𝗼𝗽𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘂𝘀 𝗟𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗴𝗼𝗼𝗱

Actor Billy Connolly was another actor considered for the role of Xenophilius Lovegood. Because of his busy schedule, instead, Rhys Ifans was selected for the role of Luna Lovegood's father in the final two films.

𝗘𝗱𝗱𝗶𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗱𝗺𝗮𝘆𝗻𝗲 𝗮𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗴 𝗧𝗼𝗺 𝗥𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗹𝗲 (𝗶𝗻 𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝗼𝗳 𝗦𝗲𝗰𝗿𝗲𝘁𝘀)

Long before he landed the role of Fantastic Beasts' Newt Scamander, Eddie Redmayne tried to break into the Harry Potter franchise by trying out for other parts. "I actually auditioned to play Tom Riddle when l was back at university," Redmayne revealed in an interview. "I properly failed and didn't get a call back."

𝗗𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗱 𝗧𝗵𝗲𝘄𝗹𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗳𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗼𝗿 𝗤𝘂𝗶𝗿𝗿𝗲𝗹𝗹

David Thewlis initially auditioned for the role of Professor Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but it went to actor lan Hart. Luckily, Thewlis was given the role of Remus Lupin in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a role that he reprises in the final four films.

𝗝𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗲 𝗖𝗮𝗺𝗽𝗯𝗲𝗹𝗹-𝗕𝗼𝘄𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗴 𝗧𝗼𝗺 𝗥𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗹𝗲 (𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗛𝗮𝗹𝗳 𝗕𝗹𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲)

Jamie Campbell-Bower was gunning to play the young Dark Lord in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, a role that eventually went to Frank Dillane. Still, Jamie got a role in Harry Potter. He plays young Gellert Grindelwald, the second most powerful wizard of all time.

What do you think of these potential castings? Ultimately, I believe the casting team made the right decisions - but these would’ve been strong candidates for the roles.

In honour of the 20th anniversary, UK’s Cineworld will be screening all eight films throughout December. Even though I’ve seen these films a thousand times, you can almost guarantee I will be there to see these classics on the big screen again.


Ted Ryan


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