Harry Potter director: Robin Williams rejected for ban on American actor

Chris Columbus gave his daughter a small role in “Harry Potter,” but she was not allowed to speak as an American.

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCER'S STONE, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, 2001

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”

Courtesy of Everett Collection

When Chris Columbus signed on to direct “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” he agreed to adhere to JK Rowling’s mandate that only British actors star in the big-budget fantasy adaptation. The “British only” rule resulted in Robin Williams’ rejection from the film. As casting director Janet Hirshenson once said HuffPo, “The ‘British only’ 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 uniquely British edict, and once he said no to Robin he wasn’t going to say yes to anyone else for sure. It couldn’t be.

One American who landed a role in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was Eleanor Columbus, daughter of director Chris Columbus. Talk to Initiated this week Columbus recalled that his daughter was allowed to play the small role of Susan Bones but was not allowed to speak in the film because she was not British. Bones is one of the first students to put on the sorting hat in “Sorcerer’s Stone.”

“She worked about 80 days,” Columbus said of his daughter’s role. “But she never spoke because you know the rule was if you’re not British you can’t speak.”

It turns out that Robin Williams was twice rejected from the “Harry Potter” franchise because of the rule, losing first to Hagrid in “Sorcerer’s Stone” and then to Lupine in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. “. The “British only” rule instead brought the team to David Thewlis, although Columbus told Insider that Williams had a great grip on the character. Columbus produced the third film “Harry Potter”, directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

“Robin would have been brilliant,” said Columbus. “It would have been a different take – I thought David Thewlis was great – but Robin would have been brilliant. Jo Rowling and I were like when we first met, “Look, we want this cast to be 100% British.” And by the way, I stuck to that.

After “Prisoner of Azkaban,” director Mike Newell stepped in to direct “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” then David Yates joined the franchise to direct the remaining four films. Columbus said earlier this month that he wanted to return to “Harry Potter” to direct a film adaptation of Rowling’s play “The Cursed Child.” The director would like to reunite the main trio – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint – as they are now “the right age” to play adult versions of their characters.

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