The Harry Potter movies took reality and turned it completely upside down. The films showed us an extraordinary world lurking underneath our very ordinary world and they ultimately made us all believe in a little bit of magic.
While delayed on a train from Manchester to London, the magical world of Harry Potter was imagined by one amazing woman. J.K. Rowling spent five years planning and creating one of the most iconic book series in pop culture history.
Then, Rowling’s imagination was brought to life on the big screen. The iconic characters we all grew to love became real and some amazing witches and wizards were brought together to create the world of Harry Potter.
Some of these actors and actresses were handpicked by Rowling herself and some were cast simply because they were British and remotely looked like their character. Therefore, not every casting decision resulted in an exceptional performance.
Much like the O.W.L.s, not everyone passes the test to become a great witch or wizard. Some actors simply didn’t make the cut.
So, it’s time to call out the incantation “Lumos” and shed some light on the issue, because here are the 8 Casting Decisions That Hurt Harry Potter (And 10 That Saved It).
18 HURT: Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort
Harry Potter exposed a battle between good and evil that existed right underneath our Muggle noses. While the hero performed exceptionally well, the villain didn’t particularly impress fans.
It took a while for Ralph Fiennes to agree to play Voldemort. He admits that he knew nothing about the books and didn’t find the first Harry Potter movie appealing or interesting. However, his sister called him and told him that he had to play Voldemort simply because it was a major role and that her kids were reading the books.
Fiennes’ sister was entirely correct about the role being a major one. With his pale skin, missing nose, and pointed teeth, Voldemort has become one of the most iconic villains in pop culture.
He has a horrifying look that would haunt you in your nightmares. However, his personality isn’t so terrifying and that is entirely due to Fienne’s performance.
Fiennes portrayal of the Dark Lord was too theatrical. He turned a truly menacing character into a cowardly fool that had absolutely no chance of defeating a young boy.
Through his expressions and overly used hand motions, Fiennes made Voldemort more comical than scary and undermined his cold and calculating nature that was built up in the books.
In fact, many fans preferred young Tom Riddle to the manic Voldemort that he grew up to become. At least when he was younger, Voldermort embraced his true deceptive nature.
17 SAVED: Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Out of all the child actors, Rupert Grint had the most surprising audition. After seeing the open casting call on BBC’s news program, Newsround, Grint decided to audition via rap.
So, he sent in a movie of him rapping about why he wanted to be in the film while dressed as his female school teacher. Apparently, he wanted to make a great first impression and it definitely worked.
Although Grint had never done any professional acting before landing the role as Ron Weasley, co-producer Tanya Seghatchian said he was an absolute natural. He acts just like Ron in real life and never failed to make the crew laugh during takes.
Grint brought himself into the role and fully captured the Ron Weasley we all know and love from the books.
He delivers some of the best and most memorable lines throughout the movies and without him, the franchise wouldn’t have been as entertaining as it is.
Not only is Grint as lovable and hilarious as Ron, but he also shares his fear of spiders. In 2011 Grint revealed that he suffers from a severe case of arachnophobia. He told Attitude magazine, “I’m arachnophobic. It’s really affected my life. I check my shoes every time I put them on. I check my bed sheets and pillows.”
Grint was so much like Ron that he didn’t even have to act his character’s fear of spiders.
16 SAVED: Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy
During an interview with Daily Mail, Tom Felton said, “Let’s be honest: we weren’t picked for Harry Potter for our acting ability – it was because we looked like the characters as they’d been written.”
Felton is right. He looks exactly like the book version of Draco Malfoy. He’s a pale boy with white-blond hair and a pointed face who has been spoiled by a family “rolling in wizard gold.” However, he’s wrong about having no acting ability.
Felton’s performance in Harry Potter is hands-down the best out of all the child actors. Although he says he’s nothing like Draco in real life, it’s hard to see Felton as anyone other than the slimy, selfish bully he portrays in the movies.
Even though he has very little lines towards the end of the movie, Felton could make people believe he was Draco simply through his facial expressions and actions.
As a 12-year-old boy, he also improvised one of his best lines in the movie. When Harry is parading as Goyle, Draco says “I didn’t know you could read.” That line wasn’t written in the script and came as a complete surprise when it simply rolled off Felton’s tongue.
