Although it’s been sixteen years since the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, author J.K. Rowling has kept the magic alive with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Both the films and books have captivated Potterheads for years, and Rowling plans on continuing the movie tradition with the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2.
In retrospect, we’d like to take a closer look at some of the actors and actresses who were initially considered for roles in the eight film installments of Harry Potter. With a range of talented artists on this list, we’ve included comedic actors like Robin Williams and more obscure names like Liam Aiken. In some cases, several of these actors and actresses weren’t necessarily chosen for their first role in the wizarding world, but they joined the community in other roles.
Surprisingly enough, even author J.K. Rowling was given a shot at a major role in the Harry Potter films. Rowling might have turned it down, but she certainly has her plate full with finishing up work on the Fantastic Beasts 2 script and casting for teenage roles.
Here are 18 Actors Who ALMOST Starred In Harry Potter.
18. Hatty Jones as Hermione Granger
If the name “Hatty Jones” doesn’t sound familiar, no worries! We’ll fill you on the details, and how she almost starred as a major character in the Harry Potter series. Jones was first initially in the running for the role of everyone’s favorite bookworm in the Wizarding World—Hermione Granger.
For her debut role, Jones snagged the starring role of Madeline in the live-action film based on the children’s novel. Although the character is originally a redhead, the directors decided to go with Jones (who is a blonde) because of her enthusiasm and earnestness. Jones was certainly in the running to star as Hermione Granger, however many of the producers felt that she was slightly too old for the role.
Today, it’s hard to imagine anyone else but actress Emma Watson as Hermione Granger. For Jones, Madeline is her only film to date, and after that, she has worked on some short films and television roles.
17. Kate Winslet as Helena Ravenclaw
Actress Kate Winslet is known for her starring roles in epic films like Titanic and successful indie darlings like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Believe it or not, Winslet was also in the running for a minor role in the Harry Potter film series.
Initially, Winslet was rumored to be one of the choices for the role of Helena Ravenclaw, head of the House Ravenclaw. In the end, the role went to Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald. After starring in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Macdonald went on to voice Merida in Disney’s animated film, Brave.
16. Peter O’Toole as Dumbledore
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Richard Harris was the first actor cast for Albus Dumbledore, but there were other actors that were initially considered for the famous role. The illustrious actor Peter O’Toole was also considered to play Dumbledore. Sadly, Richard Harris passed away in 2002, after the completion of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
O’Toole is most well known for his iconic role as T.E. Lawrence in the classic film, Lawrence of Arabia, along with his role as Henry II in The Lion in Winter, Reginald Johnston in The Last Emperor and Anton Ego in Ratatouille. In 2012, O’Toole died at the age of 81 in London.
15. Billy Connolly as Xenophilius Lovegood
Actor Billy Connolly was another actor considered for the role of Xenophilius Lovegood, father of Hogwarts alum Luna Lovegood. Actor Billy Connolly is also known for his work as Il Duce in The Boondock Saints, Barry Kolker from White Oleanderm, and Zebulon Gant in The Last Samurai.
Originally from Glasgow, Scotland, Conolly might have been looked over for his role in Harry Potter, but he has also worked on other projects like A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, and What We Did on Our Holiday. In 2014, Connolly starred as Dain in The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. Most recently, Connolly can be found playing Chandler in last year’s Wild Oats.
Instead, actor Rhys Ifans was selected for the role of Luna Lovegood’s father in the Harry Potter films. Ifans has starred in films like Notting Hill, Mr. Nobody, Anonymous, and The Amazing Spider-Man.
14. Helen McCrory as Bellatrix Lestrange
Originally born in London, England, actress Helen McCrory might have intended on another role in the Harry Potter films, but she was initially sought after for another role altogether.
McCrory was initially in the running for a chance to star as the villainous Bellatrix Lestrange. Instead, actress Helena Bonham Carter portrayed the sinister Bellatrix Lestrange. Carter continued to reprise her roles for the remainder of the film series. In 2014, Carter also starred as Bellatrix Lestrange for a film created for the Harry Potter theme park in Universal Studios.
However, McCrory did join the wizarding world when she landed the role of Narcissa Malfoy. Acting as Draco Malfoy’s mother, McCrory first appeared in the Harry Potter films with a role in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
13. Ray Winstone as Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody
British actor Ray Winstone is often remembered for his roles like Mr. French in The Departed. Although he didn’t end up winning the role of Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody, he has taken on roles like Uncle Claude in Hugo, Mac in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Tubal-cain in Noah.
Instead, actor Brendan Gleeson was finally selected for the role. His first onscreen debut was in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in 2005, and he later reprised his role for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in 2007. Gleeson was last seen as Mad Eye Moody in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, which was released in 2010.
