With an eight film franchise, there were bound to be a few recasts along the way in the Harry Potter series. Since many of the films came out before the book series was finished, some Harry Potter actors were cast when little information was known about their roles and where they’d end up. Even if the character they were playing had a name, if they didn’t have any lines or weren’t featured, they were just considered background actors and were cast accordingly.
However, seeing as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first film in the franchise, made almost $1 billion worldwide, Warner Brothers had a lot riding on the continued success of the series. Many seemingly minor characters went on to play larger roles in the later books, and by extension, later films in the franchise. Some actors were replaced because they weren’t experienced or talented enough, while others simply became involved in other projects.
Whatever the reason, the films only got better after Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when David Yates took over as director. Hopefully, with Yates at the helm of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise, there will be little need for as much actor turnover as its predecessor experienced (although many fans are already skeptical about Johnny Depp’s casting as Grindelwald).
Here are 15 Harry Potter Actors Who Were Recast.
15. Richard Fish and Domhnall Gleeson as Bill Weasley
Although he’s a Weasley, Bill is only mentioned in passing during the first two books, since he lives on his own in Egypt. When Arthur Weasley wins The Daily Prophet‘s Grand Prize Galleon Draw during Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the whole family is able to finally go visit him. It is there that we first see a glimpse of Bill in a photograph, which appears in The Daily Prophet. Since he was a new character and didn’t have any lines, the casting director for the films was able to bring on a background actor. Richard Fish was hired to portray Bill Weasley in the photograph alongside the other Weasley family members.
Seeing as how Fish had no real professional acting experience to speak of, it was no surprise then that his role was recast and given to Domhnall Gleeson. Not only does Domhnall look more like the description of Bill from the books, but he’s also the son of Harry Potter veteran Brendan Gleeson (who played Mad-Eye Moody). There’s actually a passage in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince where Bill is described as follows, “His scars were as bad as ever; in truth, he now bore a distinct resemblance to Mad-Eye Moody, though thankfully with both eyes and legs still intact.” How then, could the producers pass up an opportunity to actually use the actor who played Mad-Eye Moody’s son for the part?
14. Elizabeth Spriggs and Dawn French as The Fat Lady
In the Harry Potter books, the Fat Lady is a sassy, benevolent character whose painting guards the entrance to the Gryffindor common room. Upon receiving the weekly password, she lets students into their house, although usually somewhat reluctantly. Some fans were taken aback when Elizabeth Spriggs was cast in the Fat Lady role, since she was an older Shakespearean actress that wasn’t necessarily known for her comedic chops. Spriggs tended to take more matronly roles, which didn’t really fit with the Fat Lady’s bubbly, sometimes drunken, and easily irritated, personality.
When Alfonso Cuaron signed on as director for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he recast the Fat Lady and gave the part to British television comedian Dawn French. The Fat Lady had a much more active role in Prisoner of Azkaban, since Sirius Black attacks her painting, and French provided some much needed comic relief. Keeping to the whole “when the fat lady sings” expression, she attempts to break a glass with her singing voice while Harry and his fellow Gryffindors impatiently wait to get into their common room. Although it’s one of the most memorable scenes in the film, unfortunately, French did not reprise her role in any of the later films — though the Fat Lady is mentioned in subsequent books.
13. Verne Troyer and Warwick Davis as Griphook
Best known for playing Mini-Me in the Austin Powers movies, Verne Troyer also originally played the role of the Gringotts Bank goblin, Griphook, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Although Troyer was shown in the film, his voice was dubbed over by another actor with dwarfism, Warwick Davis. You may remember Davis as the Ewok Wicket from Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi and Willow from the film of the same name. It’s likely that the combination of Troyer’s high-pitched voice and American accent weren’t satisfactory for the vision the filmmakers had of Griphook.
