It’s been fifteen years since the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Since that time, a ton of new actors have found themselves on our collective radar. Remember, in 2001 we had never heard of Breaking Bad, Dexter, Desperate Housewives, or iPhones. Daniel Craig hadn’t even been considered for James Bond in 2001, and Robot Chicken hadn’t made it to television yet. The year 2001 seems weirdly recent and distant at the same time.
With that in mind, we thought it might be time to recast the first Harry Potter movie with a slightly more modern array of actors. We also thought it would be fun to include a higher percentage of Americans, more diversity, and a little gender swapping.
To be clear–we’re not saying it’s time for a Harry Potter remake just yet. But we do think that fantasy casting it might lead to some interesting discussion and renewed excitement for the students and teachers of Hogwarts—not to mention the villains who would thwart them. For the purposes of this list, we stuck only to characters that appear in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Enjoy What If Harry Potter Was Cast Today?
16. Vernon Dursley – Zach Galifianakis
The patriarch of the Dursley family is an unpleasant person, to put it mildly. He’s the first character mentioned in the first Harry Potter book, and is a representation of the ignorance and smugness that sets the tone for the anti-wizard bigotry he maintains through all seven books. He’s offended by people wearing cloaks, for heaven’s sake! Vernon is a hateful guy who is quick to point out the faults of others while recognizing none of his own. He’s also a buffoon, oft hoisted by the petard of his cruelty, racism, proud ignorance, and slavish devotion to his bullying son.
Zach Galifianakis is a good choice for Vernon for several reasons. He’s a buffoon too, or at least can play a convincing one. But like the late Richard Griffiths, he’s a super nice guy in real life. He also has huge dramatic range, and can play all the sides of Vernon—frightened, annoyed, rage-filled, manic, gregarious, smug, and authoritative. Loving to hate Zach for a movie or eight might be a lot of fun.
15. Petunia Dursley – Lily Rabe
Readers know that the Petunia we see in the films has a very different physical description in the books. Fiona Shaw nailed the nastier aspects of Petunia Dursley, but lacks the blonde hair that Rowling described. Petunia is one of the most cowardly and infuriating villains in the entire series. She never got over her sister Lily going off to Hogwarts without her— she was still furious about it more than two decades later. That’s an almost impressive amount of bitterness.
Lily Rabe would be excellent as a new Petunia. She has the long blonde hair Rowling imagined for her, but more importantly, Rabe has played some truly depraved characters. On American Horror Story, fans have seen her as a cruel and vicious wife forever lamenting the things she doesn’t have, and as a nun possessed by the devil. Yes, the actual devil. That’s exactly the kind of experienced evil needed to play a woman who treats a boy like a slave before locking him in a closet every night— all because she’s jealous of his mom.
14. Dudley Dursley – Kellen Michael
When we heard the name “Dudley Dursley,” the first image that comes to mind is him wailing, “But last year, last year I had thirty-seven!” We all know it’s not those two presents that makes the difference between reasonable Dudley and tantrum Dudley. Little Diddikins is a mean, angry, dishonest, gluttonous bully— which is what a lot of kids might be if they never got any discipline ever. Dudley is practically encouraged to beat up on his smaller, younger cousin, so can we really blame Dudley for being such a pill?
Regardless of who’s to blame, we think Kellen Michael from Showtime’s Shameless would be an excellent Dudley. On the show he’s best known for, Michael is delightful as a kid who conveys a lot without saying much. He’s cute and seems nice, but you know if he ever has a tantrum that you ought to just clear the room until he calms down. Fun Fact: Kellen Michael also played real-life Eric Cartman in the South Park episode about Oculus Rift: The Graphics Suck.
13. Weasley Twins — Brent and Shane Kinsman
Next to Peeves, Fred and George Weasley are the Potterverse characters most synonymous with mayhem and destruction. What else would you expect from twins born on April Fool’s Day? But Fred and George aren’t just about pranks, humor, and causing distractions (though they are awesome at all of those things). Fred and George Weasley are also brave—hence their being in Gryffindor and fiercely loyal. They are loyal to friends, to family, and most of all, to each other. They are decent students, great Quidditch players, and they drop out of school in the most impressive and explosive way imaginable.
With all that in mind, it was tricky to decide just who could hold a candle to the Phelps brothers. We decided on Desperate Housewives actors Brent and Shane Kinsman—not to be confused with Max and Charlie Carver, who took over their roles on the series. Brent and Shane are funny, rambunctious, and entertaining. A little red hair color and we’re confident they could manage any mischief that came their way.
12. Quirinus Quirrell – Amanda Plummer
How much do we really know about “P-p-poor, st-stuttering P-Professor Quirrell?” For starters, we know that he is neither poor nor stuttering. He’s a little power mad, and likes to inform people immediately whenever there’s a troll in the dungeon. Quirrell has no qualms about murdering children, and he’s not necessarily opposed to evil wizards taking up residence in the back of his head. Because he comes off as a nervous twitchy person through most of the first film, we thought it would be neat to recast Quirrell with someone equally unnerving.
