No page-to-screen adaptation is perfect (though some do get close). There is so much to translate in terms of story, character, and setting, and sometimes something that works on the page might not be quite as exciting on the big screen. When it comes to the Harry Potter series, there was no shortage of changes made in creating the film franchise. Whole characters and subplots were cut out to keep the films at a reasonable length. In some cases, J.K. Rowling’s beloved characters wound up looking a whole lot different, too.
There are a lot of reasons why some of the physical characteristics of these HP characters may have been altered. The casting directors for The Sorcerer’s Stone couldn’t have predicted what the child actors would grow up to look like, for example. Plus, oftentimes, it likely came down to who was best suited for the role, not who looked most like the characters. Still, some of these differences ended up being pretty noticeable for eagle-eyed fans. Here are 15 Harry Potter Characters That Look Nothing Like They Do In The Books.
Anyone that’s even heard of Harry Potter can likely conjure up a mental image of what the series’ most terrifying villain looks like. Voldemort is easily one of the most recognizable villains in recent movie history, thanks to his snake-like appearance. Ralph Fiennes was essential in bringing He Who Must Not Be Named to life; his raspy voice, sinister air and frighteningly not-quite-human face has made him the stuff of nightmares for plenty of children over the last decade.
Still, there’s one element of Voldemort’s appearance that didn’t make it into the film franchise, and it’s an important one. J.K. Rowling described Voldemort’s eyes as being scarlet. Maybe that would have been too scary, or perhaps they were trying to ride the line between human and supernatural. Still, since that’s not a color we see naturally in the world, it would likely have made Harry’s nemesis about a hundred times more frightening if the filmmakers had chosen to follow Rowling’s lead.
14 Bill Weasley
When it comes to the Weasley family, their defining characteristic is definitely the unmistakable ginger hair. So in that way, just about anybody that was cast in the Harry Potter films could get away with being a Weasley as long as they had red hair. Still, that doesn’t mean that they all completely matched up with J.K. Rowlings’ original descriptions.
Domhnall Gleeson, in particular, shared few physical differences with his character, Bill. In the Harry Potter books, Rowling describes the oldest Weasley sibling as being very tall, thin, and extremely handsome. His long hair is supposed to be shaggy, and pulled back in a ponytail, and he wears a long fang earring in one ear. Basically, he’s like the ginger version of a wizard rock star. No offense to Gleeson, who isn’t exactly hard on the eyes, but he’s much more unconventionally attractive than the drop-dead gorgeous that Bill is described as being. His is a geeky-cool, rather than a cool-cool – and throughout his time on screen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, there was nary a fang earring to be seen.
13 Ron Weasley
Rupert Grint did a great job of bringing many of Ron Weasley’s characteristics to life. His natural affinity for comedy aged well, and he did the character justice as best he could given the way his role changed from the books to the film franchise. In the earlier films, he even bore a passable resemblance to his literary counterpart.
As the actors aged, though, his physical similarities to Ron began to dwindle. Rowling described Ron as being incredibly tall and lanky, like his brother Bill. He, of course, had ginger hair, a long nose, and a face that was covered in freckles. Grint wound up being a bit stockier than book-Ron, and roughly the same height as Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry, and Emma Watson, who played Hermione (neither of whom could be classified as tall, either). Plus, Grint remained freckle-free from the very first frame of the HP films to the last.
12 Arthur Weasley
Arthur Weasley, like his children, is known most for his red hair and willingness to fight evil than just about anything else. In that way, his on-screen portrayal in the Harry Potter films was pretty solid. When we break down the other physical characteristics that J.K. Rowling gave him, though, the cinematic adaptation feels a little bit less accurate.
The patriarch of the Weasley family is described as being very tall and thin, much like many of his sons. Unlike his children, though, Arthur Weasley wears glasses throughout the series. Mark Williams nailed his character’s warmth and whimsy, and though he’s over six feet tall, he’s a bit paunchier than Arthur and his hair is more strawberry blonde than ginger. Also, for some reason, the filmmakers chose not to have the character wear glasses, even though it would have been an easy add. Maybe they didn’t want him to steal Harry’s four-eyed thunder?
11 Horace Slughorn
When we meet Professor Slughorn in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, he’s an armchair. Well, he’s disguised himself as one, anyway. In that way, he’s nearly identical to the way that J.K. Rowling described him in her novels. Once he returns to his human form, though, the book-to-screen accuracy falls apart a bit at the seams.