When next we saw Griphook, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Troyer had been replaced by Warwick Davis completely. Up until that point, Davis had actually played another Harry Potter character, Professor Filius Flitwick, the Charms master and head of Ravenclaw house. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Davis actually played both roles within the same film, although Professor Flitwick looks significantly younger than he had in the earlier films.
12. Leilah Sutherland and Rochelle Douglas as Alicia Spinnet
Alicia Spinnet is one of those minor Harry Potter characters who often appears in the background, but never actually has any lines. Therefore, she has been played by a number of different actresses, although only two actually received credit for the role. According to IMDB, Leilah Sutherland played Alicia Spinnet in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, where she is seen with Harry when he plays his first Quidditch match.
Alicia was a chaser for the Gryffindor quidditch team and became a member of Dumbledore’s Army in the books, although it’s unclear whether or not she’s part of the villainous club in the films. Rochelle Douglas took over the role for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, again showing up during a Quidditch related scene. Neither Sutherland or Douglas have any other acting credits, but Douglas is a former international gymnastics champion and current girl’s gymnastics coach for Europa Gym in Crayford, a town about 20 miles east of London.
11. Nina Young and Kelly Macdonald as The Grey Lady/Helena Ravenclaw
Known mostly as The Grey Lady throughout the Harry Potter series, Helena Ravenclaw is the ghost of Ravenclaw house at Hogwarts. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, she is played by Nina Young, a British film and television actress known for her bit roles in Tomorrow Never Dies and Johnny English. Since the first Harry Potter film came out in 2001, when only four books had been written, it’s likely the Grey Lady was considered a minor background character, since she’d had no lines in the series at that time. However, after the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book came out in 2007, the importance of The Grey Lady’s role in the story was revealed, which would explain the need for a recasting.
Kelly Macdonald took over the expanded role for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, when Harry confronts her about Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem and finds out that the ghost is actually Rowena’s daughter. Helena eventually reveals the location of the diadem to Harry after a good amount of back and forth. Although actress Kelly Macdonald had many supporting roles before she appeared in the Harry Potter franchise, since her appearance as Helena Ravenclaw, she’s become best known for voicing Merida in Disney’s Brave and as one of the stars of the hit HBO period drama, Boardwalk Empire.
10. Peter Cartwright and David Ryall as Elphias Doge
Though not shown very much in the films, Elphias Doge was one of Albus Dumbledore’s best friends, whom he met while at Hogwarts. The two friends were supposed to travel the world together after they graduated, but Dumbledore was unable to do so after the death of his mother. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Doge was played by Peter Cartwright, a long time bit part actor who had a few featured roles before his death in 2013. Cartwright had no dialogue in his appearance as Doge, as he merely showed up alongside the other members of the Advanced Guard to accompany Harry Potter to the Order of the Phoenix’s headquarters at 12 Grimmauld Place.
Doge shows up again in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 during Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour’s wedding, this time played by David Ryall. Harry engages Doge in conversation about Dumbledore, since he had written an obituary for him in The Daily Prophet. Ryall had a fifty-year acting career in both theater and film before appearing in the Harry Potter series, and he did a fine job as Cartwright’s replacement.
9. Emily Dale and Georgina Leonidas as Katie Bell
Katie Bell was another minor character who was replaced after she was finally given lines in one of the later films. She’s close friends with Alicia Spinnet and Angelina Johnson, and all three are chasers for the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Initially, she was played by Emily Dale in the first two films. Dale has had no other film credits since then and it’s unknown what her current occupation is.
Come Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the role of Katie Bell was recast and given to Georgina Leonidas, who played the part for the next two films as well. Although still a minor character, Katie had lines in Half-Blood Prince, along with a scary scene where she becomes cursed by a necklace intended to assassinate Dumbledore. Leonidas only had a few TV and film credits pre and post-Potter, but has gone on to perform regularly at the Theatre Royal Windsor near Windsor Castle in Berkshire.
