The Harry Potter series has given birth to a number of A-list stars like Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson over the years. However, it also including a number of cast members who were famous before they joined this magical franchise. Actors like Alan Rickman and Ralph Fiennes already had a decent number of fans before they were cast as Snape and Voldemort, but there's no doubt that the Harry Potter franchise helped their careers quite a bit.
The current franchise of the Wizarding World, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, has received quite a bit of attention (for better or for worse) for featuring Johnny Depp as the primary antagonist of the movies, Grindelwald. Despite Depp's controversial past, he has a strong history of being a box office draw for movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice in Wonderland, so it's likely that Depp will help to keep the Fantastic Beasts franchise a financial success.
While Depp may be one of the biggest actors to ever join the Harry Potter franchise, he wasn't the only A-list star to be considered over the years. A number of well known Hollywood icons nearly played roles in the Harry Potter franchise, yet they just didn't get the chance. Some of these actors turned down the role, whereas others were barred from entering the franchise due to restrictions from J.K. Rowling herself.
With this in mind, here are the 10 A-Listers Who Were Almost In Harry Potter Movies.
20 Robin Williams as Hagrid
When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone first started its casting process, Robin Williams wanted in. Williams had previously worked with director Chris Columbus in Mrs. Doubtfire and was hoping that Columbus could secure him the role of the lovable half-giant Hagrid. Unfortunately, Williams was turned down because, as part of author J.K. Rowling's agreement to allow the books to be adapted to film, all of the actors cast in the movie needed to be from the UK, whereas Williams from the US.
“Robin [Williams] had called [Chris Columbus] because he really wanted to be in the movie, but it was a [UK]-only edict, and once he said 'no' to Robin, he wasn’t going to say 'yes' to anybody else, that’s for sure,” casting director Liam Aiken later explained. “It couldn’t be.”
19 Michael Cera as Jacob Kowalski
Back in the early days of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Superbad star Michael Cera was offered the role of Jacob Kowalski, the charmingly humorous No-Maj who Newt Scamander encounters in New York City who joins Newt for the rest of his adventure. Cera turned down the role, however, and instead took the role of Dick Grayson / Robin in The LEGO Batman Movie.
Presumably, both of these roles would have paid about the same, so it would have been a lot easier for Cera to do a voice role than to co-star in a live-action fantasy that would take about 5 months to shoot. The role was later given to Dan Fogler, who gave a rather different, yet certainly enjoyable, interpretation of the character.
18 Ian McKellen as Professor Dumbledore
Ian McKellen earned a name for himself when he portrayed Gandalf the Grey in the Lord of the Rings franchise. However, in 2002, McKellen was offered the opportunity to play Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban after the passing of original Dumbledore actor Richard Harris. Ultimately, McKellen turned down the role due to some bad blood between himself and the late Harris.
Following the release of the Lord of the Rings movies, Harris had spoken up about the franchise and called everyone involved "technically brilliant, but passionless." McKellen took Harris' insult to heart, and didn't feel right taking over for Harris posthumously. “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,” McKellen recalled in an interview. “I worked out what they were thinking, and I couldn’t.”
17 Kate Winslet as Helena Ravenclaw
Kate Winslet has become something of Hollywood royalty over the past couple decades, with movies like Titanic and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind making her into one of the most sought-after actresses in the business. With this in mind, it's only natural that Warner Bros. Pictures would have wanted her to join the Harry Potter franchise as well, if only for a brief moment.
Rumor has it that Warner Bros. attempted to contact Winslet for the role of Helena Ravenclaw, but her agent shot down the offer before it even reached the A-list actress. Presumably, Winslet was disinterested in being in a franchise at the time, as she had yet to appear in a franchise movie. While it would have been cool to have seen Winslet appear in the Harry Potter series, the role of Helena Ravenclaw was probably too small of a part for such a huge actress anyways.
16 Tilda Swinton as Sybill Trelawney
When Warner Bros. was looking for new actors to bring in for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Narnia and Doctor Strange actress Tilda Swinton was approached to take on the role of the wacky Divination professor Sybill Trelawney. It was never made public why Swinton turned down this role, but it may have had something to do with the fact that she thought quite poorly of the Harry Potter franchise.
Swinton's disapproval of Harry Potter didn't have anything to do with the witches and wizards of the franchise as much as it had to do with their portrayal of boarding schools. “I think [boarding schools] are a very cruel setting in which to grow up and I don’t feel children benefit from that type of education,” Swinton explained. “Children need their parents. That’s why I dislike films like Harry Potter, which tend to romanticize such places.”
15 Eddie Redmayne as Young Tom Riddle
While Academy Award-winning actor Eddie Redmayne may now be the star of the Fantastic Beasts series, he was actually looking to join the groundbreaking franchise quite a bit sooner. With only one previous acting credit under his belt, college-aged Eddie Redmayne actually auditioned to play the younger version of Tom Riddle in 2002's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
“I actually auditioned to play Tom Riddle when I was back at university," Redmayne revealed in 2016. "I properly failed and didn’t get a call back. Over the years, I always hoped I might be cast as a member of the Weasley family, but unfortunately not.” Fortunately, opportunity did arise for Redmayne in this magical franchise, even if it was about 14 years after his first Harry Potter audition.