Amanda Plummer has so many of the characteristics that Quirrell needs. She conveys nervousness exceptionally well, and is also good at diverting our attention—which can be handy. She can play a wide array of people from highly virtuous to downright murderous, which is just what you need for Quirrell. We probably wouldn’t look forward to seeing this beauty disintegrate, but the performance would be worth it in the end.
11. Madame Pomfrey – Kathy Bates
One of the most overlooked witches in the franchise is Poppy Pomfrey. Where would those wizarding children would be without her? Well, Hermione would have a cat’s head and/or giant teeth. Harry’s arm would have no bones. Countless bumps, bruises, curses, and bizarre animal bites and stings would have gone untreated. All those poor people frozen by the Basilisk might have even stayed that way without the ministrations of Madame Pomfrey.
This is why we chose an actress who is also decidedly amazing but rarely gets the notice she deserves: Kathy Bates. Ms Bates has a similar body type to the Poppy Pomfrey we know and love. We know that she can be alternately nurturing and stern, which is central to what Poppy does at work. That booming voice would also come in handy. Finally, we’ve seen that Kathy Bates knows a thing or two about nursing… though on second thought, that might be cause for alarm.
10. Voldemort – Adrien Brody
We don’t see a whole lot of grown-up Tom Riddle in the first Harry Potter movie. But he’s there, and his presence looms. If they did recast this movie series, one would hope they’d take greater care to avoid recasting down the road. Plenty of characters, even important ones, were recast in the series. Sometimes that couldn’t be helped, like Dumbledore. Other times, it could. What are Voldemort’s most striking characteristics? He’s handsome in human form. He’s tall, powerful, ruthless, and alluring to the skewed mind.
Casting Adrien Brody as Voldie right from the beginning would set us up for at least six movies full of awesomeness (he wouldn’t appear in the 3rd one). Brody can play a disturbing villain if he wants to. Check out his early work in Oxygen for proof. He could bring a hissy, snakelike quality to Voldemort that would terrify a whole new generation of children. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
9. Madame Hooch – Mindy Kaling
Rolanda Hooch (her name is not “Xiomara” and fans ought to stop saying it is) seems like a formidable woman. She’s solid, abrupt, and a bit severe. To hear her tell it, Quidditch is no laughing matter. Flying should always be treated like the dangerous yet vital skill that it is. Madame Hooch doesn’t put up with nonsense. Truth be told, she could probably stand to relax. Rolanda is described in the books as having yellow eyes, somewhat like a hawk.
Wouldn’t it be fun to make Madame Hooch a bit lighter and more enthusiastic? We think so too. That’s why Mindy Kaling is a great choice for Rolanda. Kaling is bubbly and fun, which is the temperament one needs to get nerdy kids excited about sports. She’d be great at encouraging kids who maybe aren’t so great at flying, and even better at putting a verbal smackdown on Malfoy types who think they’re all that. Adding a little sass to Quidditch never hurt anybody.
8. Severus Snape – Adam Driver
With the 2016 passing of the legendary Alan Rickman, we want to be highly respectful with this recast. Most of us probably wish Rickman could’ve lived forever and never be recast in anything. Has there ever been a more perfect casting choice than Alan Rickman as Severus Snape? Snape is a somber guy, still grieving over a relationship he screwed up 20-years prior and blaming the next guy who dated the girl he liked. Still, he ended up doing some brave things—braver than Harry and Dumbledore put together, one could argue.
Adam Driver is a similarly somber player, already known for one of the most villainous characters in recent years (and we don’t mean Adam from Girls). After all, what kind of a monster kills Han Solo anyway?! Driver can definitely play dark, brooding characters that we’re still drawn to for reasons we can’t quite define. If we pictured him as a kid getting bullied by jocks, we’d have no trouble believing it. That makes Adam Driver the best Snape recasting option we’ve got.
7. Hagrid – Jorge Garcia
If you think about it, Hagrid can be described as Harry Potter’s best and most loyal ally. While many of those in Harry’s life love him because he looks like James, or has Lily’s eyes—Hagrid befriended Harry just because he’s Harry. Hagrid is intensely loyal, and as honest as he can be (people ask him to keep a lot of secrets). His love of most creatures is legendary, even when it’s dangerous and he’s say, filling the dark forest with murderous acromantulas. Hagrid may be huge, but he’s also hugely loveable.
Jorge Garcia is a fantastic choice for Rubeus Hagrid, largely because he embodies all the things we love about Hagrid. His boundless supply of compassion for all creatures, his loyalty to his friends and family, and his willingness to stay on the Island after Jack and Sawyer…wait, maybe we’re confusing him with Hugo Reyes on LOST. Still, Jorge Garcia would make an awesome Care of Magical Creatures teacher, and an even better half-giant friend.