8. Danielle Tabor and Tiana Benjamin as Angelina Johnson
Like the other Gryffindor chasers, Katie Bell and Alicia Spinnet, Angelina Johnson was recast in the later films. Danielle Tabor played her in the first three films, when she had no lines and only appeared in the background among her fellow Gryffindors. It’s unknown why exactly she was recast besides her character having lines in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but it may have also been because she didn’t look the same age as the other actors in her year, especially the Weasley twins.
Tabor was replaced by Tiana Benjamin for Goblet of Fire, when Angelina Johnson goes to the Yule Ball with Fred Weasley. Benjamin was also supposed to reappear in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but had to turn down the role. She was a regular on the long-running British soap opera, EastEnders, and her shooting schedule conflicted with the production of Order of the Phoenix. Angelina Johnson was left out of the next few movies, even though she’s a part of Dumbledore’s Army in the books and participates in the Battle of Hogwarts. However, Danielle Tabor actually reprised her role for the filming of the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at the Universal Studios theme parks. She’s seen with the other Gryffindors waving at riders during the end sequence.
7. Derek Deadman and Jim Tavare as Tom the Innkeeper
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Tom the bartender is one of the first people to recognize Harry and treat him like a celebrity. They meet on Harry’s first trip to Diagon Alley when Hagrid escorts him to get his things for school. Derek Deadman plays Tom in this instance, portraying the bartender as a kindly old man who takes care of his customers. Deadman had a slew of TV and film credits before Harry Potter, but all were minor roles, where he often played criminals, taxi drivers, or an everyday Joe.
Then Alfonso Cuaron came along and made probably the weirdest recasting in Harry Potter history, transforming Tom into a snaggle-toothed hunchback whom he should’ve just renamed Igor. Jim Tavare played Tom in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, greeting Harry as he arrives at the Leaky Cauldron and taking him to see the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge. Tavare’s performance is comedic gold, but is completely different from the character seen in the books. Harry actually refers to him as toothless and wizened, a far cry from the quirky depiction in the film.
6. Sharon Sandhu and Afshan Azad as Padma Patil
One-half of the Patil sisters, Padma was originally played by Sharon Sandhu in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Sandhu was another young actor who was probably just cast as a student in the background, since she was originally just credited as Girl #2. Even though she was a Ravenclaw in the books, the filmmakers chose to keep her in Gryffindor with her sister Parvati. Padma and Parvati were described by Dean Thomas as the best-looking girls in the school during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Padma was likely recast for that film since Goblet of Fire is when she went to the Yule Ball with Ron Weasley and had a larger role.
Afshan Azhad took over as Padma and continued to play her for the rest of the films, showing up for Dumbledore’s Army meetings with her sister and conversing with other students after the Battle of Hogwarts. Although Azhad has no other film or TV credits listed, she continued to work in Asia as a presenter for the Asian Media Awards and still travels to comic book conventions. She also made headlines back in 2011, when her father and brother attacked her for dating a Hindu man, which goes against her family’s Muslim tradition.
5. Sitara Shah and Shefali Chowdhury as Parvati Patil
Padma’s sister, Parvati had a lot more screentime in general, even in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Parvati was the outgoing twin and was sorted into Gryffindor both in the books and in the films, unlike her sister, Padma. The role originally belonged to Sitara Shah, who faces off against Professor Lupin’s boggart during a Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson. She’s also seen in Divination class with Lavender Brown, who’s her best friend in the books.
Shah barely looked like a thirteen-year-old in Prisoner of Azkaban, which is probably why she was recast for the next film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Parvati played a larger role in this film, since she was Harry’s date to the Yule Ball and they had to dance together to open the event. Shefali Chowdhury took over as Parvati and continued to play her for the next four films. Although she hasn’t had many acting credits since then, Chowdhury has representation with the Harter Allen Agency in London and has a black belt in karate.