Slughorn is described as being short, bald, and exceptionally overweight – so much so that he took up nearly an entire Hogwarts Express compartment all on his own. Broadbent, on the other hand, while wholly convincing as the well-to-do potions master, is over six feet tall and has quite a bit of hair on his head. While the Slughorn on screen was a little hefty, he was nowhere near the size that Rowling described; which probably served him well when he finally decided to spring into action and help fight Voldemort in the Battle of Hogwarts.
10 Mrs. Norris
Filch’s cat isn’t the most memorable character in the Harry Potter series, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t entitled to a fair shake when it came to her portrayal on screen. Unfortunately, it seems as though the production department for the film franchise didn’t give her appearance a second thought.
According to Rowling, Mrs. Norris was supposed to be a scrawny, “dust-colored” cat with yellow eyes. However, Maine Coon cats were chosen to play her throughout filming, and as a result, she ended up looking considerably stockier. All told, at least three cats played Filch’s feline, depending on what it was required to do, and the filmmakers also employed animatronics. As a result, Mrs. Norris’ appearance took on an inconsistent quality. Sometimes, she had red eyes, other times they were blue. Plus, her fur was brown and grey.
At the very least, both the book and film versions of Mrs. Norris were exceedingly grouchy, so personality-wise, she was somewhat recognizable.
9 James Potter
We don’t get to know James Potter much in the Harry Potter series – either in the books or on screen. He exists only in memories, or in magical incarnations that keep him dancing happily for eternity with his wife, even though in reality, he’s very much dead. Still, through other characters, we learn a lot about what he was like, and that Harry bears a striking resemblance to his father.
Adrian Rawlins, who played James in all seven films, could probably pass as a relative to Daniel Radcliffe if you didn’t think too hard about it. However, there are some pretty substantial differences between Harry’s dad on-screen and in the books. For one, James should have jet-black hair, and Rawlins' locks are brown, and not all that dark. For another, James was 21 years old when he died, and Rawlins was 43 years old when he started playing the character. As a result, the James we see on screen looks virtually nothing like what book fans might have imagined, since he’s nearly two decades older.
8 Lily Evans
Like James, Lily Evans plays a more of a mythical role in the Harry Potter series. She exists as a guiding force for Harry, someone he gets glimpses of but can tragically never know. Throughout both the films and the books, he’s constantly told that he has his mother’s green eyes. So, fans were understandably confused when we saw a young Lily Evans in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
The young actress cast to play Lily, Ellen Darcey-Adlen, mostly looked the part, even though the character is described as having dark red hair. However, her eyes are dark brown, not the green that was regaled by the likes of Dumbledore, Lupin, and just about everyone else who talked about her over the course of the other films. It was a nonsensical miss on the filmmakers’ part to not try a pair of contact lenses, or at the very least, change her eye color in post-production.
7 Petunia Dursley
There is no denying that Fiona Shaw brought Petunia Dursley to life almost perfectly. From her perpetual scowl and stuffy attitude to the obvious contempt for all things Wizardly, she managed to communicate exactly the essence of what Harry’s aunt was like with relatively few scenes in the films. Still, despite her pitch perfect performance, Shaw bore little resemblance to the woman that J.K. Rowling described in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and subsequent novels.
The author highlighted Petunia’s fair features – including blonde hair and pale eyes – as well as the fact that she was tall, thin, and had an extraordinarily long neck. At one point, she even goes so far as to say that Petunia’s face takes on an equestrian appearance when purses her lips or looks particularly glum. Shaw, on the other hand, has dark hair, a totally normal neck, and definitely does not look like a horse.
6 Vernon Dursley
Like his lovely wife, Vernon Dursley made Harry’s childhood an unhappy one. Though his role in the Harry Potter film series was reduced significantly, he was still around enough to leave a sour taste in most fans’ mouths. His appearance in the films was pretty different to that in the books, too. He was described as being obese, almost comically so, and having dark hair, a bushy dark mustache, and an almost purple-complexion, particularly when he has his blood-boiling encounters with the wizarding world.
Actor Richard Griffiths wasn’t skinny by any means, but he also had considerably lighter features than the character he was tasked with playing. He had light blonde hair – on his mustache, too! – and nary a hint of purple in his skin, even when Vernon was at his angriest. All things considered, he brought out Vernon’s most important characteristics, though: his inexplicable and irrational hatred of his nephew.
5 Professor Umbridge
With her pure-blood obsession and desire to completely dismantle free speech and thought at Hogwarts, Dolores Umbridge is easily one of the most reviled characters in the entire Harry Potter series. Per usual, J.K. Rowling did an incredible job of crafting the image of a woman who was pretty unhinged in The Order of the Phoenix. Her childlike fascination with kittens and the color pink stood in stark contrast to her insidious intentions.
