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The Voldemort Family Connection You Never Knew About In Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter fans already know about Voldemort's tragic family history. His mother was a witch named Merope Gaunt, a descendant of magical eugenicist Salazar Slytherin. Merope used magic to force Voldemort's father, a muggle named Tom Riddle Sr., into falling in love with her. But when the magic wore off, Riddle Sr. abandoned his pregnant wife. She died shortly after giving birth to Tom Riddle Jr. (the future Voldemort) in a muggle orphanage, where her son spent his childhood before his acceptance into Hogwarts. Riddle Sr.'s abandonment eventually led Voldemort to adopt his ancestor's beliefs that muggles — and wizards and witches born to them — didn't deserve to live.

Ralph Fiennes transformed into Voldemort for four of the eight movies. Richard Bremmer took the role in Sorcerer's Stone (with support from the back of Professor Quirrell actor Ian Hart's head) and Voldemort didn't appear in Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban or Half-Blood Prince. But Tom Riddle Jr. features heavily in Chamber of Secrets and Half-Blood Prince, and that's how we ended up with a real life Voldemort family connection you never knew about in the latter.

Ralph Fiennes' nephew played a young Tom Riddle

In the Half-Blood Prince, we see Tom Riddle Jr. as a troubled child and teenager before he became the most evil wizard of all time (they grow up so fast). In one scene, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) visits 11-year-old Riddle in the orphanage, and explains to him about the magical world, inviting him to Hogwarts. In this scene, the young Riddle is played by Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Ralph Fiennes' actual nephew.

Director David Yates told ABC News that it wasn't just the family resemblance or straight-up nepotism that convinced him to cast Tiffin in the role. "I went for Hero because of this wonderful haunted quality that seemed to bring Tom Riddle alive on-screen ... he got the corners and dark moods and odd spirit of the character," Yates said.

Tiffin was only 11 years old when Half-Blood Prince hit cinemas. Since then, he's taken those dark and brooding qualities into other projects, notably teen drama After, which is basically a more adult version of She's All That. It's adapted from a fanfiction written on the online platform Wattpad by Anna Todd, about Harry Styles: yes, the same Harry Styles who beat out thousands of actors for Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk.

After was panned by critics (some of whom accused it of glamorizing abusive relationships) but proved so popular with its target audience that a sequel, After We Collided, was released in October 2020, and two more — After We Fell and After Ever Happy — have been confirmed as forthcoming, also based on Todd's series. One thing's for sure: Tiffin's fans aren't thinking of him as a moody little 11-year-old anymore.

The Harry Potter movies were a family affair

To be fair to the Fienneses, Ralph wasn't the only Harry Potter star whose family member landed a role in the movies. Sophie Thompson, who played Improper Use of Magic Office employee Mafalda Hopkirk (and Hermione disguised as Hopkirk) in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, is the sister of Emma Thompson, a.k.a. Professor Trelawney. Sophie is also an actress in her own right. Fans of the best romantic comedies of all time may recognize her from Four Weddings and a Funeral, and she's appeared on multiple British TV series. Speaking of famous siblings, Emma Watson's younger brother, Alex Watson, appears as an uncredited extra in a scene with his sister in Order of the Phoenix.

It wasn't just actors who snuck relatives into the movies. Chris Columbus, director of Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets, put all four of his children into the second film. The three younger children didn't have named roles. Brendan was 10 when the movie premiered in 2002, and played Boy in Study Hall 1. Violet, then 8, was Girl with Flowers, and Isabella, 6, was Girl in Bookstore. Violet has since had small roles in 2010's Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and 2020's The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two, both directed by her father.

Columbus' oldest child, Eleanor, actually got to become part of Harry Potter lore. She played Susan Bones in the first two movies. Susan is sorted into Hufflepuff in Sorcerer's Stone, and is in several classes with the main characters. That early movie experience may have had a lasting impact: Eleanor is now a producer, whose credits include low-budget highly rated movies The Witch; Tallulah; Patti Cake$; Yes, God, Yes; and The Lighthouse.