4. Genevieve Gaunt and Scarlett Byrne as Pansy Parkinson
Draco Malfoy’s female counterpart, Pansy Parkinson had a much smaller role in the films than in the books. Although she threw quite a few mean comments around, especially towards the Gryffindors and any half-bloods or Muggle-borns, she was relatively benign in the first few movies, mainly appearing among Draco’s gang of Slytherins. The role was first credited to Genevieve Gaunt in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, who was seen trying to scare Harry during their Care of Magical Creatures class with the other Slytherins and fawning over Draco’s hurt arm in The Great Hall. She’s gone on to have a fairly successful career, and most recently appeared in The Royals, a British TV show about the Royal Family.
Another uncredited actress played Pansy during Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, that was later revealed to be Lauren Shotton. However, most people are more familiar with the character’s recast from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince onwards, when Scarlett Byrne took over the role. Byrne moved to Los Angeles at some point, racking up TV roles on both The Vampire Diaries and Falling Skies, and she’s currently engaged to one of Hugh Hefner’s sons.
3. Richard Harris and Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
Probably the most well-known recast from the Harry Potter films is that of Hogwarts’ headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. Richard Harris played Dumbledore for the first two films and gave us a much calmer, twinkly-eyed Dumbledore, like J.K. Rowling’s description of him in the books. Harris’ portrayal, however, was only based on the first four books, since those were the only ones published at the time. The first four books are much lighter in tone, since Lord Voldemort had not yet regained a corporeal form. Unfortunately, Harris died after the release of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and the role was then given to Michael Gambon.
Although some fans criticized Gambon’s depiction of Dumbledore, particularly in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he continued on in the part for the remainder of the series, which has come to define his career as a performer. As the later books were released, we began to see how much Dumbledore’s tragic past shaped him. Gambon expertly portrayed his inner conflict as he pushed his grandfatherly feelings for Harry aside for the greater good in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix onward. Drawing on his connection to J.K. Rowling, Gambon also appeared in the TV miniseries based on her novel of the same name, The Casual Vacancy.
2. Jennifer Smith and Jessie Cave as Lavender Brown
Now on to the most controversial Harry Potter recasting to date: Lavender Brown. Up until Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Lavender was played by an uncredited actress, since she was in the background with some of the other Gryffindor students. However, in the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film, she was credited as Jennifer Smith and seen more often during classes with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, including Care of Magical Creatures and Divination. It isn’t until the sixth film that Lavender is seen again, but boy does she look different.
The Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince book did not come out until 2005, the same year the movie adaptation of Goblet of Fire came out. At that time, the Harry Potter producers found out that Lavender begins to have a more important role as Ron’s first girlfriend. As a result, they recast the role and gave it to a white actress instead, Jessie Cave. While Lavender’s race is not explicitly mentioned in the books, many fans were offended by this sudden change of race, taking to sites like Tumblr to vent their frustrations and even writing academic essays on the subject. It’s likely that the original casting was more of an afterthought than a purposeful choice, assigning extras minor characters’ names from the book so they could keep track of them. Nevertheless, it was a pretty reprehensible decision — one that Warner Brothers never apologized for.
1. Richard Bremmer and Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort
Last but not least, we can’t forget that even Lord Voldemort was recast at one point. When we first catch a glimpse of him, it’s on the back of Professor Quirrell’s head during Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. In this incarnation, he was played by Richard Bremmer, who had enjoyed a thirty-year career as a working actor (mostly bit parts on British television). Much of his appearance was altered with CGI, except for his nose, which remained intact, a subject of contention among many fans. Lord Voldemort is described in the books as having red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake.
When Voldemort reemerges into a corporeal form during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the role was passed on to Ralph Fiennes, best known for his starring role in the Oscar-winning film, The English Patient. Few people can think of Voldemort now without imagining Fiennes portrayal of the Dark Lord and the dramatic flair he brought to the character. Considering Voldemort’s importance in the story of Harry Potter, it’s safe to say that the filmmakers’ decision to fill the role with a more seasoned lead actor was the right one.
Were any other Harry Potter roles played by two different actors? Let us know in the comments.
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