The last Harry Potter film came out nearly 10 years ago now, but it remains one of the most celebrated and iconic series of all time. People continue to share theories and fan fiction about the world of Harry Potter, proving that it’s one of the most important film series to ever be brought to the big screen. And can we just appreciate for a second how perfect the casting is?
Each film is stacked with unforgettable performances from iconic actors, many of who have launched successful careers all thanks to the wizarding world that J.K. Rowling’s brilliant mind brought to life. To show our appreciation for the series and the actors who made it what it is, here are 53 facts you may not have known about the actors in Harry Potter.
Harry Potter Cast Facts
1. Leave the Chaos to Lestrange
Helena Bonham Carter, who you may know better as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series, was involved in a pretty dramatic love triangle. In the 1990s, she had an affair with Kenneth Branagh (who plays Gilderoy Lockhart), the husband of Emma Thompson (who plays Professor Trelawney). I wonder if it ever came up on set?
2. A Toast to Alan Rickman
Alan Rickman played one of the most unforgettable roles of all time with his iconic performance as Snape. He was a world-class actor of television, film, and the stage. The world was shocked to learn of his sudden death in 2016. It later came out that Rickman had terminal pancreatic cancer, which he kept very private. He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.
3. The Fighter Maggie Smith
Rickman wasn’t the only one who battled cancer on the set of Harry Potter. In the late 2000s, tragedy struck. Dame Maggie Smith, the esteemed actress who plays Professor McGonagall, revealed that she was battling breast cancer. The actress bravely decided to keep filming the sixth movie, but fans worried for her health.
Happily, the actress recovered and returned to play McGonagall in the last two movies. She is now cancer free.
4. Famous Wizard Blues
Harry Potter was a smash hit, and rocketed its young stars to fame almost overnight. Some actors didn’t handle it so well, though, including Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe. In an interview with USA Today, Radcliffe admitted to using alcohol to deal with the stress of being in the public sphere after Harry Potter made him a household name. He says his family and friends helped him recover and deal with the stress of fame.
5. Rupert’s Not Here, Man
Speaking of controversies, Ron Weasley’s Rupert Grint made headlines when the press released a photograph of him smoking marijuana from a bong. Maybe this wouldn’t be a huge deal now that cannabis is more widely legalized, but this was at the height of his fame as everyone’s favorite red-headed wizard. Grint never made a statement, with many saying the photo was fake.
6. Powerful Emma Watson
Emma Watson shares a lot with her character Hermione Granger, including her attitude towards women’s rights. Watson is an astute feminist. She says these beliefs started when she noticed people calling her “bossy” at the age of eight, while boys around her were not. She even inspired Malala Yousafzai to call herself a feminist after a moving speech. You go, girl!
7. Musical Malfoy
Tom Felton was the perfect choice to play Draco Malfoy, but what many don’t know is that he had a brief music career during the time he was filming Harry Potter. He released four EPs between 2008 and 2011, but seems to be on a hiatus now.
8. Proudly Self-Partnered
After relationships with Chord Overstreet (AKA Sam from Glee), a British financier, and a few rugby stars, Emma Watson recently described herself not as single, but as “self-partnered."
9. Evil Runs in the Family
When Harry Potter executives were on the hunt for the boy who could play young Voldemort in flashbacks in the sixth film, they didn't have to look very far. They cast Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, Ralph Fiennes' little nephew.
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10. The Ups and Downs of Love
Talk about an unlikely pair. Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) fell for her co-star Jamie Campbell Bower (Gellert Grindewalt) on the set of the last Harry Potter movie. The two became so serious that they even got engaged! Unfortunately for all the shippers out there, they called their engagement off two years later. Not a very magical ending.
11. Mad-Eye? More Like Dad-Eye
Brendan Gleeson first appeared in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as the slightly-unhinged Mad-Eye Moody. Soon after, his real-life son Domhnall Gleeson nabbed the role of Bill Weasley. This fact brings special significance to the scene in Deathly Hallows where Bill breaks Moody's death to the Order of the Phoenix. On set, that would have been a son talking about his dearly departed dad. Pass the tissues.
12. Alternate Universe
Many Harry Potter fans don't realize that the movies could have been quite different. Producers wanted Hugh Grant to play Gilderoy Lockhart, Sir Ian McKellen to play Dumbledore after Richard Harris died, Rosamund Pike to be Rita Skeeter, and in another world, Tilda Swinton to portray the lovably silly Professor Trelawney.
