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.