Also, just like any great villain, Tom Felton has a huge following of fangirls. This shows just how believable his performance is as the heartthrob bad boy.
Felton originally auditioned to play Harry Potter. However, making him Draco Malfoy instead is one of the best decisions the crew ever made.
15 HURT: Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley
When people are asked about the worst casting decision in the Harry Potter franchise, Bonnie Wright is always at the top of the list.
Bonnie Wright auditioned for the role because her brother told her that she reminded him of the girl that would one day marry Harry Potter.
While reading the series, something about the red-headed girl made him think about his sister. Therefore, without any acting experience, Bonnie auditioned and ultimately landed the role of Ginny Weasley.
However, fans don’t seem to agree with Bonnie’s brother. They believe that while book Ginny was a dynamic and feisty character, Bonnie’s movie version of Ginny was bland, boring, and uninteresting.
This is partly due to the way Ginny’s character was written. Ginny comes off as a timid and helpless girl. She shows up in the movie for all of 30 minutes and it seems as though her entire role in the movie was to sit around in the shadows until it was her time to awkwardly kiss Harry Potter.
Wright’s Ginny isn’t the feisty character that we saw in the books and she also has zero chemistry with Daniel Radcliffe.
This made their relationship and eventual marriage awkward and extremely hard to believe.
14 SAVED: Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
Helena Bonham Carter is one of the most versatile and best actresses in the entire Harry Potter franchise. She fully dives into any character she plays and completely brings them to life.
Carter is known for her roles as the evil villainess but she’s apparently nothing like that in real life. According to Tom Felton, “She’s a quiet, lovely lady when you meet her, but roll the cameras and she turns into this berserk psycho witch. You have to remind yourself to stay in character, because you can’t believe you’re watching this.”
Carter adds a quirky yet insanely mad aura to Bellatrix Lestrange and becomes a villain that we love to hate.
She doesn't only manage to make the character horribly evil and repulsing but also adds a hint of attractiveness and wicked enticement.
Carter's performance is so mesmerizing that fans have considered her to be the true villain of the series. She's much more menacing and believable as an evil wrongdoer than Voldemort himself. Ultimately, she truly embraces what it means to be evil and developed Bellatrix into one of the greatest villains of them all.
Interestingly, Carter also made Bellatrix into her own character. The scene where she carves “mudblood” into Hermione’s arm was not in the script and was entirely devised by Carter and Watson in the spur of the moment.
This was just an instance of Carter living like her character and reacting in a way that only Bellatrix would.
13 HURT: Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald
Fantastic Beasts revived the Harry Potter franchise and put a spell on the world once again. However, in a story where good beats evil, a man with a dark, exposed secret was surprisingly cast to steal the show.
Fans were shocked when Johnny Depp was revealed to be the mysterious Gellert Grindelwald in the first movie. Warner Bros brought in a major movie star and was able to elude even the sneakiest of fans. However, it turns out that the joke was on Warner Bros.
In May 2016, a couple of months before the release of Fantastic Beasts, Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard was granted a restraining order against Depp after she filed for divorce on the grounds of domestic violence.
She alleged that Depp had emotionally and physically abused her on several occasions and even released a photo of herself with a black eye. This controversy overshadowed Depp’s magical appearance and brought immense amounts of negative press to the film.
Grindelwald is expected to become front and center in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and many Potterheads are outraged at the decision to recast Johnny Depp. So much so that there is a petition circulating online to advocate for his recasting.
The petition states that while Grindelwald is a fairy cruel and twisted character, that doesn’t mean that the actor portraying him needs to be. Signers of the petition have even stated that they will not see the movie if Depp is in it.
12 SAVED: Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski
Despite the negative press surrounding Johnny Depp and his role in Fantastic Beasts, there was one shining star that was able to bring entertainment and humor to a dark and confusing world of magic.
Dan Fogler played Jacob Kowalski in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Him, and as a native New Yorker, he was born for the role.
He told fans, “As soon as I read what they gave me, I was like, I know this guy, I understood this character, he’s very close to home. He’s from New York, I’m from New York. I grew up in Brooklyn. I just kind of felt like I knew him … it felt like it was written for me. Every once in a while you get one of those parts where you’re like, ‘Wow, I can hit this out of the park’ and hopefully you get a chance to.”
Well, Fogler definitely hit it out of the park. Known for his hilarious role in Balls of Fury, Fogler brought his humor to the character and created a highly memorable performance.
