How The Cast Of The 'Harry Potter' Franchise Landed Their Roles
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.
We've all been there... that moment when you doubt everything you're doing with your life in the face of seemingly overwhelming difficulty and strife. For most of us, this comes sometime during adulthood. But Daniel Radcliffe, overachiever that he is, decided to have a midlife crisis during his preteen years. As the story goes, Harry Potter himself wasn't even interested in the role of The Boy Who Lived. At first.
During a 2016 interview with the Huffington Post, casting director Janet Hirshenson went into detail about finding the three leads for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, mentioning that Radcliffe wanted to leave both the stage and screen behind. "He just wasn't interested. He didn't want to be an actor anymore," Hirshenson explained. Eventually one of the film's producers, David Heyman, was able to convince Radcliffe to audition for the title role thanks to being friendly acquaintances with Radcliffe's father. One of the biggest film franchises could've had a different look entirely had Radcliffe committed to ending his young acting career. And we never would've seen the actor play a flatulent corpse...
Emma Watson is one of the world's most recognizable actors now, having made the role of Hermione Granger completely her own throughout the Harry Potter film series, but she had to fight for the opportunity to play the iconic character. Having no prior acting experience and needing to beat out every single girl who threw her hat in the ring during the expansive audition process, Watson won out during an absolutely grueling undertaking involving callback after callback after callback.
Watson went into a little bit of detail about landing the role during a 2009 discussion in Interview Magazine. The actor explained the production team went from school to school in England looking for the perfect Hermione, but discovering unknown talents who looked the part was just the beginning. "It was a long time - eight auditions... of course, all this terrified my parents," Watson said. "There were literally thousands and thousands of girls going out for the audition, and my parents were anxious about what I would do if I didn’t get it... They were trying to make me stay realistic but I wasn't having any of it. I was going to get that part." That kind of determination seems pretty Hermione-esque, doesn't it?
Giants of the hip-hop/rap world best watch out: They've got nothing on the rhythmic stylings of one Rupert Grint. After all, nothing screams "Ron Weasley" like a masterful set of sick bars. All jokes aside, coming up with your own rap showcasing why you should play Harry Potter's sidekick is a solid way of standing out from the pack.
But that's just one part of the story. His assuredly baller flow was just one facet of a three-pronged approach to nailing the audition tape. "I'd sent in one application and had heard nothing back," he remembered. "So I figured there was nothing to lose by being a little inventive. My video was in three parts. There was a rap about myself; I dressed up as a woman and did a little sketch in the character of my drama teacher, then I read some Ron Weasley dialogue." As much as we'd love to see that original video, especially knowing he also did a bit of drag, you'll have to settle for this clip of the actor rapping at a 2011 fan event instead. It definitely sounds like something an 11-year-old would've written around the turn of the century.
The pleas and/or threats of one's grandchild can be a powerful motivator. This is something the late Richard Harris learned firsthand when his granddaughter discovered he had turned down the role of Albus Dumbledore time and time again. Suffice it to say, the young Harry Potter fan was having none of it, and she made sure to let her elder know.
The production team kept calling Harris and upping their offer for the actor to sign onto the franchise as Harry's lovable mentor, but he just kept turning it down. That is, until his granddaughter Ella caught wind of his refusals. "She said, 'Papa, I hear you're not going to be in the Harry Potter movie,' and she said, 'If you don't play Dumbledore then I will never speak to you again,'" Harris recalled during a 2001 interview.
And that was that; Harris promptly changed his mind. Sadly, the legendary actor would only appear as Dumbledore twice before succumbing to Hodgkin's disease at the age of 72 in late 2002.
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?
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.