I don't know if there's any other franchise I will ever love as much as I love Harry Potter . Even now, years after the release of the final book and movie, I still feel a ridiculous amount of affection for the series both forms — I can't help it, they're great. The movies sort of became their own separate entity over the years in the best possible way, and I find myself popping in the DVDs on a fairly regular basis, depending on the mood I'm in. If I want something more childish and fun, Chamber of Secrets or The Sorcerer's Stone are my jam; if I want to cry my eyes out, it's always Order of the Phoenix (that scene in the Ministry of Magic gets me every time). You get the point. Everything about the movies is perfect, from the special effects to the cast itself. Speaking of which, do you realize how many big name stars were almost cast in the Harry Potter movies but, for whatever reason, ultimately weren't? It's a mind-blowing list.
I wouldn't change a thing when it comes to the actors that ultimately played some of our most beloved modern characters. Can you imagine anyone other than Daniel Radcliffe as Harry? Anyone besides Emma Watson as Hermione? The list goes on and on. Harry Potter was amazing as is, but it's still fun to think about what could have been.
Here are nine actors that were almost part of the Harry Potter universe — some of them were totally a surprise to me!
Ian McKellen as Dumbledore
The role of Dumbledore was ultimately filled by Richard Harris, and then Michael Gambon after Harris' death, but incidentally, the role almost went to Ian McKellen. Unfortunately, McKellen turned down Dumbledore since he'd already played Gandalf in Lord of the Rings.
Naomi Watts as Narcissa Malfoy
It was reported all the way back in 2007 that Naomi Watts had signed on to play Narcissa Malfoy, mother of Draco and wife of Lucius, but that never came to pass. Instead, the role went to Helen McRory, though it's unclear why Watts gave it up in the first place.
Tilda Swinton as Professor Trelawny
This is a tough one because I love Emma Thompson, who actually did play Professor Trelawny in the end. However, I think I could have lived with Tilda Swinton as Trelawny, though she couldn't take the role due to scheduling conflicts.
Robin Williams as Hagrid
In reality, Robbie Coltrane was the perfect actor for the role of Hagrid and brought a vibrancy and life to the popular character that I can't imagine anyone else matching. However, Robin Williams was an initial pick for Hagrid by the studio — it was JK Rowling who intervened and refused the casting.
J.K. Rowling As Lily Potter
That's right — the Harry Potter author herself nearly appeared in one of the early films as Lily Potter, Harry's mother. However, it was a bit too meta and eventually decided against, which is probably for the best. Geraldine Somerville eventually did the honors, and she did just fine.
Kate Winslet as Helena Ravenclaw
Helena Ravenclaw is the daughter of Rowena Ravenclaw, and played an important role in destroying all of Voldemort's horcruxes. Kate Winslet's agent turned down the role of Helena and eventually it went to Kelly MacDonald. Oh, what could have been!
Hugh Grant as Gilderoy Lockhart
It's unclear exactly why Hugh Grant didn't play Gilderoy Lockhart (I'm assuming it's another case of scheduling conflicts), but frankly, I'm glad Kenneth Branagh took it on in the end, because he was absolutely perfect for it. I'm sure Grant could have done a good job, as well, of course.
Peter O'Toole as Albus Dumbledore
At one point, Peter O'Toole — who always reminds me of watching Man of La Mancha in high school Spanish classes — was in consideration for the role of Dumbledore after Harris' death, though we know it ultimately went to Michael Gambon.
Tim Roth as Severus Snape
This is a tough pill to swallow: we almost didn't have Alan Rickman as Snape. In fact, Tim Roth was tipped for the Dark Arts professor, but he chose to do another movie, instead. No offense to Roth, but I've never been more grateful in my life.
It's funny to think that these actors could have played some of our most beloved Harry Potter characters, and to imagine how different the franchise would have been had that happened. Regardless, I'm still happy things turned out as they did — I can't imagine it being any better!
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures