One of the most clever aspects in the casting of the Harry Potter films was the inclusion of a number of actors who were known for typically playing villains. While he played a variety of different characters in his life, what Alan Rickman was known for early in his career were two wonderful villainous roles – Hans Gruber in Die Hard and The Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. And Gary Oldman has played numerous murderers, corrupt officials, terrorists, and vampires throughout his career. So when the characters they played in Harry Potter both had their allegiances called into question, it was easy to assume they were evil, making the revelations about their characters far more surprising. However, they were not the only actors known for playing bad guys to join the cast. Another was Jason Isaacs.
Isaacs started acting in the 1980s, but his popularity soured in 2000 after he played a British soldier in The Patriot. His character committed numerous atrocities far beyond the scope of war, including the murder of wounded soldiers, women, and children. Not long after, he was cast in the iconic role of Captain Hook in Peter Pan. So when it came to auditioning for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he had a different sort of role in mind.
During A Celebration of Harry Potter in Universal this weekend, the actor was interviewed along with fellow franchise stars Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Warwick Davis (Filius Flitwick/Griphook), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom). When asked about which character they’d like to play besides their original role, Isaacs offered his thoughts. Apparently, Isaacs had a pretty good idea of who he wanted to play, and it was not Lucius Malfoy:
“I’d put on a wig. I’d love to play Hermione. [Laughs] I auditioned for Gilderoy Lockhart and I was a little bit disappointed in the room when Chris [Columbus] asked me, ‘Did you read the whole script?’ I said yes. ‘Would you mind reading as Malfoy?’ [I said,] ‘Ugh, sure.’
Continuing his story about the Harry Potter process, Isaacs went into detail about just how much convincing it took for him to take the role of Lucius:
“Then I ran outside and called my agent immediately. I said, ‘They want me to go back in and read a different part. I don’t want to do it.’ He said, ‘Just go in and read it. You don’t have to take the job.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to play another bad guy. I’m about to go off and play Captain Hook. I’m really not interested in doing it.’ He said, ‘Just go in and do it. You never know what will happen down the road.’
“I went in and I read it as Malfoy and I found out they offered it to me a week later. I told my agent, ‘Tell them no. Thanks very much. I appreciate it.’ He [said], ‘Take the weekend and think about it.’ I [said], ‘It’s just too similar to Captain Hook and another guy.’ He gave me the weekend and my nephews called… and my godchildren called… and then every child I knew and their parents called and told me that I had to do it. Not because they cared about my career but because they wanted to visit the set, I think. So I took the job, and thank God I did.”
Isaacs is not the only actor in the series who took a role to please the children in his life. The late Richard Harris admitted that he took the role of Dumbledore only after his granddaughter threatened to never speak to him again.
Considering what iconic performances Isaacs gave over the several Harry Potter movies he appeared in, not to mention Kenneth Branagh’s take on Lockhart, it seems safe to say that director Chris Columbus made the right call when he asked Isaacs to read for Malfoy.