13. Method Acting?
Few Harry Potter actors got in as much trouble as Crabbe actor Jamie Waylett. He lost out on his role in the final movie for growing cannabis in his mother’s house, and the trouble didn’t end there. Two years later police arrested the actor for possessing a Molotov cocktail in connection with the England Riots. Oh, and they found more weed plants after that, too. Oops.
14. He’s No Coltrane
Despite being willing to work for free, producers turned down Robin Williams for the role of Hagrid.
15. Nudie Potter
Radcliffe made a big step away from Harry Potter during the Broadway play Equus. The role made headlines because it required the star to hit the stage wearing only his birthday suit! As you can imagine, it was an absolute media frenzy.
16. Hidden Meanings
Actor David Thewlis, who played Remus Lupin in the movie adaptations of the Harry Potter books, revealed a surprising motivation for his character. Without consulting Rowling, the director of the third movie, Alfonso Cuaron, told Thewlis to play Lupin as though the werewolf professor was a gay man.
17. It’s The Ice Cream Man!
Grint may be a star now, but he has some simpler dreams—like being an ice cream man! He used a portion of his film earnings to buy an ice cream truck. The actor even keeps it well-stocked, and hopefully still drives it around to this day.
18. Luna's Secret Struggle
Harry Potter fans know Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood, the quirky and kind-hearted Ravenclaw student. But sadly, in real life, Lynch faced terrifying struggles. The actress battled an eating disorder for years. Before booking the role of Luna, she says the JK Rowling reached out to her. To Rowling, Lynch was perfect for the part, but she needed to get well before she accepted the work. Lynch managed to recover and became the iconic Luna Lovegood we know and adore to this day.
19. Big Roles, Little People
Actor Warwick Davis, who played Professor Flitwick, is the co-founder of Willow Management. The agency looks to cast dwarf actors in roles, and was responsible for casting over 40 dwarf actors as goblins in the last Harry Potter film.
20. Grint and Groome
Rupert Grint keeps his private life pretty private, but word on the street is that the laidback actor has been in a stable relationship with British actress Georgia Groome since, get this, 2011. If you haven't heard of her, she starred in the hilarious movie Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging. I kind of love that two iconically funny characters got together in real life.
After Richard Harris died, Michael Gambon took over the role of Dumbledore. However, in a controversial choice, Gambon did not read the books before filming and, uh, it kind of shows. In a notorious example, the book specifies that Dumbledore "calmly" asks Harry if he put his name in the Goblet of Fire. Despite this clear direction from the book, in the movie, Gambon yells and runs towards Harry like a madman. It's a...choice.
22. Rest in Peace, Griffiths
Richard Griffiths brought life to Vernon Dursley, one of the most hated characters in the Harry Potter universe. While he made us detest him as Harry's mean uncle, it's worth noting that Daniel Radcliffe absolutely adored the actor, who also became his friend and mentor. They worked together on stage and film and Radcliffe spoke very fondly of Griffiths when he died in 2013 due to complications of heart surgery.
23. Party Hard Dumbledore
Few Harry Potter fans realize that when Richard Harris (the first actor to play Dumbledore) was young, he was Britain's bad boy. Harris was famous for going out with Michael Caine, drinking up a storm, and tearing up the town. After almost dying of an overdose in 1978, Harris realized that he had to change his ways. He stopped partying then and there.
24. Dang Petunia
Did you know that Fiona Shaw, the actress who plays Aunt Petunia, is a proud lesbian? Shaw is married to a Sri Lankan writer and economic scholar and previously dated the British actress Saffron Burrows. She also made stage history when she played the traditionally male role of Shakespeare's Richard II. So basically what I'm saying is that Aunt Petunia is amazing.
25. Where'd You Go, Madam Hooch?
In the first Harry Potter movie, viewers are treated to Madam Hooch, the yellow-eyed Quidditch instructor. But sadly, she never returned after that one appearance. Years later, we finally know why. Apparently, the actress who played Hooch, Zoe Wanamaker, said that the producers were "notoriously mean." She also revealed that her pay was incredibly low.