He completely stole the show and quickly became a fan favorite.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is set to hit theaters later this year and many fans are more excited about Fogler’s return than Grindelwald’s story.
11 HURT: Devon Murray as Seamus Finnigan
At the young age of 13, Devon Murray was photographed smoking on the set of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This picture went viral and was spread throughout many different news outlets and social media channels.
Although he was chastised by Warner Brothers, this image summed up his acting career and created a lot of negative press for the Harry Potter franchise.
Playing Seamus Finnigan in the movies, Murray traded the Gryffindor values of bravery, daring, nerve, and chivalry for drinks, cars, and girls. According to the young actor, these three values summed up his life and he managed to spend all his money to obtain them.
Murray quickly blew through the millions of dollars he received from playing Seamus and he found himself in trouble when his agent, Neil Brooks sued him in 2016 for $300,000 in unpaid fees.
The court eventually ruled in Brooks’ favor, but it didn’t stop Murray from continuing his Playboy lifestyle. He has tweeted many inappropriate tweets and even uploaded pictures of himself partying at a festival in Ireland.
For a supporting character, Murray caused a lot of headaches for the producers at Warner Brothers.
He also generated so much negative press that he’s known for the controversies rather than his role of Seamus Finnigan.
10 SAVED: Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall
Maggie Smith not only wins an award for being one of the best actresses in the movie series, but she also takes the prize for consistency. Smith was able to maintain Professor McGonagall’s character, dignity, confidence, and poise throughout all eight of the Harry Potter films.
She never fluctuated in her acting and she never lost her Gryffindor spirit.
This is exceptionally impressive because Smith has been very open about her struggles throughout her Harry Potter career. She revealed that while she was filming for the movies, she battled breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy.
Smith admits that her illness has shattered her confidence, yet we don’t ever see that through her performances.
Throughout her struggles, she still portrayed McGonagall with the same confidence and consistency that she did during the beginning of the movies.
She stayed true to the books and established McGonagall as a stern, sharp, and poised witch. However, most fans agree that Smith also brought a wonderful flair to her role.
Smith brought some fire to the role of McGonagall. Not only is she a highly-esteemed Hogwarts professor, but she’s also respected for her stern ability to speak her mind. Movie McGonagall isn’t afraid to take a stand and you can clearly see that through the personality that Smith created.
9 HURT: Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart
Gilderoy Lockhart is one of J.K. Rowling’s most innovative, enchanting, and well-developed creations. He’s a charismatic Prince Charming that all the lady’s swoon over.
He lives a life people only dream of and doesn’t shy away from the thrill of an adventure. Lockhart is an all-around Renaissance man – someone all the ladies love and all the men want to be.
However, Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of Lockhart seemed like an imitation knockoff of Lockhart rather than the real deal.
In the movies, Lockhart was never seen as the amazing man that he’s spelled out to be in the books. From the moment you met him, he smelled liked a used car salesman and oozed of cheap lies.
It’s hard to believe that Branagh’s character was the talk of the town when we immediately saw that he was completely full of bologna.
It seems as though Branagh didn’t have the depth to portray two sides of the same coin. He couldn’t show Lockhart as someone that people could fall in love with while also showing him off as a complete liar and a conman.
Sadly, this means that we didn’t get to see the full Lockhart. Despite all the work and effort that went into developing him, he still came off as a one-dimensional character.
8 SAVED: Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
During an interview with ITV, J.K. Rowling said “When we came to the point where there was even a possibility of Hagrid appearing on screen, I do remember thinking, ‘well that’s Robbie Coltrane.’ Because Hagrid is very lovable but he must, if he’s to be plausible, have a center of menace as well. Hagrid is physically very intimidating and, as the stories go on in the books, he has to be capable of real anger. And I feel that needed someone with real range, to give that sense of suppressed power.”
J.K Rowling hand selected Coltrane to play Hagrid and most Potterheads completely agree with the decision.
When you watch the Harry Potter movies, it feels as though Hagrid jumped off the pages of your book and leaped into your television. He’s exactly how readers imagined him to look, act, and sound.
Since the role was also written for Coltrane, it doesn’t even look like he’s acting. Coltrane simply sleeps, lives, and breathes Hagrid.