6. Minerva McGonagall – Jessica Lange
Minerva McGonagall is another character who is described a little differently in the books. Book-Minerva is more severe looking, with jet-black hair and glasses with thick, pronounced frames that translate easily to her feline face. She’s an animagus, after all. Minerva is a staunch disciplinarian who will take massive points away from her own house when the situation demands it. But she’s also a fan of Quidditch and has some tolerance for well-mannered frivolity. Professor McGonagall expects a lot from her students, and if you cross her, she will rise to the occasion in ways that may shock you.
While we’d never presume to make her a brunette, we think Jessica Lange has the strength and power to become Minerva. Lange is versatile, formidable, and we already know that she can play a witch. In fact, anyone who’s been watching American Horror Story knows that there’s very little that Jessica Lange can’t do.
5. Albus Dumbledore – Patrick Stewart
When the sad news of Richard Harris’s death required a new actor be cast as Dumbledore, plenty of fans clamored for Sir Patrick Stewart. And why wouldn’t they? Dumbledore is unfailingly polite, well-spoken, kind almost to a fault, and has an underlying mirth that makes him pretty dang delightful. Still, Albus had a difficult life that was full of tragedy and conflict. Being highly intelligent and capable ended up estranging him from some of the most important people in his life, and so he lived most of that life essentially alone.
Someone with the range and bravado of Patrick Stewart is perfect to capture the wonder that is Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. Many would argue that Michael Gambon never captured the Dumbledore of literature, and others go so far as to say he “ruined” the role for them. We wouldn’t go quite that far, but Sir Pat Stew (as he’s known on Twitter) is surely our top choice for Headmaster.
4. Draco Malfoy – Nicholas Hamilton
Has there ever been a kid more slappably annoying than Draco Malfoy? He’s smug, smarmy, deceitful, and everything a good (or bad, as the case may be) Slytherin should be. We could argue that Draco’s more vicious qualities were given to him by his horrible parents. But that doesn’t make the kid any less annoying, mean, or sinister in his bullying of good kids like Ron Weasley and Harry Potter. Who’s the right actor to bring Draco Malfoy to the screen?
If you haven’t heard of Nicholas Hamilton, you’re about to. He starred in a 2016 movie with Viggo Mortenson called Captain Fantastic. It premiered at Cannes, and is nominated for SAG awards. Nicholas Hamilton will also appear in the upcoming Stephen King movies: The Dark Tower and It. In addition to very much looking the part, this kid has a snide sneer and the kind of smile that you can’t quite tell if it’s sincere or sinister.
3. Hermione Granger – Skai Jackson
When Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was cast for the stage, a certain segment of fans lost their mind over what they deemed an excess of melanin in the casting. This was months ago, and we’ve since learned that casting a Hermione of color is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s kind of awesome. The books describe Hermione as many things. She’s smart, but not the best at making new friends. She has muggle dentists for parents, and her hair is huge and frizzy. Beginning in 4th year, Hermione is conventionally attractive enough that she garners the attention of an international Quidditch star. Cool, right?
Young actress Skai Jackson came to the notice of many fans with a tiny role on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. She has since become Zuri Ross, who is an adorable character in the Disney live-action series Jessie. Jackson would make a fine Hermione because she’s bright, cute, and strong– even as she has no qualms about dressing like a princess.
2. Ron Weasley – Gaten Matarazzo
In the world of literary friends, Ron Weasley lacks the epic loyalty of say, Samwise Gamgee or Samwell Tarly. In the end though, Ron is a good kid who means well, which is probably why fans identify with him. Ron spends most of his childhood wishing he were as capable as his brothers or as popular as his best friend. By the time this happens for him, he realizes that stuff like that isn’t very important. His job is to be a decent person and do the right thing.
Gaten Matarazzo is a similar kid. He struggled getting acting gigs because of a condition called “cleidocranial dysplasia” (something incorporated into his character, Dustin, on Stranger Things). It’s a shame it took him so long to get noticed, because he’s got chops. That’s the only way you get to be on Broadway in shows like Les Miserables and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Gaten would be a great Ron, even if he doesn’t fit the physical descriptors.
1. Harry Potter – David Mazouz
When the Harry Potter books were first being discussed as a film series, the original suggestion was that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (they never considered using the original, British title for the movie) would be directed by Steven Spielberg and star Haley Joel Osment as Harry. So it looks like we dodged a bullet with that one. Osment is a good kid, but lacked the scrappy quality that made us love Harry, and the heroism that lead us to cheer for him. Daniel Radcliffe was an awesome choice for the Boy Who Lived.
If you’ve been watching Gotham on FOX, you no doubt have been impressed by the performance of young Bruce Wayne—David Mazouz. He’s amazing, and can be anything from somber and sad, to cheerful and funny, or serious and direct. He can plead, threaten, question, and command convincingly and in a way that we simply can’t look away from. Mazouz has gotten about three feet taller since Gotham began, but he’s still our fantasy casting choice for Harry James Potter.
Who would you recast in a new Harry Potter movie series? Tell us all about it in the comments.