Why Tom Felton disappeared after Harry Potter

As one of the young breakthrough stars of the Harry Potter film franchise, Tom Felton grew up in front of the whole world, right alongside his character — the villainous Draco Malfoy— through all eight films. He may not have been a member of the heroic trinity in the series, but among Potter fans, Felton's name became just about as well-known among as Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. It seemed logical that he'd be among those who'd Slytherin to the A-list after the series came to an end in 2011.

Unlike some of his former co-stars, though, Felton has since struggled to shed his status as an alumnus of Hogwarts, which means his career outside of the World of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been anything but magic. Whereas Daniel Radcliffe has become something of an indie sensation and Emma Watson headlined an entirely different blockbuster with curses and castles, Tom Felton hasn't been able to ride his Nimbus 2001 to the top of the Hollywood ladder just yet. Let's take a look at some of the reasons Hollywood won't cast him anymore.

Conflicted feelings

Starring in an eight-film mega-movie franchise might seem like the opportunity of a lifetime for any actor, but Tom Felton didn't cherish the experience of being an overnight cinematic success story as much as others might. Before the final film Deathly Hallows – Part 2 hit theaters, Felton revealed that he resented the series for depriving him of his childhood — surprising but understandable, given that production on the first film launched when he was just 12 years old.

Whereas some of his co-stars were emotional about the franchise that informed their childhoods coming to an end, Felton seemed a bit bitter. He told The Daily Mail that he looked forward to the "freedom" of not starring in the films anymore, including getting to kick back and enjoy the sunshine for a while to shed the Malfoy pallor, because he didn't want fame. 

"One thing that people keep on saying to me is that the wealth and the fame must have made up for missing out on my childhood. But the idea of money — putting a price on your childhood — is ridiculous," he said. "To me, fame is not a positive thing. The idea of being famous is a lot better than the reality. It's fantastic when you go to premieres and people cheer you, but it's not real." Considering most of those fans who were cheering him on at those very premieres were the ones he'd need to see his next movies, those words may have come back to bite him harder than Nagini.

A career left turn

Whereas Radcliffe decided to give the Broadway circuit and small-budget films a whirl, and Watson went to college, became a brand ambassador for Lancome, and left Hermione behind with films like The Bling Ring and This Is the End, Tom Felton's first big post-Potter move was to rap. Yes, rap.

In 2011, Felton revealed that he'd scored a recording deal with an independent label to produce some hip-hop music, saying, "I was thinking of doing some N-Dubz-style stuff. I am looking to get into the grime rap UK scene." Felton added that he intended to "change [his] image — backward caps, the lot." Although that public persona overhaul never seemed to pan out, some of his music has made way to the public sphere. However, despite a few EP releases and a moderate amount of viral attention on YouTube, his music has hardly been successful enough to qualify as a new career path — especially since people apparently don't even recognize him when he's out and about playing in public.

His first post-Potter role was a little too familiar

Whereas some of his co-stars smartly stayed far away from anything even remotely similar to their Harry Potter personas, Felton's first true post-Potter role was remarkably similar to Draco Malfoy. In 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, he played a small part as Dodge Landon, a cruel zoo security guard who tortured the film's central sentient ape, Caesar.

Like Draco, the character was remarkable only for his sniveling demeanor and the ease with which audiences could root against him. Felton has claimed that he's personally nothing like Draco Malfoy and that he's trying to distinguish himself from that persona with his screen selections. Between this role and his villainous TV turn on TNT's Murder In the First, though, he may not be distancing himself from the role that made him famous, which could make him seem a little one-note to casting directors. Indeed, even Radcliffe has had to work hard to extricate himself from the world of broomsticks and floo powder, taking roles that are far off the mark of the Boy Who Lived (consider his turn as the farting corpse in Swiss Army Man, for instance). By heading right back into an unlikable mini-baddie role after Deathly Hallows, Felton may have made a huge career misstep right from the start.

Regaining confidence

Another surprising downside to the safety of a long-lived role like Felton had in the Harry Potter series is that the series' end can feel a little like being thrown into the ocean without a life vest and suddenly forgetting how to swim. The actor has admitted that returning to the regular practice of auditioning for parts to sustain a lifestyle, rather than just trying to fill in the blanks between sequels, was very difficult for him to adjust to.