Although many fans might assume that was the last time Gleeson dove into the wizarding world, he actually made one other appearance. In 2014, Gleeson reprised his role for a short film called The Hogwarts Express, which plays exclusively at the Harry Potter theme park in Universal Studios.
12. Jamie Campbell-Bower as young Tom Riddle
Originally from London, England, Jamie Campbell Bower was in the running for a shot at playing young Tom Riddle in the Harry Potter series. Bowers’ film debut was his role as Anthony in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Although some of the other actors and actresses were out of the running because of their nationalities, Bower is British and seems to fit the bill. Instead, actor Frank Dillane was selected for the role of young Tom Riddle in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Bower went on to star in The Twilight Saga: New Moon as Caius. In 2010, he finally joined the wizarding world in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 as young Gellert Grindelwald. At the time, it is unconfirmed if Bower will make an appearance in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2.
11. Tim Roth as Severus Snape
At first glance, you might assume that actor Tim Roth would definitely be able to score a role in the Harry Potter films because he’s British, but actor Alan Rickman landed the role of Severus Snape in the film adaptations of Harry Potter. Roth is best known for roles like Pumpkin in Pulp Fiction and Mr. Orange in Reservoir Dogs. Although Roth wasn’t selected for Harry Potter, he went on to star in Planet of the Apes, The Incredible Hulk, and The Hateful Eight.
For die hard Harry Potter fans, it might be nigh impossible to imagine anyone else besides Alan Rickman playing Snape in the on screen adaptations of the beloved book series. Rickman starred as Professor Severus Snape from the first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, up until the series’ conclusion with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in 2011. Rickman also starred in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, CBGB, A Little Chaos and Eye in the Sky. Last year, fans could hear his voice as Absolem in Alice Through the Looking Glass.
10. Bob Hoskins as Horace Slughorn
Actor Bob Hoskins might be best remembered for some of his roles in films like Brazil, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Hook. Hoskins was also considered for a role in the Harry Potter films as Horace Slughorn, but the role eventually went to Jim Broadbent instead.
Hoskins had roles in films like Maid in Manhattan, Beyond the Sea, Unleashed and Stay. Hoskins continued to work with roles in television and film up until his death at age 71 in 2014.
Actor Jim Broadbent starred as Professor Horace Slughorn in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and again reprised his role for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in 2011. After his work on Harry Potter was complete, he starred in other films like Cloud Atlas, Paddington, and Bridget Jones’s Baby. Broadbent is also slated to star in Game of Thrones season seven, which will officially air in July.
9. David Thewlis as Professor Quirrell
Harry Potter fans will instantly recognize actor David Thewlis from his role as Professor Lupin, but in the beginning, he was actually considered to play another Hogwarts professor. Casting directors had eyed Thewlis for a vastly different role as Professor Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Instead, Thewlis was selected to play the role of Professor Remus Lupin. Thewlis first appeared in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and continued to play Lupin until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Thewlis has also starred in films such as War Horse, The Theory of Everything, and most recently, Wonder Woman.
In the end, actor Ian Hart was selected for the role of the stuttering Professor Quirrell. After appearing in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Hart has continued to pursue roles in television and film. Hart has appeared in films such as Finding Neverland, Dough and Native, and also television series like The Last Kingdom, Boardwalk Empire, and Rogue.
8. Rosamund Pike as Rita Skeeter
Actress Rosamund Pike first got her start with roles on television before making her film debut. In 2002, Pike starred as Miranda Frost in the James Bond tale, Die Another Day. Pike was considered for the role of Rita Skeeter in the Harry Potter films, but the final role was eventually given to actress Miranda Richardson.
Pike has also starred in other films like Pride & Prejudice, Doom, An Education, and Gone Girl. Most recently, Pike has starred in the television series Thunderbirds Are Go as the voice for Lady Penelope, and as Lina Heydrich in The Man with the Iron Heart.
Actress Miranda Richardson starred as Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and again in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Richardson later reprised her role for a short film, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Directed by Thierry Coup, the short film can be viewed as part of a theme park ride for the Wizarding World at Universal Studios.
7. Tilda Swinton as Professor Trelawney
Although Tilda Swinton was not selected for the role of Professor Trelawney, she has gone on to take on other roles in the fantasy genre. In 2005, Swinton starred as the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the subsequent films, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Swinton also starred in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Most recently, Swinton can be spotted in Doctor Strange, Okja, and War Machine. In place of Swinton, actress Emma Thompson was selected for the role of Professor Trelawney. After first starring in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Thompson reprised her role for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and later Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
6. Hugh Grant as Gilderoy Lockhart
Amusingly enough, actor Hugh Grant was one of the actors who was initially considered to play the pompous role of Gilderoy Lockhart. Grant is well-known for his charismatic personality and charming onscreen presence, specifically with his roles in films like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and About a Boy.
