The eight Harry Potter films, released from 2001-2011, turned actors such as Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Tom Felton into A-List Stars. The Harry Potter films also featured veteran actors in the cast, including Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, and the late Alan Rickman, to name a few.
Casting decisions play a key role in any movie’s success. Just like with other movies and TV Shows, there are also so many ‘what-ifs’ when envisioning different actors playing several of the most memorable characters in the Harry Potter Films, from whether it was a case of scheduling conflicts because the actor was involved with another project to the possibility that an actor was being considered for the role but, ultimately, got turned down. These 15 actors were almost in the Harry Potter films.
1. Tilda Swinton as Sybil Trelawney
Oscar-Winning Actress Emma Thompson does a fantastic job portraying Sybil Trelawney, the eccentric Divination Professor in the Harry Potter Films. However, before Thompson’s casting was confirmed, Professor Trelawney was almost played by another Oscar Winner: Tilda Swinton. Despite being offered the role first, Swinton turned it down, due to the series’ portrayal of boarding schools.
“I think [boarding schools] are a very cruel setting in which to grow up and I don’t feel children benefit from that type of education. Children need their parents. That’s why I dislike films like Harry Potter, which tend to romanticize such places.” Swinton (who attended West Heath Boarding School in her early years, where she was a classmate and friend of the late Princess Diana in London) explained in an interview with Scots Magazine.
2. Hugh Grant as Gilderoy Lockhart
Hugh Grant had to turn down the opportunity to play the self-absorbed Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets (the series’s second film) due to scheduling conflicts with production for Two Weeks Notice (a film released in the same year as The Chamber of Secrets, in which Grant starred in with Sandra Bullock).
3. Saoirse Ronan as Luna Lovegood
In the last four Harry Potter films, Evanna Lynch does an excellent job in her spellbinding portrayal of Luna Lovegood. Lynch won the role over more than 15,000 girls at an open casting call. One of those girls Lynch beat included eventual four-time Oscar-Nominated Actress Saoirse Ronan, who said in an interview, “I was too young – but at the time I thought, ‘I’d love to be in Harry Potter’. When I was younger, I used to think they had the best job in the world.”
4. Ian McKellen as Albus Dumbledore
Everyone knows that Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore was portrayed by two different actors in the eight Harry Potter Films. The late Richard Harris played the character in the first two movies, and after his death (which occurred three weeks before Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets was released), Harris was replaced as Dumbledore by Irish Actor Michael Gambon for the remaining six Harry Potter Films.
Prior to Gambon’s casting being confirmed, Oscar-Nominated Actor, Ian McKellen was one of the leading candidates to replace the deceased Harris as the Hogwarts Headmaster. However, McKellen turned down the role for two reasons: the first being due to having played a similar character Gandalf in The Lord of The Rings trilogy. McKellen’s portrayal of Gandalf in the first film earned him an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
The second reason why McKellen turned down the opportunity to be part of the Harry Potter films was due to feeling that it would be inappropriate to take over the role from Harris, as the late actor had once said that McKellen was “technically brilliant, but passionless.” McKellen recalled the phone call he received about playing the Hogwarts Headmaster in an interview, “When they called me up and said would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films, they didn’t say in what part. I worked out what they were thinking, and I couldn’t … I couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I’d known didn’t approve of me.”
5. Rosamund Pike as Rita Skeeter
The Oscar-Nominated Actress turned down the opportunity to play Gossip Journalist Rita Skeeter in the Harry Potter films due to the part having limited screen time.
6. Peter O’Toole as Albus Dumbledore
Along with Ian McKellen (see #3 above), the late Peter O’Toole was also another top candidate to play Dumbeldore in the last six Harry Potter Films after Richard Harris’s death in October 2002. O’Toole was a heavy favorite as not only was he a close friend of the late Richard Harris, but Harris’s family also publicly expressed their interest in O’Toole taking over the part.
Ultimately, Warner Bros., the studio that distributed all eight Harry Potter Films, passed on casting O’Toole due to concerns about the actor’s health and age. At the time, O’Toole was 70 years old and studio executives were worried about the possibility of having to recast Dumbledore for a third time if O’Toole were to pass away before completing the rest of the Harry Potter Films. The late actor ended up dying from stomach cancer at the age of 81 in December 2013, a little over a year after the final film was released.
7. Naomi Watts as Narcissa Malfoy
The Oscar-Nominated Actress was offered to portray the role of Narcissa Malfoy (Draco’s mother) in the last three Harry Potter films. However, like the case with Kate Winslet (see #13 below), Watts didn’t get the opportunity to say yes or no to the part as her agency rejected it on her behalf.
8. Tim Roth as Severus Snape
The late Alan Rickman earned universal praise for his portrayal of the complex character of Professor Severus Snape in The Harry Potter films. Although there are a lot of what-ifs for other actors considered for various parts in The Harry Potter Films, one of the most surprising revelations is that Rickman only got the part of Snape because Tim Roth, the original pick, turned it down.
Roth, who rejected the part due to filming Planet of The Apes at the time, stated years later that had he accepted the role, his interpretation would have been very different from how Rickman portrayed Professor Snape. We will never know how Roth’s approach to the character of Severus Snape could have changed the way Harry Potter fans view the Potions Professor today.
9. Hatty Jones as Hermione Granger
The Madeline star and Emma Watson were reportedly the final two candidates for portraying Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films. The former lost as the producers felt that Jones was too old for the role. Prior to production for the first film, Jones was 13 years old, while Watson was 11. Watson ended up doing a fantastic job portraying Hermione in the Harry Potter films, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else but her playing the character.
10. Henry Cavill as Cedric Diggory
The Superman star auditioned to play Cedric Diggory, the Hogwarts Co-Champion with Harry Potter in The Goblet of Fire, but ultimately lost the role to Robert Pattinson.
11. Carole Bouquet as Madame Olympe Maxine
The French Actress was the first pick to play the Beauxbatons Headmistress in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, but had to decline as studio executives of Studio Canale (the studio she was contracted to) forbade her from negotiating with the Harry Potter filmmakers for the role.
12. Bob Hoskins as Horace Slughorn
The late Bob Hoskins was heavily considered for the role of Horace Slughorn, the Potions Professor in the last three Harry Potter films (the last two books), before the part went to Oscar-Winning Actor Jim Broadbent.
13. Kate Winslet as Helena Ravenclaw
Despite being a minor character in both the Harry Potter Films and Books, Helena Ravenclaw plays a key role in Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows (the final book and last two Harry Potter films). Oscar-Winning Actress Kate Winslet was reportedly one of the top choices for the part but never got a chance to even consider it, as her agent rejected it without even consulting her (perhaps because the role was so small).
14. Ian McNeice as Vernon Dursley
The Irish Actor was heavily considered for the role of Vernon Dursley, Harry Potter’s cruel uncle, but ultimately lost the part to the late Richard Griffiths.
15. J.K. Rowling as Lily Potter
Although she’s not an actress, the Harry Potter Series Author was asked to play the titular character’s mother in the Harry Potter films shortly before production for the first film began. However, Rowling turned down the opportunity as she felt that she wasn’t cut out to be an actress. Still, it would have been cool to see Rowling make an appearance.