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How The Cast Of The 'Harry Potter' Franchise Landed Their Roles

Updated February 9, 2021 12.9k views13 items
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You know which Hogwarts house you're a member of, which character's wand you'd want to use in real life, and you've even been to Universal Studios to drink down a cool, crisp Butterbeer. Superfan you may be, but do you know how Harry Potter actors were chosen for their respective roles?

You may have an idea about how some of these actors landed their iconic roles, but not all casting stories are made equal. Did you know Daniel Radcliffe didn't even want to audition for Harry? Or that Rupert Grint wrote and performed a rap in his audition tape? Can you name the actor who was originally cast as Severus Snape? If you're in the mood for some magical stories about auditions, replacements, and even a bit of old-fashioned pettiness, scroll on and find out how key Harry Potter cast members landed their roles.

  • Photo: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone / Warner Bros. Pictures

    This will come as no great shock to anyone, but Tom Felton - the actor who completely embodied Draco Malfoy throughout the Harry Potter series - initially wanted to be Harry Potter himself. Who wouldn't? Twelve-year-old boys tend to imagine themselves as, and identify with, the heroes of their favorite tales as opposed to the antagonists, no matter how rich and three-dimensional those villains may be. 

    While sitting down in 2011 with MTV News to promote Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Felton reminisced about those early days of auditioning for the first Harry Potter film. As it turns out, the British actor auditioned for both Harry and Ron before landing the role of Draco. When asked if there was any jealousy over missing out on one of the lead roles, Felton jokingly replied, "Of course! There was rivalry. There was punch-ups. There was like - no there wasn't really." Felton went on to describe the camaraderie and positive vibes on set as well. "There was a great sense of kind of being on a team and Daniel, he flew the flag from day one." We're sure all the other actors who lost out on the Harry Potter role and didn't get the consolation prize of another role would also be just as cordial to Daniel Radcliffe, right?

  • Photo: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone / Warner Bros. Pictures

    These days, it's a bit difficult to imagine anyone but Alan Rickman in the role of Severus Snape, but he wasn't even the studio's first choice for the complicated character. At one point, Tim Roth - perhaps best known for his roles in Quentin Tarantino films like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction - was going to play the mysterious Potions Master. Unfortunately for Roth, the shooting schedule on another big-budget 2001 film took him out of the running for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

    Ultimately, Roth had to choose between starring in Tim Burton's 2001 reboot of Planet of the Apes and playing Snape. The actor chose the Mark Wahlberg-starring dud. Once Roth pulled out, Rickman was brought in and the rest is history. Roth doesn't seem all that bitter about missing out on the Harry Potter train, though. "Do I regret it? I don't know if I ever think about things that way," Roth explained. "It would have been nice to have a seven-year gig, that's a nice and comforting space to be in. But no, I think the better man for the job did the job." That certainly is a positive attitude to have after missing out on a decade's worth of work - and paychecks.

  • Photo: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Ralph Fiennes is a classically trained Shakespearean actor and has been nominated for multiple Academy Awards. This makes the English actor a "serious actor" in the truest sense. With this in mind, it makes perfect sense the actor best known at the time for Schindler's List and The English Patient would initially turn down the chance to star as He Who Must Not Be Named from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire onward. All it took to change his mind was some sisterly advice.

    During an early 2019 appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show, Fiennes let it leak that it was his sister who convinced him to rethink the opportunity to play the memorable villain. "Out of ignorance I just sort of thought, this isn’t for me... Quite stupidly I resisted, I was hesitant," he explained. "I think the clincher was that my sister Martha - who has three children who were then probably about 12, 10, and 8 - she said, 'What do you mean? You've got to do it!' So then I rewound my thinking." Potterheads across the globe clearly owe a great thanks to Martha.

  • Photo: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Sir Ian McKellen may have played one of literature's most famous wizards as The Lord of the Rings' Gandalf the Grey, but the actor could have put his magical hat back on to play Albus Dumbledore - if not for the hurtful words of the man who originated the role. Fans now usually identify Dumbledore with Michael Gambon's depiction of the character, but if Richard Harris, the first Dumbledore, hadn't reportedly disliked McKellen, one of the franchise's major players could've been portrayed by Magneto himself.

    According to a 2017 interview on BBC's HARDtalkPotter producers reached out to McKellen after Harris's passing in late 2002. McKellen swiftly declined the offer. "I couldn't take over the part from an actor who I had known didn't approve of me," McKellen revealed. Of course, McKellen has a good bit of fun with the whole situation and claims he played "the real wizard" in Gandalf and that Gambon "gloriously" played the character throughout the rest of the Harry Potter franchise. Nonetheless, imagining McKellen as Dumbledore is surely a bit of a fun "what if?" game for fans.