Robin Williams

“There was a ban on…”: Absurd Rule Why Robin Williams Couldn’t Play an Iconic Role in Harry Potter

The mega franchise Harry Potter consists of a massive star-studded cast. However, interestingly, the cast only includes the British actors. Since the film is based on JK Rowling’s bestselling novel of the same name, she wanted assurance from the studios that any adaptation should not mess with her novel’s narrative.

The writer insisted that the cast of Harry Potter should include only British actors. This “British Only” rule coaxed the director of the film, Chris Columbus to ban American actors from appearing in the film. Due to this, the late actor Robin Williams was deprived of appearing in his dream project.

Late actor Robin Williams
Late actor Robin Williams

Robin Williams lost on a project because of his nationality

Robin Williams was undoubtedly one of the most celebrated actors in the film industry. The actor had a remarkable journey in Hollywood, which includes his appearance in some incredible projects like, Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Good Will Hunting, Shawn Levy’s Night at the Museum (2006), and more.

Interestingly, the popular Harry Potter film series would have also been on this list if Williams was not a native of America. During an interview with HuffPost, the casting director of the film Janet Hirshenson once shared the reason for rejecting Williams to play Hagrid. Hirshenson said,

“The ‘only British’ rule was so important that Robin Williams was even turned down to play Hagrid…Robin had called [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. It couldn’t be.”

Since Williams was rejected for the role, the role went to Robbie Coltrane. According to The Guardian, during an interview with the New York Post, Williams expressed his dismay at not being able to be a part of Harry Potter films. The actor said, 

“There were a couple of parts I would have wanted to play, but there was a ban on American actors.”

According to Indie Wire, Hagrid wasn’t the only role for which Williams was rejected, as he also lost Lupin’s role in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. However, the director of the Harry Potter film series, Chris Columbus shared with Insider that Williams was a great fit for the role, however, due to the “British Only” rule, he couldn’t make it to the film.

Why was “British Only” levied in Harry Potter films?

JK Rowling
JK Rowling

It’s undeniable that Harry Potter is one of the most celebrated novel-adapted films of all time. However, getting its rights from the author wasn’t a very easy task for Warner Bros. J.K. Rowling’s book was released in 1997, and it created much hype among the studios to create a film adaptation of the best-selling novel.

It was producer, David Heyman’s idea to create a film adaptation of the novel hence he approached Warner Bros. with his idea. Though the studios were excited to take up the project, the major task was to convince the author of the novel to sell the rights. According to Newstalk ZB, Rowling expressed her uncertainty about selling the novel rights, in a 2001 interview. She said,

“I think it was around the time the second book was published. There was a flood of film and television offers and all sorts of adaptations were in the air and I said no to all of them. In fact, I initially said no to Warner Bros.” 

However, Rowling eventually sold the rights to her novel for a reported £1 million, but there was a condition. Rowling insisted that the characters in her novel must be played by only British actors to maintain the authenticity of the novel.

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