With Eddie Redmayne now in official talks for “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a spinoff of the “Harry Potter” series, I figured now was as good a time as ever to turn a long-gestating list into a published post. (This has been a note in my iPhone for almost four years now!)
It is easy to forget that the “Harry Potter” series, among its many accomplishments, offered fine roles to a number of talented British thespians. Pooled together, the cast has amassed 31 Oscar nominations – a number that seems mightly low when you consider the names who graced the eight films. Kenneth Branagh. Julie Christie. Gary Oldman. Ralph Fiennes. Maggie Smith. Emma Thompson. (Alan Rickman is not included because he has somehow never been nominated for an Oscar.)
Recently, a number of stars have expressed remorse that they were not a part of the series. Martin Freeman got sad about it with Jimmy Fallon…
But just because it did not happen for Redmayne does not mean I cannot imagine a few recastings that incorporates some more talented British actors. Maybe some roles will have to make cameos in the new trilogy, after all! And, heaven forbid, Warner Bros. might actually reboot the original books one day.
So, as the title of the list suggests, here are 10 British actors overlooked by the “Harry Potter” casting directors and the roles they could have played brilliantly.
Colin Firth as Gilderoy Lockhart
Though his Oscar victory has certainly altered public perception, there are plenty of people who know Colin Firth more as a pretty face than a serious actor. What better way to parody his dashing good lucks than through the Gilderoy Lockhart character, a fraudulent professor able to swindle people with his gentlemanly English manner? I can just see him sinking his teeth into this character with never-before-seen gusto.
Daniel Day-Lewis as Barty Crouch Sr.
The elder Barty Crouch only played a small part in “Goblet of Fire,” but I always found him distinctively creepy and menacing. (Perhaps it’s the Hitler mustache.) Daniel Day-Lewis could have made him an absolutely terrifying figure. He also would have been a great Severus Snape, but it’s impossible to envision anyone other than Alan Rickman in the role now.
Hugh Laurie as Mad Eye Moody
Gleeson was great, but the sadistic and sardonic professor could have been even better in the hands of Dr. House himself, Hugh Laurie.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Professor Quirrell
Eddie Redmayne as Percy Weasley
I couldn’t make this list in good faith and then leave out Eddie Redmayne, who so clearly missed his calling as one of the Weasleys! Playing straight-laced, holier-than-thou Percy might have suited him well.
Side note: I could have easily kept going with many more men, but finding five British women to recast in the “Harry Potter” universe proved fairly challenging. While I certainly never thought of the series as misogynistic or excessively masculine, there were not necessarily a large helping of parts for females. Among those that were there, the most prominent were so well cast that it’s hard to fathom anyone else assuming the role.
Kate Winslet as Dolores Umbridge
Imelda Staunton did a bang-up job as Umbridge, making me hate her cinematic iteration of Umbridge almost as much as I loathed every ounce of her being in the pages of Rowling’s book. But Winslet can work some righteous anger on screen too; if she was to play anyone in “Harry Potter,” it would have to be this uptight authoritarian.
Rosamund Pike as Aunt Petunia Dursley
Snide, bitter, and pulling a long con on a male who ruins her comfortable existence – Amazing Amy or Aunt Petunia? Rosamund Pike could play them both.
Saoirse Ronan as Moaning Myrtle
Ronan has carved out a niche playing precocious youngest in films as varied as “Atonement,” “Hanna,” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” She might have made a great Hermione Granger, although no one but Emma Watson could ever be that character for me. For whatever reason, I think she might have turned Moaning Myrtle into something other than an overly sexualized caricature lusting after Harry.
Helen Mirren as Madame Pomfrey
Fact: Dame Helen Mirren improves every movie in which she appears. So why not have her appear for a memorable scene every movie as Madame Pomfrey, Hogwarts’ equivalent of the school nurse? Given the dangerous exploits that inevitably involve Harry and his crew, Pomfrey is bound to appear at least once in every film. Rather than make the scene forgettable, why not make it something worth anticipating?
Tilda Swinton as Narcissa Malfoy
Helena Bonham Carter’s Bellatrix Lestrange deserves a suitably fashionable feminine partner-in-crime. Who knows what kind of crazy personal styling Tilda Swinton would have brought to Narcissa Malfoy?! Certainly not that drab skunk hairdo. Looks are not everything, obviously – Swinton is one of the most chillingly frightening actresses in the game.
What British actor or actress do you think should have appeared in the “Harry Potter” series? Anyone you would recast? Sound off in the comments!