14 J.K. Rowling as Lily Potter
Back when the first Harry Potter movie was in its early adaptation phases, J.K. Rowling was actually approached to make a cameo appearance in the movie herself. Warner Bros. was hoping that Rowling would accept the small role of Lily Potter, who appeared in the movie only in silent flashbacks and in the reflection in the Mirror of Erised.
Rowling turned down this opportunity, saying she wasn't cut out for acting. In the long run, this was probably a good decision. While it would've been fun to have seen Rowling make cameo appearances throughout the franchise, similarly to the late Stan Lee's cameos, casting her as Lily Potter would not have been the right way to do it. Though it may have seemed like a fitting role, considering that Rowling did in a way give birth to Harry Potter, Lily's brief appearances were always emotional moments. Turning these emotional moments into campy cameos would have ruined the scenes.
13 Hugh Grant as Gilderoy Lockhart
Golden Globe winning actor Hugh Grant was nearly one of Harry Potter's most notorious Defense Against The Dark Arts professors, Gilderoy Lockhart. The role of this egotistical, lying professor was offered to, and accepted by, Love Actually star Hugh Grant for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Unfortunately, after accepting the role, Grant was forced to later give it up when he realized that the production schedule for Chamber of Secrets actually conflicted with another one of his movies at the time.
The role was later given to Kenneth Branagh, who went above and beyond with the role. While it would've been interesting to have seen Hugh Grant's portrayal of Lockhart, most fans seem pleased with the amount of charm that Branagh brought to the role.
12 Dakota Fanning as Queenie Goldstein
Back in 2015, when Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was in the late stages of its casting process, a short list of actors being considered for the lead roles of Newt, Tina, Jacob and Queenie was leaked across the web. This list included the actors who later got the parts, like Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterson, but it also included a few other recognizable names that didn't end up in the franchise.
As it turns out, former child star Dakota Fanning was actually considered for the role of Tina's quirky, Legilimen younger sister, Queenie Goldstein. Fanning certainly would have brought a bit more star power to the movie, but the role was ultimately given to Alison Sudol. This decision probably had something to do with the age difference between the two actresses, as Sudol is ten years older than Fanning.
11 Josh Gad as Jacob Kowalski
Back in mid-2015, Warner Bros. reportedly had their eyes on two different actors for the role of Newt's No-Maj friend, Jacob Kowalski. The first actor they were considering was Michael Cera, who was later offered the role, but turned it down in favor of The LEGO Batman Movie. The second actor was Josh Gad, who is best known for his voice role of Olaf in Frozen.
According to Variety, Gad even met with some of the executives at Warner Bros. to negotiate the role. It's unclear why Gad did not end up with the role, but it may have had something to do with his commitment to Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast, which would've wrapped production right as Fantastic Beasts's 5 month long production began, giving Gad no time to relax between the two movies.
10 Christian Bale as Young Dumbledore
During the casting process for the younger version of Albus Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Jude Law ultimately got the part, but he was not the only A-lister to be considered for the role. Academy Award winner and former Batman actor Christian Bale was reportedly considered for the role, and was actually one of the top picks for Dumbledore before Jude Law was decided upon.
In hindsight, while Bale may have been great in the role, it seems unlikely that he would've taken it had he been offered. After starring in the Dark Knight trilogy, Bale has tried to separate himself from franchises after many people only saw him as "Batman" rather than as a versatile actor. More than likely, Bale would not want to risk being type-cast again by becoming Dumbledore.
9 Kate Upton as Tina Goldstein
Most people do not think of her acting career when they hear about Kate Upton, but alas, the Sports Illustrated model has earned herself eight acting credits since 2010, including some rather big name projects like The Other Woman and Robot Chicken. A few years back, Upton's acting career nearly skyrocketed, as she was one of the top actresses being considered for the role of Tina Goldstein in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.
More than likely, Upton was passed on not just because of her limited acting résumé at the time, but also due to the fact that most people would only ever see her as Kate Upton in the movie, rather than the character she would be playing. This seemed to be the thought process for casting a number of the roles in Fantastic Beasts, as many A-list actors were passed on in favor of lesser known faces in Hollywood.
8 Tom Felton as Harry Potter
While Tom Felton did end up in the Harry Potter franchise, he was not cast in the role he had auditioned for. Back during the casting stages of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Felton wanted to play the role of Harry Potter. While he didn't get it, the casting team liked him so much that they still kept him on board to portray Harry's nemesis, Draco Malfoy.
Fortunately, Felton didn't really have any bad blood with Radcliffe regarding the casting decision. In fact, years later, he was actually glad that he was cast as Malfoy rather than as Harry. "I'm very grateful I am in the film at all, but even more grateful that I got the character of Draco," Felton said in 2011. "I think Rupert [Grint] and Dan [Radcliffe], there's no question in my mind, there's no one else in the world that, A) could have played the character better, but B) could have handled the behind-the-scenes pressure those guys have dealt with over the last decade."
