J.K. Rowling's rule for Harry Potter cast: Exceptions to the rule

Written by Emil Martesen

Aug.30 - 2023 9:58 PM CET

Photo: Warner Bros.
Photo: Warner Bros.
There were exceptions to the rule.

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When J.K. Rowling agreed to have her Harry Potter series adapted into films, she had one major stipulation: the cast had to be "100 percent British."

This rule was so strictly enforced that even Robin Williams, who expressed interest in playing Hagrid, was turned down. However, there were a few exceptions to this rule.

The Irish Exception

Interestingly, the rule didn't seem to apply to Irish actors. Both Richard Harris and Michael Gambon, who played Dumbledore, were Irish. Rowling's primary concern was to prevent the story from becoming Americanized by film studios.

The American Exceptions

While the rule was mostly adhered to, two American actors did make it into the films. One was Eleanor Columbus, the daughter of the director of the first two Harry Potter movies, Chris Columbus. She played Susan Bones, a Hufflepuff student, in "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone." The other was Verne Troyer, who provided the physical acting for Gringotts Bank goblin Griphook in the same film. However, it's worth noting that both American actors were not heard in the films; their voices were replaced.

The Citizenship Debate

Zoë Wanamaker, who was born in New York City, could technically be considered another American in the films. However, she has spent most of her life in the UK and holds British citizenship, making her a unique case.

The Roles That Could Have Been

Robin Williams not only wanted to play Hagrid but also showed interest in the role of Remus Lupin, the third-year Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Both roles eventually went to British actors Robbie Coltrane and David Thewlis, respectively.

In conclusion, while J.K. Rowling's rule was mostly followed, there were a few notable exceptions. The rule served its purpose in maintaining the British essence of the Harry Potter series, even if it meant turning down big names like Robin Williams.

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