The only regret director Chris Columbus revealed about Hagrid is that he wished they had made him at least two feet larger. Other than that, there have been virtually no complaints about Coltrane’s portrayal of everyone’s favorite groundskeeper.
7 SAVED: Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood
For Evanna Lynch, life had been a series of numbers – counting calories and watching her weight. At just 11-years-old, she was hospitalized with an eating disorder and spent the next couple of years in clinics battling anorexia nervosa. However, she found her true escape through the world of Harry Potter.
Lynch particularly related to Luna Lovegood. She said, “I loved Luna because she was different. She wasn’t making a statement or doing it to be defiant. And she didn’t feel out of place because she wasn’t judging herself or others. I’d read her and I’d feel safe and relaxed. I didn’t think: ‘Oh, she’s just like me’. I thought: ‘I want to be just like that.’”
Realizing how much the character impacted her, Lynch wrote letters to J.K. Rowling and the two became pen pals. Rowling offered Lynch a role as an extra.
However, Lynch declined and said she wanted to hold out for a shot to play her favorite character. Rowling gave her the address of a casting agent, but Lynch ultimately landed the part through an open casting call.
By relating so much to the character, Lynch was able to bring personal experience and personality to Luna Lovegood. A lot of people didn’t understand Luna in the books, but Lynch’s spectacular performance brought her to life.
From her voice down to her acting, Lynch perfectly fit Luna’s quirky, eccentric character. Interestingly, she even made the earrings Luna wears in the movies and made the character her own.
6 HURT: Jessie Cave as Lavender
Lavender Brown made her appearance in the books as the first wizard to be sorted into Gryffindor during Harry Potter’s first year. She then disappeared into the background until Half-Blood Prince when she became Ron’s first girlfriend.
In the movies, Lavender Brown was originally played by Kathleen Cauley in Chamber of Secrets and then replaced by Jennifer Smith in Prisoner of Azkaban. In both instances, Brown was never mentioned by name, but she did appear in several scenes.
When Brown became a more important character with speaking parts in Half-Blood Prince, the actress was changed once again. However, this time Brown’s race was also changed.
Jessie Cave was cast to play Brown in the last three Harry Potter movies. This meant that the character went from a silent black girl to a white girl with a substantial number of lines.
Many fans were outraged by the decision to change Brown’s race. Having Ron date a black girl would have been the perfect chance to add more diversity in the movies and show Harry Potter as an inclusive franchise.
However instead, the casting of Jessie Cave seemed to show fans that a black actress was not good enough to play a speaking role.
Although there was nothing wrong with Cave’s performance, the decision to cast her and change Brown’s ethnicity ultimately overshadowed her acting ability. People were too annoyed to pay attention to her acting and it generated a lot of negative press around the movie.
5 SAVED: Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Harry Potter showed fans that deep underneath our ordinary world, there was a hidden extraordinary world full of magic, wonder, and awe. The movies brought together the perfect aspects of any great story by pitching good against evil and showcasing the battle between a hero and a villain.
However, tangled between the realms of good and evil lives the antihero – a complex and truly relatable character that is tempted by the darkness yet redeemed by the light.
To play such an intricate character, you need a truly versatile and multi-dimensional actor. You need Alan Rickman.
According to a 2001 TIME magazine article, Alan Rickman was cast as Severus Snape straight from a wish list of actors that Rowling provided the producers. She handpicked the actor to play the complicated Professor Snape and gave him vital details of Snape’s backstory that had not been revealed until the final novel.
Rickman knew the entire time that he wasn’t always a devout follower of Snape. He even had to hide this information from the directors.
Therefore, he had a real understanding of the character and you can look back in the first couple of movies to catch a sly look or expression that he incorporated to foreshadow what was to come.
Rickman gave a calculated performance that transformed him into one of the greatest antiheroes in movie history. You truly hated him at the beginning of the movie and loved him at the end.
4 HURT: Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Harry Potter’s child actors weren’t cast because of their acting ability, but rather for their looks. While most of the other kids grew into their characters, Emma Watson grew out of her character.
Hermione is described in the books as a young girl with “lots of bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth” who prefers intelligence over looks. However, this isn’t at all the Hermione we know from the movies.
Although Watson attempted to wear false buck teeth, it impeded her speech and the movie crew decided against using the prop. This changed Hermione’s look and created a much prettier and confident girl than fans expected.