7 Kristen Stewart as Queenie Goldstein
Yet another A-list actress who was considered for Queenie Goldstein was former Twilight star Kristen Stewart. While Stewart has proven herself to be a decent actress in recent years, it's actually understandable why she wasn't offered the part. After Twilight, Stewart does bring a bit of attention to whatever movies she stars in, but it's not always the best kind of attention, as her casting could have actually led some people to not take Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them seriously.
Noticeably, the role of Queenie is quite different from most of Stewart's roles in the past, as Queenie is bright and optimistic in Fantastic Beasts. While it's uncommon to see Stewart take on a role like this, she more than likely would have actually dealt with it well, with Queenie hypothetically going on to be one of the brightest roles Stewart would have ever played.
6 Rosie O'Donnell as Molly Weasley
Back before Harry and the rest of the gang were cast in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, there was one A-list actress who nearly joined the Harry Potter franchise as Ron Weasley's mother - Rosie O'Donnell. While the role was ultimately given to Julie Walters, there was quite a bit of talk that O'Donnell would get the part, and O'Donnell even seemed to be on board for the role.
"I just think it's absolutely enchanting and I would love to be a part of it," O'Donnell revealed before the final casting decision was made. "I think it's going to go down in history as a Wizard Of Oz-type epic for the next generation." While it's now difficult to imagine anyone but Walters as the matriarch of the Weasley family, it would've been interesting to have seen O'Donnell's take on the role.
5 Tim Roth as Severus Snape
While Alan Rickman was clearly the perfect choice for Severus Snape, being handpicked by J.K. Rowling herself, the role was actually offered to Pulp Fiction actor Tim Roth first. Roth considered the role, but decided to follow a different project instead. The role was then offered to Rickman, who became the first actor officially cast in the franchise.
"Alan took it and ran with it and that was that. It was very different from what I was planning to do with the character, and that's OK," Roth said. "Do I regret it? I don't know if I ever think about things that way. If I had done it, everything would have changed. That's the nature of the randomness of life. It would have been nice to have a 7 year gig, that's a nice and comforting space to be in. But no, I think the better man for the job did the job."
4 Benedict Cumberbatch as Young Dumbledore
Benedict Cumberbatch was yet another A-list actor who was nearly cast as the young Albus Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Much like Jude Law, Cumberbatch is a widely revered actor who surely would've brought a great amount of wisdom to the role of Dumbledore had he been cast.
While Cumberbatch surely would have done wonders in the role, even if Warner Bros. did decide to cast him, it's actually quite unlikely that he would've been able to take the role. The Crimes of Grindelwald shot around the same time as Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, meaning that there would've been some scheduling conflicts. Even if Marvel and Warner Bros. could've worked something out for the actor's schedule, Cumberbatch's Dumbledore beard would not have been real in Crimes of Grindelwald, as he would've needed to keep his goatee as Doctor Strange during that time.
3 Drew Barrymore in The Sorcerer's Stone
While Drew Barrymore wasn't cast as any particular character in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, she was actually given a small part in the movie. While the exact details are still unknown, it has been revealed that Barrymore was featured in a cameo appearance in the first Harry Potter movie, but the scene ended up being cut from the final movie, much to Barrymore's regret.
Barrymore was so heartbroken over losing her Harry Potter cameo that she actually pushed for it to be referenced in Charlie's Angels. At Barrymore's request, a particular flashback scene in Charlie's Angels features Barrymore dressed in black wizards robes and wearing Harry Potter-esque glasses just to give Barrymore the Harry Potter cameo she always wanted.
2 Naomi Watts as Narcissa Malfoy
Back before the release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, a number of rumors circulated the web, claiming that King Kong actress Naomi Watts had been cast as the matriarch of the Malfoy family, Narcissa Malfoy. According to some later rumors, the role was ultimately shot down by Watts' agency before Watts even caught wind of it. As it turns out, however, Watts would have been quite interested in playing the role, or at least taking some role in the Harry Potter franchise.
"Yeah! I have read some of the Harry Potter books… I would love [to be part of the franchise]," Watts said. "My son would like that, so that would be a good way to impress him... But it would have to depend on all what the role is."
1 Alec Guinness as Professor Dumbledore
During the early stages of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Star Wars actor Alec Guinness was actually one of the top choices to play Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Unfortunately, during the casting process, Guinness endured some health issues. He ended up passing away shortly before the movie's production began.
Guinness undoubtedly would have blown the role of Dumbledore out of the water, just as he did with Obi-Wan in the original Star Wars trilogy. However, even if he was in full health at the time, he may not have taken the role. Like many other actors, Guinness was not a big fan of franchises. He even despised the Star Wars franchise and only took the role of Obi-Wan for the money. Thanks to the share he received from merchandising profit, money was no longer an issue for Guinness after that point, so he more than likely would've turned down any inclusion in the Harry Potter franchise.
Are there any other A-listers who were almost cast in Harry Potter movies? Sound off in the comment section!