Imelda Staunton brought out many of Professor Umbridge’s most dastardly characteristics in her portrayal, from her simpering voice to her barely contained rage when her authority was questioned. Physically, though, she didn’t exactly match the villain that the author envisioned. In fairness, it’s hard to imagine an actress who could have.
Rowling described Umbridge as looking toad-like: squat and short, with bulging eyes, a wide face, and a wider mouth. Staunton, while diminutive, doesn’t look very amphibious; her eyes were squinty, and her mouth often pursed in disapproval rather than slack. The lack of physical resemblance didn’t take away from the actress’ ability to bring this odious character to life, of course. We learned, with Umbridge in particular, that you don’t have to look evil and gross to be evil and gross.
4 Sirius Black
After living in a terrifying wizard prison for 13 years, Harry Potter’s godfather was a bit of a mess, both emotionally and physically. When we first meet him in The Prisoner of Azkaban, he’s described as being emaciated, unkempt and unhinged. Gary Oldman breathed a manic air into our early glimpses at Sirius Black in the film adaptation of that book – his silent screams from the “Wanted” posters were definitely chilling, and he had a frightening, mad look in his eye.
Objectively, though, screen-Sirius didn’t really closely resemble the man that J.K. Rowling described. Even if you look beyond the obvious age difference – Oldman was nearly a decade older than Sirius should have been if you follow the story’s timeline – there was a decidedly glossy take on his post-imprisonment aesthetic. Movie Sirius didn’t have sunken eyes, and it looked as though the Dementors had been feeding him decently well, too. In other words, he looked bad, but not exactly like a man who’d been pretty much left for dead.
3 Albus Dumbledore
Albus Dumbledore is one of the most beloved and unforgettable characters in the Harry Potter series. Much of what book fans remember about him, too, is his wise, reflective, and often irreverent personality. The fact remains, though, that J.K. Rowling’s description of Dumbledore was so distinct, it was patently easy to imagine what the elderly Wizard looked like.
In the first two Harry Potter films, actor Richard Harris got pretty close to what fans expected the Hogwarts headmaster to look like. With a long white beard and hair to match, and the twinkle in his eye barely hidden beneath his half-moon spectacles, he looked the part as well as he played it.
After Harris’ death, the filmmakers chose Michael Gambon to take his place. Few would argue that he did a bad job overall bringing Dumbledore to life, despite a few strange character choices, but he definitely didn’t look much like him. Gambon was heftier than Harris, and the beard and hair were considerably shorter. All in all, he ended up looking more like an alternative to play Gandalf the Gray than Harry’s mentor.
2 Hermione Granger
From the moment we meet Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, it’s clear that she’s brilliant, bold, and a little bit awkward. Through the early part of the book series, J.K. Rowling went to great lengths to remind readers that Hermione, while “the brightest witch of her age,” was not particularly lovely. She’s described as having out-of-control frizzy hair and buck teeth, which are a source of embarrassment for her as the characters edge into puberty. By Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, she’s figured out how to tame her mane and uses a glamor to get her dental situation in order – but Hermione never really spends all that much time or thought on her appearance, all things considered.
While the make-up and hair team did what they could to make Emma Watson look a little bit frizzy in the first few films, she was considerably more camera-ready than Hermione was described from the get-go. By the time the last few films were in production, Watson had grown up to be a stunning young woman, and it would have been hard to argue that the two shared a strong physical resemblance anymore.
1 Neville Longbottom
If there’s any other character in the Harry Potter franchise that better represents the painful awkwardness of puberty, it’s Neville Longbottom. J.K. Rowling paints a picture of the big three’s fellow Gryffindor as buck-toothed, big boned, short, and with a messy head of blonde hair. For much of the series, he’s clumsy and clearly uncomfortable in his own skin.
While Matthew Lewis nailed the portrayal of Neville’s personality, right down to his hapless attempts at his studies, he wound up barely resembling the character he’d been cast to play. It goes far beyond hair color, too. Lewis started off a bit chubby, as many children do, but as he aged, he slimmed down and sprouted up. By Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, he was a lean, mean, Nagini-slaying machine, and he stood several inches taller than the film’s titular hero. There was something triumphant about seeing Neville grow into his body and find his strength in the films, though, even if he looked nothing like his counterpart in the books by the time the final credits rolled.
Which character do you think looked the least like they did in the book? Let us know in the comments!
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