26. Nailed It!
Ralph Fiennes knew his Voldemort makeup was on point when he made a child cry. Allegedly, the child of a script supervisor was reduced to tears when Fiennes walked past him.
When Alan Rickman first took the role of Severus Snape in Harry Potter, the ending of the book series had not yet been revealed. So, to make sure that he could best portray the complicated character, J.K. Rowling revealed a key piece of information about the character to him. Rickman died never revealing what that piece of information was, but Rowling eventually let fans in on the secret.
She told him what lies behind the word "Always." It means that Snape would always love Lily Potter, that he would always protect Harry, and that nothing in the world, no amount of torment or danger, could change that. So while audiences were left guessing as to Snape's allegiances until the final film, the actor himself knew all along.
28. Mrs Weasley, Secret Rule Breaker
In the books, Mrs Weasley keeps her brood of ginger kids in line, but in real life actress Julie Walters was a bit of a bad girl. Apparently, she was such a rebel in high school that her teachers begged her to leave.
29. No One Said Magic Was Easy
In 2004, after a career downturn, Gary Oldman bounced back with his role as Harry Potter’s godfather Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Oldman would admit to taking on the role mostly because “he needed the work” and hadn’t acted for more than a year. Moreover, the parts pleased his sons, making him a hero among his children and children’s’ friends.
But good things hardly come easy: Oldman described the role as surprisingly challenging and even compared it to one of those weighty Shakespearean dialogues.
30. A Siriusly Bad Start
Gary Oldman had a very stormy childhood. His father was an alcoholic who abandoned the family when Oldman was only seven years old. At the age of 16, Oldman dropped out of school. He then worked in a slaughterhouse and was rejected from England's premier acting school before finally breaking into theater.
31. Silver Medal?
The actress who was originally going to play Bellatrix Lestrange had to drop out when she became pregnant, but she actually returned to the series in a big role later on. Helen McCrory was first cast as Lestrange in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix before eventually being recast as Narcissa Malfoy, Bellatrix’s sister and Draco's mother.
During the filming of Deathly Hallows Part 1, Harry Melling (Dudley Dursley) had to wear a fat suit, as he had lost so much weight. These days, he's kept up his newly slim frame, recently appearing in the new His Dark Materials TV show.
33. Great Skin-Care
Shirley Henderson was in her late 30s when she played the role of deceased teenager Moaning Myrtle in Chamber of Secrets. Whatever she’s doing to appear that young, it’s working.
34. First "Cho Chang," Now This?
The Harry Potter movies stoked a considerable amount of controversy when they replaced an actress. Originally, Lavender Brown was portrayed by Kathleen Cauley and Jennifer Smith in the second and third movies. Both were actresses of color, but lo and behold, when Lavender finally got more than a couple lines, she was suddenly recast with a white actress, Jessie Cave.
35. Luna Would Be Proud
Evanna Lynch is a dedicated vegan and activist. She is the owner of Kinder Beauty Box, a monthly subscription box that sends subscribers vegan-friendly beauty products in sustainable packaging.
36. Decline, Unsubscribe, No
Hindsight really is 20/20. Back in the 1960s, Michael Gambon took to the stage in several Shakespeare plays, but one role in particular makes for very uncomfortable viewing. The esteemed actor portrayed Othello...in full blackface. Yikes.
37. Good Guy Voldemort...Ish
Based on how well he plays the role, it’s easy to forget how good a guy Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort) is. Not only is he an ambassador of UNICEFT UK and the charity Artists Against Racism, he has also done work across the world like Uganda and India. Fiennes also used to be married to Doctor Who's River Song (Alex Kingston)! Though in a more villain-y twist, Fiennes' extramarital affair ended that.
38. The Royal Connection
Helena Bonham Carter is actually a distant cousin of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. Turns out she’s a lot classier than her depiction as Lestrange would have you believe.
39. Three For One
Here are three small facts about the series' supporting actors. Joshua Herdman, who played Gregory Goyle, is now a professional MMA fighter. Scarlett Byrne, who played Pansy Parkinson, is married to Hugh Hefner's son. And Luke Youngblood, who played the Quidditch commentator and the Weasley Twins' best friend Lee Jordan, also played Magnitude in the cult TV show Community. Pop pop!
