Jul 2009 09

Harry Potter employs probably one of the most talented ensemble casts in film history. The cast is almost entirely British with a few exceptions for characters like Fluer Delacour and Victor Krum who are played by people of their character’s nationalities. There are some really great thespians in these casts that aren’t as well known here in the US, but across the ocean are everyday names.  It is great to see such well cast actors in an adaptation. Instead of bringing these people in for big name returns, they pair them to great characters that seem to fit the actors very well. Here are a few examples!

slughornJim Broadbent – Horace Slughorn

The newest big name to join the cast of the HP films! He plays the sycophantic professor Slughorn who just may hold the key to unraveling the mystery behind defeating the evil Lord Voldermort. His name had been dropped as one of the perfect actors for this role ever since Half-Blood Prince came out as a novel in 2005. I remember seeing another famous British actor mentioned a lot as being perfect for the role, Bob Hoskins. While I would’ve loved to see him in the role as well, this looks like something that suits Broadbent so well that we wouldn’t be able to imagine anyone else portraying the character.

What roles is he famous for? He is probably most known to Americans for his roles in Moulin Rouge! and Bridget Jones’s Diary.  In fact for Moulin Rouge! he picked up a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts, equivalent to an Oscar) which garnered him much praise for his garish, money hungry, but in the end fatherly figure Harold Zidler. Another film released in 2001, Iris, garnered him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. There are plenty of gems in his early work including Time Bandits, The Hit, Brazil, The Crying Game, and Bullets Over Broadway. Since winning his Oscar he has appeared in such films as, Gangs of New York, The Chronicles of Narnia, Hot Fuzz, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Vera Drake. His versatility as a character actor will do him very well in the upcoming Harry Potter film. Let’s hope we can add another great role to this list!

Richard Griffiths – Uncle Vernon

vernon1I always wonder if it is difficult for actors to play such vile characters? Is it fun or a bit insulting that they can pull of someone that mean spirited? Richard Griffiths plays Uncle Vernon so well that he just seems to leap off the page and onto the silver screen. Uncle Vernon is one of Harry Potter’s banes and the person who tries hardest to bring him back into the “muggle” world even though he seemingly doesn’t care about the boy. Griffiths with his rotund figure and bursting eyes lend an air of madness to the role. It is amazing to watch him in other films and have him portrayed as something completely different.

What roles is he famous for? Richard Griffiths has been in many film roles, but it is his stage roles that he is most known for. Starting out as a Shakespearean actor, Griffiths moved onto other roles such as Hector in both the original stage version and the film version of the widely popular The History Boys. He has also appeared in such films as, Chariots of Fire, Ghandi, King Ralph, Guarding Tess, Sleepy Hollow, and Venus. 2008 put him in another performance with Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe in a revival of the play Equus. In 2008 he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire. He has been known at times to stop acting in the middle of plays to kick out people who have let their cellphones go off incessantly (Bravo!) during his performances. He is a very highly regarded comedic and dramatic actor. Let’s hope they don’t cut too much more of the Dursley’s out of the films.

Ralph Fiennes – Lord Voldemort/Tom Riddle

voldemort1Who do you get to embody one of the most terrifying villains put to page? Why of course you use one of the best actors of the current generation, Ralph Fiennes. There is no questioning that Lord Voldemort is up there with characters like Darth Vader, Dracula, and Hannibal Lecter as one of the best villains of all time.  The difference? Voldemort is a villain with no remorse, a character who is pure evil. In the Half-Blood Prince you will find out a lot more about Voldemort, the depth given to his character will only make you feel more terrified of him.

What roles is he famous for? Fiennes most famous role to date is that of Amon Goeth in Steven Speilberg’s Schindler’s List. This role earned him many award nominations including for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. In addition this role was also in the top 10 movie villains of all time by the American Film Institute.  In 1996 he once again wowed critics with is role in The English Patient. This time he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, once again he did not receive the award.  He is the only actor ever to receive a Tony Award for playing Hamlet on Broadway. He has had a busy career with roles in such films as, Strange Days, The End of the Affair, Spider, Red Dragon, The Constant Gardner, In Bruges, and The Duchess. As one of the most verstatile actors working today, it is great to see him play such an evil character. It is great that two of his most popular characters are two of the most evil characters to ever appear on film. If you are a fan of the HP books then you know how things end for his character Voldemort, but there is still plenty more fun to come!

Alan Rickman – Professor Severus Snape

snapeEasily the most complex and enigmatic character in the Harry Potter series. Readers and watchers of the films alike are left wondering what Severus Snape’s intentions are and which side he is on until the very end. If you haven’t read the series you are in for quite a ride with Snape. Nothing is as it seems and you will change your mind about him every five minutes. Is he good? Is he evil? Well, unfortunately you have to wait until almost the very end to find out his true intentions. Alan Rickman plays Snape just right, down to the very sneer he gives Harry every time he looks at him. He voice is laced thick with sarcasm and hatred every time he speaks to Harry or one of his cohorts. Rickman’s Snape gets better with every film. Half-Blood Prince should be no different. This is a film where we should see a very different side of Severus Snape.

What roles is he famous for? The American audience no doubt remembers him mainly as Hans Gruber from Die Hard before his role as Severus Snape. This role and his performance of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: The Prince of Thieves, left him typecast in many villainous roles in the states. His start in acting like many of the actors on this list came from Shakespearean theater. He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and won a Tony Award for one of his roles. Although Rickman has also appeared in quite a few comedies such as Galaxy Quest, Dogma, Love Actually, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I have yet to see a role in which Alan Rickman was not exceptional in. He steals almost ever scene he is in, in almost every film of his I have seen. What a great choice for such a deep character!

Well there are just a few. Although don’t forget that series also contains performances by great actors and actresses like:

  • Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore, who died after filming the second film The Chamber of Secrets.
  • Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore, who took over the role for the third film after the death of Richard Harris.
  • Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
  • Emma Thompson as Professor Sybil Trewlawney
  • Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
  • Brendon Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody
  • Julie Waters as Molly Weasley
  • John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick
  • John Hurt as Mr. Olivander the Wandmaker
  • David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
  • Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
  • David Tennant as Barty Crouch Jr.
  • Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart

As you can see there is plenty of talent in these films, not including the new talent created by this series like Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robert Pattison, etc. It will be interesting to see if this series of films launches yet another set of great British talent.


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