Harry Potter has become one of the most influential film franchises ever produced for more reasons than one. The movies successfully captured J.K. Rowling’s beloved series of novels on screen and provided an essential part of the childhoods of many in the process.
However, in addition to all of this, the movie franchise also made the careers of many British stars. Children and adult actors alike were showered with public attention due to their roles in these films and raised to A-list status.
Not everyone who was offered a role in the Harry Potter universe wanted to be a part of the esteemed franchise, though. Given how popular and loved the Harry Potter movies are, a surprising amount of actors turned down opportunities to be a member of Rowling’s world.
This list covers actors who were offered roles in the movie of the Harry Potter universe, from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to the latest Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. From A-list stars to lesser-known actors, chances are these performers who refused their roles might now be regretting their choice to pass on being part of one of the most cherished movie franchises ever.
Imagine what could have been with this list of actors who nearly became members of the wizarding world.
Here are the 15 Actors You Never Knew Turned Down Roles In Harry Potter.
15 Naomi Watts
The character Narcissa Malfoy, wife to Lucius Malfoy and mother to Draco, is a complex one. Chilling, reserved, yet still emotional, the role of Narcissa called for a talented actress.
Filmmakers for the final installments of the Harry Potter franchise recognized this fact, and started browsing through the best of the best English actresses to fill the part. Naturally, Naomi Watts quickly came up as one route the producers could take with the character.
However, Watts never caught wind of the offer. Instead, her agent rejected the role on the actress’ behalf. The role of Narcissa ended up going to Helen McRory, who brought her own entertaining flair to the character.
Still, seeing Watts’ own interpretation of Draco’s mother would’ve been an interesting addition to the films.
14 Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee’s filmography is chock full of impressive roles. Besides his roles in films such as The Curse of Frankenstein and The Hound of the Baskervilles, Lee also had major roles in some of the largest franchises ever made.
Some of his most popular roles were Saruman in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films and Count Dooku in George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels. At one point, Harry Potter was almost added to this long list of memorable films.
Following Richard Harris’ death after The Chamber of Secrets, producers began to scramble to fill the role of Dumbledore for the franchise’s next installment. Christopher Lee’s name quickly rose to the top of the list of possibilities.
However, Lee refused to even consider the part, claiming that the gossip surrounding the part after Harris’ death was distasteful. The drama surrounding Dumbledore’s casting would put him off from ever acting in the franchise.
13 Tilda Swinton
With her bold and unusual style, exceptional screen presence, and impressive acting skills, Tilda Swinton seems like the perfect choice for casting a Harry Potter role. Unfortunately, the actress didn’t feel the same way.
When Swinton was approached to play the quirky Divination professor Sybill Trelawney, she passed on the role due to a busy schedule. After some time, however, the truth came out in an interview with a Scottish magazine.
In the interview, Swinton revealed her resentment towards boarding schools and the isolation that they force on children, going on to say that she “[disliked] films like Harry Potter which tend to romanticize such places. I think they are a very cruel setting in which to grow up and I don’t feel children benefit from that type of education.”
One thing’s for certain: Swinton’s reasons for passing on Harry Potter are certainly one of the most unique.
12 Ian McKellen
Throughout his career, Ian McKellen has won an array of impressive awards including Laurence Olivier Awards, a Golden Globe, and multiple BAFTA and Oscar nominations. But he is perhaps best known for his role as the legendary wizard Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
So when producers of Harry Potter were put in a casting bind for Dumbledore following Richard Harris’ death, they logically turned to the one actor who had played one of the most iconic wizards of all.
However, despite the fact that McKellen would’ve been an impressive addition to the Harry Potter franchise, the actor wasn’t too keen on taking on the role. McKellen was loyal to Tolkien’s fantastical world and had no interest in taking on another wizarding role.
He quickly turned down the part of Dumbledore, and it eventually went to Michael Gambon.
11 Rosamund Pike
Rosamund Pike's performance as the shrewd and manipulative Amy Dunne in the 2014 film Gone Girl made the British actress a household name.
As it turns out, Pike could’ve gotten the chance to play another sharp-witted, strategic character-- albeit a far more tame version– had she decided to take on the part offered to her in Harry Potter.
Pike was in the running for the part of gossip writer Rita Skeeter in The Goblet of Fire, but after hearing that she would need to sign on for two films even though she had limited screen time, the actress had second thoughts.
Pike turned down the role because she felt it was too large of a commitment with not enough screen-time. Though she would go on to nab some other impressive roles, it would have been interesting to see Pike’s take on a fun character like Skeeter.
10 Michael Cera
Michael Cera might be the last person you'd imagine taking on a role in Harry Potter, but it’s true: he nearly took on a part in the franchise's latest installment, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
For the most part, American actors were shut out from the Harry Potter films because producers (and J.K. Rowling herself) largely insisted that all of the characters be played by actors from the UK. However, once Fantastic Beasts came around, American actors flocked to the audition rooms.
Cera himself was considered for one of the film’s key roles: the good-natured “no-maj” Jacob Kowalski who is reluctantly pulled into Newt Scamander’s journey. Cera wanted to do the role, but the film’s schedule clashed with his role in the LEGO Batman movie.
The actor opted to do the LEGO movie instead, and Dan Fogler took his spot in Fantastic Beasts.
9 Sean Connery
There was a moment in time when James Bond himself was considering taking on a role in the Harry Potter universe. When director Chris Columbus was casting for the franchise’s first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, he went to Connery to offer him none other than the role of Albus Dumbledore.
However, apparently, playing the notorious Hogwarts Headmaster didn’t appeal to the iconic Scottish actor. Connery did not understand the attention surrounding Rowling’s story and had no interest in joining a children’s movie about wizards. He quickly turned down the role for Dumbledore, and the part eventually went to Richard Harris.