Grant might have had the pearly whites, but instead, Irish actor Kenneth Branagh was selected for the final role. After starring in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as the insufferable Gilderoy Lockhart, Branagh continued to amass credits in television, film and theater. Branagh has starred in films such as Valkyrie, Pirate Radio and My Week with Marilyn.
Branagh has also starred in several editions of Branagh Theater Live, and he will appear in films such as Dunkirk and Murder on the Orient Express, set for release later this year.
5. Naomi Watts as Narcissa Malfoy
Actress Naomi Watts has certainly come a long way from her first onscreen role as Leo’s Girlfriend in For Love Alone back in 1986. Watts was one of the actresses in the running to star as Draco Malfoy’s mother, Narcissa Malfoy, in the Harry Potter films. Before the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Watts starred as Ann Darrow in King Kong, Dawn Campbell in I Heart Huckabees and Marie Bicke in The Assassination of Richard Nixon.
British actress Helen McCrory was selected for the role of Narcissa instead. After her first appearance in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, McCrory also voiced Mrs. Bean in the animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox. After completing work on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, McCrory starred in Hugo as Mama Jeanne, Skyfall as Clair Dowar MP, and Bill as Queen Elizabeth I.
Most recently, you can catch McCrory in the television series Peaky Blinders as Aunt Polly. McCrory is set to star as Emma Banville in an upcoming television series called Fearless, which is currently filming.
4. J.K. Rowling as Lily Potter
In preparation for the first film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, author J.K. Rowling was presented with the opportunity to play Lily Potter. Rowling would have starred as Lily in a pivotal scene in which Harry sees both of his parents in the Mirror of Erised. However, Rowling turned down the role, stating that she was “not cut out to be an actress because she’d mess-up somehow.”
In the end, actress Geraldine Somerville was chosen for the role of Harry Potter’s mother, Lily Potter. Originally from Ireland, Somerville maintained her role as Lily Potter for all of the Harry Potter films. Somerville also reprised her role for some voiceover work for a video game for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
After starring in Harry Potter, Somerville has balanced between film and television roles. Somerville appeared in the film My Week with Marilyn, Grace of Monaco, and The Riot Club. Most recently, Somerville has appeared in Automata, Kids in Love and The Hippopotamus. For television, Somerville has starred in Quirke, New Tricks, Silent Witness and this year’s Prime Suspect 1973. Somerville is set to star as Lady O in the upcoming film Goodbye Christopher Robin.
3. Ian McKellen as Dumbledore
For fans of Lord of the Rings and the X-Men films, Sir Ian McKellen will always be known for his roles as Gandalf and Magneto. Surprisingly enough, McKellen almost had the chance to star as Dumbledore in the film adaptations of Harry Potter.
According to an interview with Variety, McKellen was asked to play Albus Dumbledore after the original actor Richard Harris passed away back in 2002. In an interview on BBC’s HARDtalk, McKellen was reminded of a harsh comment by the late actor, Richard Harris, who called McKellen “technically brilliant, but passionless”.
“When they called me up and said would I be interested in being in the ‘Harry Potter’ films, they didn’t say in what part. I worked out what they were thinking, and I couldn’t … I couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I’d known didn’t approve of me”.
2. Robin Williams as Rubeus Hagrid
According to The Guardian, the actor Robin Williams was originally looking forward to assuming the endearing role of Rubeus Hagrid. However, Williams was not selected for the final cut, and instead, actor Robbie Coltrane was chosen.
Janet Hirshenson, who was the casting director at the time, has spoken out since her time on set. Hirshenson has said that the producers employed a strict “British-only” rule when it came to the casting. Hirshenson went on to add that Robin Williams had actually called to inquire about the role because he had “really wanted to be in the movie“.
Instead, Coltrane starred as Hagrid, who was purportedly one of JK Rowling’s first choices. Sadly, Williams passed away in 2014 at the age of 63. He is best known for his leading roles in films like Dead Poets Society, Aladdin, Jumanji, and Mrs. Doubtfire.
1. Liam Aiken as Harry Potter
Let’s conclude our list with an entry on The Boy Who Lived himself, Mr. Harry Potter. Today, Harry Potter fans all across the globe will instantly think of Daniel Radcliffe, but initially, another actor was actually considered. Although this might be nearly considered the unthinkable, Daniel Radcliffe almost wasn’t selected for his famous role.
Young actor Liam Aiken was strongly considered to be selected for the role of Harry. At the time, young Aiken had several film credits to his name, including roles in Montana, Stepmom, and I Dreamed of Africa. However, Aiken was ultimately turned down because he wasn’t British, and the role went to Daniel Radcliffe.
Radcliffe was selected out of over forty thousand potential actors, who clamored for a chance to star as the famous wizard.
Can you think of any other actors who might have starred in the Harry Potter films? Let us know in the comments!