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15 Great British Actors Who Never Showed Up In 'Harry Potter' - But Should Have

Updated March 19, 2021 377 votes 57 voters 1.8k views15 items

List RulesVote up the best actors you're surprised never made a 'Harry Potter' appearance.

It’s almost considered a British actor’s birthright to be in a Harry Potter film. But what about the British actors not in Harry Potter? The original Harry Potter cast is perfect, and no one is saying any of them should have been replaced. It just almost seems strange that some of Britain's most acclaimed actors never took their rightful place in the Potter Universe. 

Over the course of eight Harry Potter movies (not to mention two Fantastic Beasts films and counting), a parade of the UK's top acting talent regularly popped up as a Muggle, a wizard, or a Death Eater. Despite most of the roles being minor, British acting royalty like Emma Thompson, Richard Harris, Helena Bonham Carter, and Gary Oldman battled or helped save Harry and his pals. 

But why would certain Dames and Knights get skipped over? Perhaps a few were asked and politely declined because it's simply not their cup of tea. Perhaps there were scheduling conflicts. Perhaps, they inexplicably were just never asked. 

Vote up the British actors you're surprised never made a Harry Potter appearance.

  • Photo: Sherlock / BBC One

    Martin Freeman got the acting bug early in life and honed his craft at performing art schools. Freeman has quite a pedigree of impressive and very "English roles" in his filmography. 

    He played Tim Canterbury - in other words, the proto-Jim Halpert - on the British version of The Office. Freeman showed off his true old-world Englishness with the role of Dr. Watson in the BBC crime drama Sherlock. He won the Emmy in 2014 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his performance as the Sherlock sidekick. The actor also played Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit movie trilogy. Additionally, Freeman joined an accomplished cast of British rom-com stars for 2003's Love Actually

    With all of that British star power, Freeman would seem like an obvious choice to pop in for at least a quick Potter cameo. During an appearance on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon said he overheard Freeman was upset that he wasn't in a Harry Potter film. The actor replied: 

    For a long time I was one of seven British actors who was not in Harry Potter. So, I would see all these films come out and like, "Yeah, yeah, Harry Potter, you know." And so I didn't quite get their appeal and I hadn't read the books, and it's only when I became a dad and they started, you know, my children started being interested in them, that I thought, "Oh, no, these are great and they're fun and I love watching them as a family thing." But yeah for a long time it was just me and six other people going, staring through the window, like you know, orphans in a Dickens book.

    Wizarding World-worthy?
  • Photo: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring / New Line Cinema

    Sir Ian McKellen is one of the most acclaimed actors in British history. The two-time Academy Award nominee got his start when he won a scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge's St. Catharine's College. 

    He later became a legend on the British stage, where he played lead roles in several Shakespeare plays like Richard II. McKellen is widely considered one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of all time. Queen Elizabeth knighted the Gods and Monsters star in 1991. McKellen crossed the pond and transitioned into a successful Hollywood actor. He is perhaps best known for his big-screen roles as Magneto in the X-Men franchise and as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings.

    A knighted British acting legend that has won every major theatrical award in the UK with a blockbuster pedigree seems like the perfect candidate for a Harry Potter movie - and indeed, McKellen even had the opportunity.

    Harry Potter producers asked McKellen to play Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the film series following the passing of Richard Harris. Per Time magazine, McKellen turned down the part because Harris once described McKellen as a "technically brilliant, but passionless" actor. "I couldn't take over the part from an actor who I'd known didn't approve of me," McKellen said. 

    Michael Gambon assumed the role of Dumbledore instead.

    Wizarding World-worthy?
  • Photo: Snowpiercer / RADiUS-TWC

    Tilda Swinton grew up attending British boarding schools and later attended Cambridge University. She learned her craft with the Royal Shakespeare Company in London. The Academy Award-winning actor admitted that she feels like a "tourist" when she flies out to Hollywood to make a studio picture. In fact, Swinton has carved out a prolific career making arthouse films while sprinkling in the occasional supporting role in a Tinseltown blockbuster. 

    The British thespian seems like a natural choice to play a scene-stealing supporting character in a Harry Potter movie. The Michael Clayton star was actually asked to portray Sybill Trelawney (Emma Thompson), a half-blood witch and professor of Divination at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 

    Swinton turned down the offer for an odd reason: She's not a fan of boarding schools. In fact, she described her own experience at West Heath boarding in London as "hell." She added, it was a "very lonely and isolating environment."

    "That's why I dislike films like Harry Potter which tend to romanticize such places," she revealed. "I think they 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 and the love parents can provide."

    Wizarding World-worthy?
  • Photo: Clue / Paramount Pictures

    After graduating from Birmingham University with a drama degree, Tim Curry landed acting work on the London stage. His immense singing and acting talent made him an ideal performer in everything from Hair to Shakespeare.

    The two-time Laurence Olivier Award nominee then scored the delicious villainous role of a lifetime. Curry took on the campy Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the London stage production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The popular show traveled stateside to Los Angeles and hit the big screen in 1974. It has since become one of the most beloved cult classics in the history of American cinema.

    Curry continued to show off his talents on Broadway, where he earned three Tony Award nominations. His other bad guy memorable acting work came as Rooster in Annie, Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the TV miniseries It, and Palpatine on Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

    The actor's filmography features more than just villainous roles. However, Curry clearly has a penchant for playing the baddie. Imagine him as a scene-stealing Death Eater. No word on whether or not Curry was ever offered the opportunity to appear as a part of the Harry Potter Universe.

    Wizarding World-worthy?