Connery decided to retire from film acting soon after his rejection of Harry Potter following his role in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, so perhaps its best he didn’t sign on for an entire franchise.
8 Kate Winslet
With her effortless class and unique onscreen presence, this famous Titanic actress certainly would’ve been an interesting addition to the Harry Potter films. Nevertheless, it simply wasn’t meant to be.
As the Harry Potter franchise began to draw to a close, producers began to look for stars to cast in the small but ever-important role of Helena Ravenclaw. Ravenclaw’s ghost was instrumental in Lord Voldemort’s defeat with her help in finding the final of his horcruxes.
The film needed an impressive actress to fill the shoes of such a role. Kate Winslet was in fact the filmmakers’ first choice for Helena Ravenclaw. However, Winslet’s agent rejected the part before the actress ever caught wind of the casting offer, and Kelly Macdonald landed the role.
Perhaps things might have gone differently if Kate Winslet herself had gotten a chance to hear the offer.
7 David Walliams
David Walliams isn’t necessarily a household name in America, but over in Britain, he’s a big deal. His résumé is long and varied: Walliams is an actor, a children’s book author, television host, and half of the duo behind the famous show Little Britain.
Being such a staple British star, he was accordingly offered a role in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire in the villainous role of Barty Crouch Jr. Walliams reportedly turned down the part because he didn’t feel it was a significant enough role and believed that he would receive an offer to play a more involved part, such as a Hogwarts professor, in the future.
The part ended up going to David Tennant, who turned in an impressive performance as Barty Crouch Jr. Walliams never received another offer to star in the franchise.
6 Carole Bouquet
Sometimes, an actor refusing a role is because of more unconventional reasons. In Carole Bouquet’s case, the French actress actually wanted to take on the role of Hagrid’s love interest Madame Maxime in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
However, Bouquet was unable to take the role due to the power of Studio Canal. Bouquet was contracted under the production studio at the time, and the company forbade the actress from negotiating with the Harry Potter filmmakers for the role.
Though producers wanted a French actress to play the role of the Headmistress of the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, due to Studio Canal’s demands, they had to settle for a British one. The role of Madame Maxime went to Frances de la Tour, and Bouquet was never able to join the Harry Potter family.
5 Hugh Grant
It’s hard to imagine Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ Professor Gilderoy Lockhart being played by anybody other than Kenneth Branagh, who played the character with a perfect mixture of charm, charisma, and over-inflated ego.
Still, if anyone else had to take on the role, Hugh Grant might have done the trick. Grant himself seemed to believe so as well. The actor actively sought out the role and was even awarded the part, as he was the first choice over Branagh to play Lockhart’s character.
Unfortunately, Grant had to drop out of Chambers of Secrets because of scheduling conflicts. Producers decided to seek out Branagh for the role after Grant’s decision to pass on the chance to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts.
4 Patrick McGoohan
Casting the role of Dumbledore was a particularly difficult challenge for the producers of the Harry Potter movies. The powerful Hogwarts Headmaster is an increasingly important character as the franchise goes on, and the perfect actor was needed to fit the crucial part.
When creating the cast of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, producers looked to Patrick McGoohan, best known for impressing audiences with his role as the lead in the British television series The Prisoner. Harry Potter’s Dumbledore could have proven the perfect role to boost McGoohan’s profile and make him an internationally renowned name.
Unfortunately, McGoohan had to pass on the role due to health problems. The role of Dumbledore went to Richard Harris for the first two films, and McGoohan stopped acting altogether in 2002 to focus on his health.
3 Kate Duchene
Kate Duchene is no stranger to schools of magic and witchcraft. The British actress is best known for her role in the television series The Worst Witch, which follows a group of young witches at a wizarding school called Magic Academy.
Duchene played Miss Constance Hardbroom, professor of potions and Magic Academy’s Deputy Head in the series. Like Harry Potter, it is also based on a series of books, which were written by author Jill Murphey.
Considering her past work on The Worst Witch, it makes sense that the minds behind Harry Potter would look to Duchene when casting. Producers approached the actress when they were casting for Sorcerer’s Stone.
However, apparently, the actress preferred Murphey’s world of magic to Rowling’s Hogwarts. Duchene ended up passing on the role because she felt a role in Harry Potter was too similar to hers at the Magic Academy.
2 Helen McCrory
Helen McCrory’s journey with Harry Potter was a unique one. She is, in fact, the only actor to have taken a role in the franchise only to drop out and take on a different part later on.
Though it’s nearly impossible to imagine anybody else playing Voldemort’s loyal Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange, the part didn’t always belong to Helena Bonham Carter. McCrory was initially cast in the role for The Order of the Phoenix. However, after she found out she was pregnant, the actress had to pull out of filming, and the part went to Bonham Carter.
This wasn’t the end of McCrory’s journey with the wizarding role, though. With the next film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, McCrory got a second chance at joining the franchise.
She successfully snagged the role of Narcissa Malfoy, and she and Helena Bonham Carter got to share the screen as sisters.
1 Tim Roth
Tim Roth has played some fantastic antagonists in the past. From his role in Pulp Fiction, Selma, and The Hateful Eight, Roth knows how to turn in entertaining performances when playing a villain.
With this kind of résumé, he seemed like the perfect choice for potions professor Severus Snape. Roth was even on board for the role and nearly signed up for the part.
However, Roth was in high demand, and Tim Burton wanted the British actor for a part in his remake of Planet of the Apes. Roth was interested in both parts, and even tried to create an intense travel schedule that would allow him to film both projects.
The proposed schedule became too much for the actor, though, and he decided to turn down the role of Snape in favor of Burton’s sci-fi.
What actors would you have liked to see in the Harry Potter franchise? Let us know in the comments!