It's hard to imagine Harry Potter as anybody other than Daniel Radcliffe, or Hermione marrying anybody other than Ron. And yet, both of those things almost came to pass. The Harry Potter films could have been very different if only J.K. Rowling hadn't insisted on a British cast or if she had made a few key edits to her original manuscripts. Deleted scenes and on set improvisations were also crucial in shaping the Harry Potter films, creating the final products fans all know and love (for the most part, at least).
The Harry Potter films are unique in that they are the true definition of "instant classic." Any adaptation of Rowling's book series about the Boy Who Lived was always going to be historic, but they weren't destined to be any certain way. As with any film, the finished result depended on an infinite number of factors, from directors to actors to writing and set decoration. Any number of variables went in to making the finished Harry Potter movies fans have all seen a million times. Some of those variables changed over the course of production (recasting and deleted scenes), others changed in the very early stages of story building, and still more are changing as the demand for extended cuts of films and extra details grows.
The Harry Potter movies are, in some ways, still changing, but the core of them are still the same. And yet, as these 13 things show, the films could have been very different, and the series' core wasn't always set in stone.
1. We Could Have Had A Different Harry Potter
Liam Aiken (Stepmom, A Series of Unfortunate Events) was originally a top pick to play Harry Potter in the films. That is, according to Movie Pilot, until producers and author J.K. Rowling put her foot down about wanting a British actor to play the part.
2. Harry's Eyes Were Almost Green
Harry Potter's eyes are famously green, but Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who played him in eight films, does not have green eyes. There was, according to a behind-the-scenes DVD extra on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 and reported via Hypable, an attempt to have Radcliffe wear green contact lenses, but the actor was allergic and the idea was scrapped.
3. Ian McKellen Could Have Been Dumbledore
Ian McKellen, already famous for playing the bearded wizard Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, was reportedly offered the role of Dumbledore, according to Popsugar, but he turned it down. It's sort of amazing to think that Gandalf and Dumbledore could have been the same person — just think of the fan art.
4. Barty Crouch Jr. Was Almost Way Less Creepy
One of the things that makes Barty Crouch Jr. so creepy in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the weird tongue flick he does. According to Movie Pilot, actor David Tennant improvised the nervous tick, which Brendan Gleeson then copied as Mad Eye Moody.
5. David Thewlis Was Almost Professor Quirrell
David Thewlis, who appeared as Professor Lupin in five Harry Potter films, was almost just in one. According to Popsugar, he originally auditioned for the role of Professor Quirrell, who only appears in the first film. It's hard to imagine a different Lupin, or a different Quirrell, for that matter.
6. More Song And Dance
The original manuscript for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets included a song for Nearly Headless Nick (one assumes relating to his Deathday Party). Unfortunately, the song was cut in edits, as described in Philip W. Errington's book J.K. Rowling: A Bibliography 1997-2013, via Entertainment Weekly.
7. RIP Ron Weasley
Rowling admitted that she briefly considered killing off Ron Weasley about midway through writing the series in the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 DVD interview, via The Guardian. It's unclear when or how she thought about killing him — perhaps not until the Battle of Hogwarts — but either way, it would have been tragic.
8. Voldemort's Hug
Voldemort actor Ralph Fiennes reportedly improvised the creepy hug he gives Malfoy (Tom Felton) at the end of The Deathly Hallows — Part 2, via Movie Pilot. He just did it on the spot, causing Felton to stop dead in his tracks. The moment is now one of the most hotly debated and iconic moments in the franchise.
9. Hermione & Ron
Rowling has said that she felt that Hermione and Ron weren't actually a good couple. She even told Emma Watson in an interview with Wonderland that she thought the couple was a form of "wish fulfillment" and would need "relationship counseling," according to Hypable.
10. Lucious Malfoy
An intense scene from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets left on the cutting room floor featured Lucious Malfoy terrorizing his own son, Draco. This scene would have made Lucious an even more terrifying figure to young audiences, and would also have laid more ground work for Malfoy's eventual redemption.
11. The Potters & The Grangers
According to a report form Radio Times, Rowling originally had the idea that Hermione's parents actually had a history with the Potters. In the original idea, the two young families were essentially neighbors, with Hermione's father hearing commotion at the Potters' home and going to investigate after Voldemort's attack. Mr. Granger would have been the one to find baby Harry. It sounds strange to hardcore HP fans, but it also would have been kind of nice to know that Hermione was connected to Harry before they ever met.
12. Hugh Grant As Gilderoy Lockhart
Gilderoy Lockhart was almost played by British actor Hugh Grant instead of Kenneth Branagh in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Grant was reportedly offered the role, but had to drop out to due to scheduling conflicts, according to Popsugar. Grant would have certainly changed the tone of the role, perhaps making Lockhart a bit less of a bumbling fool and more of a nefarious narcissist. What that would look like, we'll never know.
13. All The Deleted Scenes
The last and most likely way the Harry Potter films could have been different is the deleted scenes. Scenes that were shot — like Harry and Ron discovering Filch was a Squib — and cut out of the final films. Over the course of eight films, there were plenty of scenes cut in editing, many of which would have changed the tone of surrounding scenes or added richness to certain relationships.
We'll never know the world in which the Harry Potter movies brought S.P.E.W. to life, or the world in which an American boy got to play the world's most famous British wizard. But most fans will agree that what we got instead is still pretty great.