The ‘Harry Potter’ books sold millions of copies worldwide and were turned into one of the most successful film franchises in history.
The movies catapulted their young cast to stardom while also attracting renowned acting talent, including Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Richard Harris, Michael Gambon, and Helena Bonham Carter.
Interestingly, all the mentioned actors are of British and Irish origin – and this is not by chance.
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Columbus, who helmed the first two Harry Potter films, explained: “Jo Rowling and I made a pact when we first met: ‘We want this cast to be exclusively British’. And, by the way, I remained true to that commitment.”
Despite this, Columbus was permitted to cast his daughter, Eleanor, in the first movie: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
But to take part in the film, it was agreed that the child wouldn’t utter a single word – in order to conceal her American accent.
Eleanor plays a fleeting role as Susan Bones, a student who is sorted into Hufflepuff by the Sorting Hat.
Columbus said: “She worked about 80 days. But she never spoke because you know the rule was if you’re not British, you can’t speak.”
The rule was so stringent that it led to the casting team rejecting a prominent actor who expressed a strong desire to be part of the film.
Robin Williams, who died aged 63 in 2014, had expressed interest in portraying Hagrid.
Keen to take on the part, he directly contacted Columbus but was ultimately declined.
Clarifying the reason behind Columbus’ refusal of Williams, Janet Hirshenson, the casting director for the Harry Potter films, informed the Huffington Post: “Robin had called [Chris Columbus] because he really wanted to be in the movie, but it was a British-only edict, and once he said no to Robin, he wasn’t going to say yes to anybody else, that’s for sure.”
Despite being turned down for the role, this didn’t stop Williams from trying to play another part in the movie.
In an interview with Total Film, Columbus revealed that he had a conversation with the Aladdin star about playing the role of Remus Lupin – who first appears in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The director told the outlet: “I had a conversation with Robin Williams, who wanted to play Lupin. It was very difficult for me to say ‘It’s all British. There’s nothing I can do’.”