He told The Daily Mail in 2011, "I'm much more nervous in auditions now than I was at 11. You take a lot of hits before you get something good. The first few were heartbreaking." The disappointment of being denied a role (then two, then nine) or was so disorienting for him, in fact, that he considered walking away from the business altogether. "I thought, 'I can't do this.' They are cut-throat in America," he explained. "Before you've even started, someone's playing on the BlackBerry. You're reading your lines, physically convulsing, and they just say 'Thank you.' That means, 'Get lost.' I did 19 auditions and got the 20th, for the film The Apparition." To make matters worse, that movie would mark the start of a series of box office flops.

Missing box office magic

Although the Harry Potter series was a box office phenomenon, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes did well enough to justify its own series of sequels, Tom Felton has still not proven himself to be a bankable actor by any stretch of the imagination. His small-time thriller pic The Apparition failed to recoup its financiers' investment, despite having both a Harry Potter star and a Twilight alum (namely Ashley Greene) leading the cast.

Since then, he's yet to appear in a film that made any kind of impression at the ticket booth. Even movies that have been relatively well-received by critics, like the regal biopic Belle and A United Kingdom, featured him only in supporting roles and brought in very little money during their small theatrical runs. Felton's not the only one of the Harry Potter alums who has struggled to convince muggles to see his movies, but being associated with so many bombs likely isn't making his new agent's job any easier.

Making peace with Potter

When Felton finished his Harry Potter duties, he seemed to regard it as a burden he was glad to be rid of and talked openly about how he wasn't great friends with his co-stars during the production process and how much his real-life friends hated the movies. Perhaps Hollywood has since humbled him a bit, because his tune has changed significantly in recent years.

He even told BuzzFeed that he hopes any eventual remake of the series might feature him in it, whether it's as his character's father, Lucius Malfoy, or "a wizarding extra in the background." He told The Telegraph that by 2016, he was starting to "miss [Draco] greatly." Perhaps all that time spent away from the franchise has finally allowed him to appreciate how rare it was for him to nab such a lucrative role, because he seems eager to recapture some of that magic, even teaming up with former co-stars Emma Watson and Matthew Lewis for a buzzy reunion photo that got the Harry Potter fanbase talking again.

Blond ambition

Considering his dismal box office streak, Tom Felton's chances of nabbing a leading movie role anytime soon seem low, but it might not be a good idea to tell him that. In fact, the actor's ambitions seem to be unfettered — he not only wants another franchise, but he wants one of the most iconic and long-lasting of all time: Bond, James Bond.

He told Metro (via RTE) that playing the suave 007 agent is an "unfulfilled career ambition" for him, saying, "I haven't landed James Bond yet. Playing Bond or a Bond villain was why I wanted to do movies in the first place." Considering that may be the most coveted role in all of Hollywood, his expectations may be a bit lofty and unrealistic. That said, he did seem to realize that he might be more likely to nab the bad guy role in that or any pic than the hero, saying, "I'm not typecast, I am going for things further up the heroic scale. But I would be happy to play villainous roles for the rest of my life."

There's still time to turn it all around

Even though he may have dreams of suiting up in James Bond's tux or trotting across the globe as one of his supervillains, Tom Felton does seem to be settling in with a more low-key professional lifestyle lately. In 2016, for example, he nabbed a recurring role in the third season of The CW's The Flash, and while the role didn't carry on to the next season, it did help introduce him to an entirely new and different fanbase in the comics community.

He was also cast in the little-seen, but ambitious adaptation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, titled Ophelia, alongside some big names like Daisy Ridley and Naomi Watts. Neither project has put him on a new trajectory for success, but they have helped Felton stretch into new territory that might better convince casting agents he's capable of doing more than a bunch of Draco Malfoy reduxes in the future.

He's started streaming

Tom Felton may have had some trouble establishing a new foothold in the film industry after his turn as the Boy Wizard's Slytherin foe, but like many other stars, he's been able to turn to streaming series to try and start fresh. Alongside fellow Harry Potter alum Natalia Tena (who played Nymphadora Tonks, one of his wizarding world rivals), Felton nabbed a leading role in the YouTube Original sci-fi series Origin.

The show features Felton as one of several would-be intergalactic colonists whose journey to a new planet goes way off course and leaves 10 of them stranded and trying to figure out who's to blame for all the chaos. Following the series' trailer debut at 2018's San Diego Comic-Con, Felton was asked about the new endeavor, and he was almost immediately pegged as the probable big bad of the show, thanks to his screen history. "Me? Why would you say that?" he joked in response to the suggestion — but clearly, his rep as the go-to villain is still alive and well. Even so, his willingness to explore alternative mediums for his art may be the start of a career revival, and that's not the only sign that he's adapting to a changing cinematic world.