J.K. Rowling has even commented about how Watson’s appearance doesn’t match the Hermione she envisioned in her head. She revealed that had she not spoken to Watson before she met her, she may not have been okay with the casting decision.
Book Hermione sheds her buck teeth and bushy hair at the Yule Ball to show her growth as a woman. However, Watson blossomed into a beautiful girl a lot earlier than the Yule Ball. This made it hard for some movie viewers to understand why Harry doesn’t end up with her and ultimately destroyed the chemistry between him and Ginny
Watson also overshadows her character in another aspect. She became “Emma Watson” rather than “Hermione Granger.” While the other Harry Potter characters were constantly referred to by their movie names, many people still called Hermione Emma Watson during the franchise’s peak.
3 SAVED: Richard Harris as Dumbledore
Richard Harris turned down the role of Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone three times. The only reason why he eventually took the role was because his young granddaughter told him “If you don’t play Dumbledore then I will never speak to you again”. Looks like we have an 11-year-old girl to thank for bringing the great wizard to life.
Harris believed in sticking to the personality and character that was written for Dumbledore in the books. Therefore, he truly captured the subtle nature of the Headmaster.
He performed with enough restraint to portray Dumbledore as a powerful wizard full of wisdom and ancient secrets. Harris was calm and collected throughout his performances and made you believe that he was the quiet yet calculating guardian from the books.
Sadly, after shooting Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harris fell ill. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and went through chemotherapy for two months. Harris' cancer overcame him in 2002 and we sadly lost the man who was born to play Dumbledore.
Although Michael Gambon took over the role for five movies, Harris’ portrayal of Dumbledore is what you picture when you read the books. He brought the character to life and created the wizard who fans love and cherish.
2 SAVED: Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
When asked about casting for the Harry Potter movies, casting director Janet Hirshenson said that Harry's casting was the hardest.
Daniel Radcliff had been director Chris Columbus’ first choice for the role of the Boy Who Lived. However, by the time they made their decision, Radcliffe had lost interest and had taken himself out of the running. They continued to look at other actors but always kept coming back to Radcliffe.
Hirshenson said, “We went back and looked at Daniel again. The other kid was terrific and very vulnerable and very Harry-looking, but besides that, Harry was going to become a very powerful kid too. And Daniel has both sides. He was very vulnerable, but the other kid? It was like, he [was] not going to have the balls that Daniel has, to put it that way.”
What Hirshenson said was completely true. Whoever was cast as Harry Potter not only had to act the part, but also had to live it. Throughout the movies, we watched as Daniel Radcliffe grows up just like Harry Potter.
They both had to deal with their newfound stardom and you can really see Radcliffe’s journey reflected through the movies.
He essentially became Harry Potter and it’s hard to even distinguish the two from each other.
Radcliffe made the movie as great as it is. He embraces his vulnerabilities and turned them into power, just like the great Harry Potter.
1 HURT: Michael Gambon as Dumbledore
When the Goblet of Fire produced Harry Potter's name in the book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore calmly asked, “Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire, Harry?” However, in the movie, Dumbledore angrily attacks Potter with a heavy Irish accent. This led to the viral “HARRY! DID YAH PUT YER NAME IN DA GOBLA DEH FIYA” meme.
Gambon’s performance in this scene has been the joke of the Wizarding World and is known as one of the biggest mistakes in the Harry Potter movies. However, the scene wasn’t just one instance of Dumbledore acting out of character, it reflects Gambon’s complete disregard for the books.
JK Rowling’s Dumbledore is a wise, calm wizard. He always remains in control and calmly reacts to any situation. Gambon’s Dumbledore, on the other hand, seems to be a lot louder, angrier, and aggressive.
This is because Gambon refused to read the books. He believes that he shouldn’t read the books before appearing in their screen adaptations because it stops him from feeling disappointed about what he left out. So, he’s been in five Harry Potter movies and hasn’t read a single Harry Potter book.
In fact, he admits that he doesn’t even act at all. When asked about his portrayal of Dumbledore Gambon replied, “I don’t have to play anyone really. I just stick on a beard and play me, so it’s no great feat.”
Gambon replaced Richard Harris as Dumbledore when Harris passed away of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Did you find any other casting decisions helpful or hurtful to the Harry Potter franchise? Let us know in the comments!
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