It does not take a British film aficionado to recognize that the eight Harry Potter movies are a roll call of some of Britain’s greatest talent. Through the eight movies, the supporting cast has boasted Academy Award winners and BAFTA winners. Numerous famous faces ranged from the veterans of Hollywood’s Golden Age like Richard Harris and Maggie Smith to the modern and trendy newcomers like David Tennant of Dr. Who fame. Even relatively small parts were filled by actors well-known to British cinema, not the least of whom where Ciaran Hinds, Sophie Thompson, Jim Broadbent, David Thewlis, Bill Nighy, and Imelda Staunton.
While there can certainly be no doubt that the eight Harry Potter movies filled the screen with tasteful doses of seasoned talent, there are a handful of British film stars (not necessarily stars of British origin, but actors who began in British films and TV) I would have liked to have seen make an appearance at some point during the course of the saga. Rather than recast the series unnecessarily, I present some un-portrayed characters from the books and an actor who did not make it into the Potter movies, but could have.
Mark Strong- Lately Mark Strong has emerged as a more recognizable face to Hollywood, but he would have been perfectly at home in the world of Hogwarts. Strong I believe would have made a superb Death Eater, but I submit Strong as a more thoroughly developed Bloody Baron.
Hugh Laurie- His House fame may have overshadowed him a little, but Laurie was a comedian long before he was Dr. House. When I read The Goblet of Fire, I actually imagined Mad-Eye Moody being more Laurie than Gleeson. Gleeson’s interpretation brought energy and even comedy to The Goblet of Fire, therefore for Hugh Laurie, perhaps one of the Azkaban escapees. Drawing from the books, Laurie might have done justice to the masochistic role of Amycus Carrow.
Richard E. Grant- Grant will forever be Sir Percible Blakeny from the Scarlet Pimpernel for me. His lanky frame, Cheshire-cat grin, and wide eyes would have fit well into various roles of good or evil characters. Grant would have made a grand Weasley relative, an eerie Death Eater, or a quirky Xenophilius Lovegood, but a better fit I believe would have been the entitled and arrogant Marvolo Gaunt. As a less desirable but still unrelenting pure-blood, Grant as Gaunt would have added a new dimension of darkness to Voldemort's history.
Sylvester McCoy- Being delightful and quirky, McCoy seems right for the part of Hufflepuff's resident ghost, the Fat Friar.
Keeley Hawes- If Harry has “his mother’s eyes,” Hawes has the look to be Lily Potter. Furthermore, James and Lily were young when they died, so I would be in favor of youthful looking Potters, which brings me to the part of James Potter…
Cillian Murphy- Selling the part of James Potter would depend highly on audiences not looking at him as Scarecrow from Batman Begins, but he looks the part of a young James Potter closely enough. Upon first glance he might not resemble Daniel Radcliffe closely, but with a few hair tricks and a Gryffindor scarf, he could work. If not James Potter, Murphy would have been perfect to play young Tom Riddle during his employment for Borgin and Burkes.
Rowan Atkinson- Would have made an amusing Professor Binns don’t you think? He could certainly pull off the part of a ghost who did not let death interfere with his teaching.
Terence Stamp- I don’t care what part he would have played, he would have been wonderful at anything. A Minister for Magic, a Death Eater, a professor, it doesn’t matter; Stamp just seems to belong somewhere in this saga. Perhaps as Salazar Slytherin himself?
Benedict Cumberbatch- With his mysterious manner and ability to be either warm or edgy, Cumberbatch would have made an emotionally-wrenching Regulus Black. Cumberbatch possesses the presence and regality worthy of the pure-blood Blacks, but is also more than capable of displaying a convincing shift in loyalty. Imagine him giving Kreacher his final orders before succumbing to death by inferi.
Jodhi May- Another very recognizable face from some of BBC’s finest productions, May would have been haunting as Lord Voldemort’s own obsessed, fragile, and defeated mother Merope Gaunt.
Stephen Fry- His brilliant work on the Harry Potter audio books land him a place among the actors fortunate enough to be involved with Harry Potter, but were he to appear onscreen, the only place for him would be Peeves. Older, irreverent, mischievous, malicious at times, and horribly defiant, Fry would embody Peeves perfectly.
Michael Sheen- A small but significant role that would have been well-suited to Sheen would be that of Riddle senior; Voldemort's unfeeling muggle father. Sheen has enough presence to make such a small role memorable, while also lending enough experience to the part to convincingly portray a bewitched and later betrayed muggle.
Judi Dench - Neville's gran is only mentioned in the movies, but in the books she shows up a few times as Neville's only caretaker. Although she may seem stuffy and hard on Neville, she is no ordinary grandmother, as she proves when two deatheaters are sent to kill her. When it comes to playing stuffy but gutsy older women, no one could play this part with as much humor, conviction, and piety as Dame Judi Dench. The image of the assassins expecting to do away with an old woman and instead meeting the wrath of Judi Dench with a wand is a scene that would be worthy of Potter (and a few laughs no doubt).
Richard Armitage- As a man who generally portrays dark and ambiguous characters, Armitage is quite mysterious enough to fit into the world of Hogwarts. Armitage has the right dramatic intensity to play Bane, the dangerous and unyielding centaur.
Chris Hemsworth- Technically not a "great British actor" (being neither British, nor very experienced) but humor me, because I promise I have a legitimate reason for mentioning him. The centaur Forenze is described as being blonde and "beautiful", so that the Hogwarts girls go completely crazy over him. Hemsworth has the right athleticism and a good strong voice that really, were he to make it into the Potter universe, a centaur would be the most logical choice.