Robin Williams Could’ve Been Hagrid – And 9 Other Actors Who Were Almost in Harry Potter
The Debrief: No, really.
The characters in the Harry Potter series are so iconic, it’s hard to believe any other actors were ever considered for the role. But, this week, casting director Janet Hirshenson has revealed that the late, great Robin Williams was Warner Bros original choice for the role of Hagrid, losing out to Robbie Coltrane due to Rowling’s insistence that all roles be played by British actors.
With visions of a gigantic, bearded Williams running rampant in our minds, we’ve decided to delve a little deeper to explore which other big stars narrowly missed the Hogwarts Express.
Sir Ian Mckellen as Professor Dumbledore
When Richard Harris passed away in 2002, after completing The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, Lord of the Rings actor Ian McKellen was the favourite in the running to succeed the coveted role of Professor Dumbledore. But McKellen was not convinced and swiftly turned down the role. McKellen later claimed ‘People say to me, ‘Don’t you wish you’d played Dumbledore?’ I say no! I played Gandalf! The original.’ Well, that's us told!
Tilda Swinton as Professor Trelawney
While we think Tilda Swinton, with her penchant for playing fabulously eccentric characters, would’ve been perfect in the role of batty Divination teacher, Sybill Trelawney; film scheduling conflicts for Potter’s third instalment meant the role went to the equally wonderful Emma Thompson. Tilda broke the news in true 2003 fashion – via an interview with CBBC’s Newsround.
Liam Aiken as Harry Potter
After eight films, it feels as if actor Daniel Radcliffe and the character of Harry Potter are almost inseparable, and despite accepting some very risqué roles, poor Dan still struggles to shake his Potter persona. But the role wasn’t always going to be Radcliffe’s. Liam Aiken, who you may remember from 2004’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, was the casting team's original choice for the boy wizard.
Hugh Grant as Gilderoy Lockhart
Floppy hair. Disarming smile. Overbearing self-confidence. It’s easy to see why the role of flamboyant narcissist Gilderoy Lockhart was originally given to everyone’s favourite bumbling posh boy Hugh Grant. But scheduling conflicts struck again and Hugh had to refuse the role, leaving the job to probably-shouldn't-but-I-still-would Kenneth Brannagh.
David Walliams as Barty Crouch Jr.
Riding high on the success of Little Britain, Walliams was offered the role of Barty Crouch Jr., loyal servant to Lord Voldemort in 2005. But Walliams wasn’t impressed with the role, hoping to be offered a bigger part, ‘They’re going to make another five films, I’ll be a teacher.’ Walliams later told the press, ‘But they never asked me again.’ Lesson learnt: Never turn down J.K.Rowling.
Naomi Watts as Narcissa Malfoy
Although she has lived in Australia at 14, Naomi was actually born and raised in Kent so we agree that this definitely makes her viable for Rowling’s Brit-only cast and we think she would have been great in the role of Narcissa Malfoy; the snooty mother of bleach-blonde bad-boy Draco. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be and Watts’ management turned down the role before Naomi even caught wind of it and the role of Narcissa went to Helen McCrory.
Rosamund Pike as Rita Skeeter
Long before she was busy being nominated for Oscars, Rosamund Pike was the first choice for the role of poison-pen journo Rita Skeeter in The Goblet of Fire. Although exceptional in her turn as the mysterious, and murderous, Amy Dunne in 2014’s Gone Girl, it’s hard to imagine anyone capturing the acidic aesthetic of rotten Rita quite like Miranda Richardson.
Bob Hoskins as Horace Slughorn
Perhaps best known for his turn in the overwhelmingly Eighties cartoon-cum-crime comedy Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Hoskins was on the potential casting list for Potions Master Professor Horace Slughorn. Hoskins missed out on the job and it went to the Academy Award-winning Jim Broadbent. All to be forgotten…until Bob raised the topic on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. Whilst sitting next to Rowling. Awkward!
Tim Roth as Snape
In 2001, Tim was in talks for the role of Potions master Severus Snape, and while he claims his kids were super keen for him to take the role, he decided to turn down the part for his role as General Thade in Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes ‘because the idea of being an ape was too good.’ 15 years and a multi-BILLION pound film franchise later, we’re not so sure Tim would still agree. The role went to the late Alan Rickman and the rest, as they say, is history.
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