Lord Voldemort is one of the most famous characters in the Harry Potter book and movie franchise, but he's been portrayed by a succession of different actors on the big screen. Initially spoken of in hushed tones, J.K. Rowling introduces the legend of Voldemort in the very first book, depicting a fearsome wizard who terrorized the entire magic world, only to be defeated while attempting to kill a young Harry Potter.
After his clash with the most dangerous baby of all time, Voldemort loses his physical form and spends the first few books attempting a revival. The first time fans witness Voldemort, he's secreted on the rear side of a teacher's head, for example, and can later be seen as a deformed, blanket-covered bundle of evil. Only in The Goblet of Fire does Voldemort regain his true form, and this regular changing of appearance necessitated a series of actors when adapting Harry Potter for film. Furthermore, Rowling often delves back into Voldemort's past as the Hogwarts student Tom Riddle, resulting in an even wider selection of actors playing the villain.
While one or two Voldemort actors are widely known, others may only be recognizable by sight, and some perhaps flew under the radar altogether. Here are all the actors who played Lord Voldemort on the big screen.
In the very first Harry Potter movie, Lord Voldemort is still an enigmatic threat lingering in the background, but when the backstory of Daniel Radcliffe's character is explored via flashback, with Hagrid solemnly telling the story to a Hogwarts-bound Harry in a Diagon Alley public house, the dark wizard does make a brief appearance. After breaking into the Potters' home and skulking into Harry's room, the audience's next visual of Lord Voldemort is the digitized face of veteran British actor, Richard Bremmer.
While not a familiar name to most, Bremmer has appeared alongside big name stars in movies such as Shanghai Nights, To Kill A King and The 13th Warrior. In a fascinating twist of events, he also had a minor role in Onegin, a 1999 romance starring none other than Ralph Fiennes, who may feature later in this very list.
Bremmer's Harry Potter career might've been brief, and his face may have been obscured, but the actor's footage was reused in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II, allowing the actor to bookend the entire franchise.
Of course, Voldemort didn't only appear via flashbacks in The Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone. The villain had survived his brush with Potter and eventually came to graft himself onto the head of the otherwise unassuming Professor Quirrell, a naive student that he met by chance and subsequently corrupted. While Voldemort spends most of the film underneath a turban, the climactic scene sees Quirrell reveal his true nature to Harry, and Voldemort's face is uncovered in all its horror.
Professor Quirrell is played by British actor Ian Hart, but Hart actually performed double duty in Harry Potter, and acted as both the voice for the CGI face of Lord Voldemort. As testament to Hart's performance, this duality is not immediately obvious upon watching those final scenes.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets delved deeper into Voldemort's history by exploring his real-life identity as Tom Riddle and his days in Hogwarts, building a time-twisting tale that saw Harry unknowingly begin his journey to kill the Dark Lord. This new angle required a younger actor to take over the role of Voldemort, rather than the middle-aged Bremmer, and British actor, Christian Coulson, was ultimately cast, receiving the honor of being the first live-action face to portray Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter franchise.
Playing the ethereal apparition of a 16-year old Tom Riddle, Coulson made a considerable impression as the mysterious teenager, if only for a single installment, but he was actually already in his mid-twenties at the time of filming. The actor has since cropped up in the likes of Nashville and Gossip Girl.
Of all the actors to don the pale makeup and non-existent nose, British actor Ralph Fiennes is undoubtedly the thespian most closely associated with the role of Lord Voldemort. First appearing in 2005's The Goblet of Fire, Fiennes would go on to make the villainous role his own, appearing in each of the remaining Potter films in varying capacities. Putting all of the character's transformations and youthful flashback incarnations aside, Fiennes' face is the one fans remember as being the definitive image of the present-timeline, resurrected Lord Voldemort.
Needless to say, the critically acclaimed actor was a resounding success in the role, managing to eke out every last drop of his character's venomous, sinister personality from J. K. Rowling's original book series and giving younger fans nightmares for years to come. Arguably Fiennes' most memorable moment came during Voldemort's fated final showdown with Harry on the grounds of Hogwarts.
Harry Potter fans won't have to try too hard to see what else Fiennes has been up to. The actor is currently set to continue his role as M in the James Bond franchise, will star in the upcoming Kingsman prequel The King's Man and was nominated for a small army of awards for 2014's The Grand Budapest Hotel. Still, Fiennes' filmography isn't without its blemishes - he also appeared in the critically pummeled Holmes & Watson.
Playing Lord Voldemort became a family affair in The Half-Blood Prince, when Ralph Fiennes' nephew was cast to play the 11-year old version of the future mass-murderer. Hero Fiennes-Tiffin appeared when Dumbledore and Harry began diving into memories that would help them find a way to defeat the growing threat of Voldemort once and for all. Predictably, it was widely suggested that Hero landed the part thanks to his famous relation and while director, David Yates, has admitted their resemblance was a factor, he also insisted that Hero had excelled during auditions, managing to exude Voldemort's darkness better than other candidates.
Certainly, it's difficult to argue with those sentiments. Despite an outwardly innocent appearance, Hero Fiennes-Tiffin has the "creepy child" trope nailed down and the audience readily accept that this young child will one day torment the wizarding world. An 18-year old version of Voldemort also came close to appearing in The Half Blood Prince and Michael Berendt was cast as the adolescent evil-doer. However, these particular scenes were cut from the final script. An older Hero Fiennes-Tiffin recently appeared in romance movie, After.
When casting Voldemort at various ages for the multitude of flashbacks in The Half Blood Prince and beyond, a mid-teens version of the baddie was required. Christian Coulson was considered for the role but, having already been older than his character the first time around, was now nearing 30 and ruled out of contention by David Yates. After several names were put forward for the part, drama student and British actor Frank Dillane was cast, having only appeared as an extra in his previous projects.
The son of Stannis Baratheon himself (Game of Thrones actor, Stephen Dillane), Frank offered a more unhinged performance as Tom Riddle/Voldemort - embodying a youngster clearly beginning to embrace his more dastardly instincts and forge a path towards wrongdoing.
Outside of the Potterverse, Frank Dillane will be most familiar as Nick from Fear The Walking Dead. One of the spinoff's original cast members, Nick was one of the zombie show's main survivors until his untimely death in season 4.
Not a name usually associated with the part of Voldemort, British actor and comedian, Eddie Izzard, nevertheless lent his voice to the character in 2017's The LEGO Batman Movie. Despite having precious little to do with the Dark Knight, Voldemort makes an appearance in the LEGO spinoff venture alongside a host of other familiar (mini)figures from pop culture and it's Izzard providing his familiar tones to the smaller, plastic version of the evil wizard.
Although obviously not taking place anywhere near the canon of the Harry Potter universe, the prospect of Eddie Izzard playing Voldemort certainly piqued the interest of fans, with the comedian's unique style and unmistakable voice arguably making him an ideal alternative to Ralph Fiennes. Perhaps when the inevitable Harry Potter reboot comes to pass, Izzard will be put forth as the next actor to play Lord Voldemort, and this time not just in a vocal capacity.
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