40. Dramione Lives
In summer of 2019, Dramione shippers had an absolute meltdown with Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) posted Instagram photos of the duo at the beach. While they haven't confirmed that they're in a relationship, Rupert Grint said he wouldn't be too surprised if it happened. Apparently, there was a spark on set.
41. A Black Heart
Altogether, Gary Oldman (Sirius Black) has been married five times. He left his first wife, Lesley Manville, in 1989, and in an especially sad twist, he mimicked the example set by his own father by departing just three months after the birth of their son, Alfie. Today, Manville and Oldman have moved on, reconciled, and become friends. In the 1990s, Oldman also briefly married actress Uma Thurman. The pair divorced after just two years together.
42. Gambon’s Need for Speed
Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore) appeared on Top Gear and infamously went around a corner so aggressively that his car drove on two wheels only. The last corner of the test track is now named Gambon in his honor.
43. The Book Fairy
Emma Watson started a feminist book group called Our Shared Shelf, meant to share feminist and female-written books. One of their most popular stunts is to leave feminist books on subway seats in England for people to find.
According to science, Alan Rickman’s voice is “perfect." They traced select participants reactions to several voices, and found the most positive reactions came after listening to Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons. How could Lily Potter have stood that soothing voice up?
45. The Rat Who Swam
Timothy Spall (Wormtail) is an experienced sailor. He owns a $350,000 Dutch barge with his wife, and the two even sailed it around the British Isles for a BBC Four series called Timothy Spall: …at Sea. Doing your hobby and making money? That’s the dream. And PS: His son is the actor Rafe Spall from movies like Life of Pi and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
46. Best. Audition. Ever.
When Grint auditioned for the part of Ron Weasley, he knew he had to do something to stand out. He chose to do a rap about how much he wanted to be Ron Weasley. It was a risky move, but clearly it worked out pretty well.
47. Trelawney Fans Unite
Emma Thompson is passionate about several social causes including women's rights, the environment, refugee rights, and ensuring that people with AIDS are treated with care and respect. She and her husband have a biological daughter and recently adopted a former child soldier from Rwanda named Tindyebwa Agaba. The actress also made headlines when she wrote a passionate letter supporting the #MeToo movement.
48. Thompson's Woes
After Emma Thompson's marriage to Kenneth Branagh broke down, the actress spiralled into a dark depression. She said that working on the Jane Austen adaptation Sense and Sensibility helped her put the pieces back together, but the real hero was her younger co-star Greg Wise. Even though he played the baddie in the movie, Wise and Thompson fell in love. They're together to this day.
49. If Only
Some actors turned down roles in Harry Potter because of boring things like scheduling conflicts—but some had far more scandalous reasons. Apparently, Rosamund Pike didn't want to commit to more than one movie and Tilda Swinton didn't want to be in a series that glorified boarding school (um, okay). But by far the most tragic reason is Ian McKellen's.
Apparently, Richard Harris said that he was a "passionless" actor. McKellen didn't feel right taking over from a man who disapproved of his craft.
50. Stand Tall, Hagrid
After Harry Potter wrapped, Hagrid actor Robbie Coltrane entered a heartbreaking situation. The actor is in pain and confined to a wheelchair. He suffers from osteoarthritis and is set to go through a surgery to try and fix this. Pray for Coltrane!
51. Silver Medal?
Originally, the character of Bellatrix was meant to be played by actress Helen McCrory when she made her debut in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. However, McCrory became pregnant and had to drop out of the movie. However, she eventually returned to the film franchise when she was cast as Narcissa Malfoy, Bellatrix’s sister.
When Alan Rickman first took the role of Snape, the ending of the book series had not yet been revealed. So, to make sure that he could best portray the complicated character, Rowling revealed a key piece of information about the character to him. Rickman died never revealing what that piece of information was, but Rowling eventually let fans in on the secret.
She told him what lies behind the word "Always." That Snape would always love Lily Potter. That he would always protect Harry. That nothing in the world, no amount of torment or danger, could change that. So while audiences were left guessing as to Snape's allegiances until the final film, the actor himself knew all along.
53. Trust Me, I Know
The fact that Rickman knew more about his character than anyone else made for an interesting dynamic between the actor and his directors. There would be times where a director would tell Rickman to do something, and he would respond by saying, “No, I can’t do that—I know what is going to happen and you don’t."