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Actors who refused roles in Harry Potter

The Harry Potter franchise is so beloved that it's tough to imagine anyone else taking on the films' major roles. However, like all big-budget movies, there were lots of names attached to the project at different points that just never went through. (Who else remembers when Haley Joel Osment was supposed to star with Steven Spielberg directing?)

The films ended up being perfectly cast, but it's still fun to look at what might have been, especially when it comes to actors who decided to pass on the chance to participate in such a huge blockbuster. Here's a group of actors who decided that appearing in the Harry Potter franchise just wasn't for them.

Ian McKellen

Ian McKellen is a legendary actor, so it makes sense that he'd come to mind when the filmmakers were looking to replace Richard Harris as Dumbledore following the actor's tragic death following the second film. However, according to reports in a (no longer available online) interview with StarPulse, the actor turned down the role because he thought it would have been inappropriate.

"People say to me, 'Don't you wish you'd played Dumbledore?'" McKellen said, according to MoviePilot. "I say, 'no! I played Gandalf! The original.' There was a question as to whether I might take over from Richard Harris but seeing as one of the last things he did publicly was say what a dreadful actor he thought I was, it would not have been appropriate for me to take over his part. It would have been unfair." (McKellen was likely referring to an alleged incident in which Harris, jealous of the fact that McKellen got to play Gandalf, called him a "passionless actor.")

Despite the fact that Michael Gambon was the one who eventually took on the role of Dumbledore, McKellen still gets confused for the character. "The other day there were 100 people outside the theatre who wanted autographs," he told the Telegraph. "Just as I did the last one, a woman grasped my hand and said, 'It's so wonderful to meet Dumbledore in person.' I blew her a kiss and got into my car."

Christopher Lee

Ian McKellen wasn't the only Lord of the Rings actor considered to play Dumbledore in the Harry Potter franchise. Saruman himself, Christopher Lee, was apparently offered the part before Harris, but had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts, according to Hello Magazine.

He was reportedly considered for the role again following Harris' death, but, according to the Irish Examiner, the actor was not a fan of talk of him as Dumbledore at the time. "I have not been asked to appear in the next Harry Potter film and I probably won't," he said. "I consider this matter in very bad taste. The man had only been dead for about 10 days when this gossip started to go round."

Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton was set to take on the part of batty professor Sybill Trelawney in the Harry Potter franchise, but ended up turning down the role. At the time, it was reported that Swinton couldn't fit the film into her busy schedule; however, some comments the actress has made since imply that she may have had a much weirder reason.

In an interview with Scots Magazine, the actress condemned boarding schools (Hogwarts included), saying her experience at West Heath boarding school in London was "hell," because the school was "a very lonely and isolating environment."

"That's why I dislike films like Harry Potter which tend to romanticize such places," she added. "I think they are a very cruel setting in which to grow up and I don't feel children benefit from that type of education. Children need their parents and the love parents can provide."

Emma Thompson ended up in the part, and Swinton avoided having to relive any bad boarding school memories.

Hugh Grant

Hugh Grant was reportedly so prepared to play the role of the pompous professor Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that he'd already dyed his hair blonde. However, he ended up backing out to star in Two Weeks Notice with Sandra Bullock.

"Sadly Hugh had to turn down the part because he's committed to doing a movie with Sandra Bullock next February," his agent Karin Smith told Teletext, according to the Guardian. Director Christopher Columbus contested these reports, saying that he hadn't "even spoken to Hugh" about doing the film. Kenneth Branagh ended up taking over the part.

Tim Roth

Pulp Fiction actor Tim Roth was forced to decide between Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes remake and the part of Severus Snape in Harry Potter. According to Roth, he was offered the role of Snape before Alan Rickman, but decided to turn it down so he could appear in Planet of the Apes.

"I was going to do both films," he told MTV News. "We rigged it so that I could fly back and forth. They figured out the schedule, but it just got to be overwhelming in my mind. My kids really liked the books. They were really into me doing it, but the idea of being an ape with Tim was too good."

While Rickman was incredible in the role, Roth might have been closer to what the books said about Snape. Rickman was old for the part at 55 when the first film was released, while Roth was 38. Based on the books, Snape should have been about 31 when Harry started at Hogwarts.

"I would have made [Snape] a very different guy," Roth said. "But in the end I think it was the right decision since Alan's had some success with the character."

Helen McCrory

Helen McCrory didn't miss out on the Harry Potter films entirely, but the actress was kept from playing a much bigger and wilder part. McCrory, who went on to play Narcissa Malfoy, was originally cast as Bellatrix Lestrange, a role that eventually went to Helena Bonham Carter when McCrory got pregnant.

"I got pregnant with my first child, and insurance wouldn't cover pregnant witches!" she told Parade. "It was lovely that they invited me back and wanted me to be a part of it somehow."

Rosamund Pike

Gone Girl Rosamund Pike nearly appeared in the Harry Potter universe, at least according to some reports.

Pike was rumored to have been cast in the role of gossipy journalist Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, a part the darkly funny actress definitely would have nailed. However, apparently it wasn't meant to be, with the actress allegedly turning down the role (which eventually went to Miranda Richardson) because she thought it was too small.

According to fan blog Beyond Hogwarts, Pike said in an interview with FTV that she turned down the part because she would have minimal scenes in the movie and would have to sign onto the fifth film as well.

"I just regret not doing the movie because I love Mike [Newell] and I owe him a favor; I don't know who replaced me, but I wish her the best luck!" she reportedly said. "It's a dream to be in a Harry Potter movie, and working with Mike Newell is such an honor, I admire him a lot," a blog claims she told a British magazine.

While most of the original posts about Pike talking about the role aren't online, there remain widespread claims in the fan community that the actress turned down the part.

Naomi Watts

The saga of whether or not Naomi Watts ever turned down a role in Harry Potter, or whether she was even offered one in the first place, is long and twisty. It all started in 2007, when multiple outlets reported that Watts had been cast as Narcissa Malfoy, a role that eventually went to Helen McCrory. At the same time, outlets also reported the casting of Joseph Fiennes and Stuart Townsend in unidentified roles. However, somehow, the media was duped, because none of the three actors ever went on to appear in the films.

MTV News checked in with reps for the actors, who all denied that their clients were approached. They later talked to Watts about the possibility of her landing the part, to which she responded, "I didn't even hear about it except through the media. Not through my agents [or anybody else]. I don't know how that transpired."

"Yeah! I have read some of the 'Harry Potter' books...I would love," she said of possibly appearing in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. "My son would like that, so that would be a good way to impress him. But it would have to depend on all what the role is." The rumor mill says Watts' reps rejected the part without consulting the actress. However, she has yet to comment further on the matter.

J.K. Rowling

Fans started pushing for author J.K. Rowling to appear in the Harry Potter films as soon as they were announced, but the writer says she's better off behind the camera.

According to Snitch Seeker, Rowling told the Sunday Mail that, while producers offered her the chance to play Lily Potter, she turned it down. "The filmmakers did ask me to play Lily in the Mirror of Erised scene in the first film but I really am not cut out to be an actress, even one who just has to stand and wave," she said. "I would have messed it up somehow."

While Geraldine Somerville did a great job with the role, we're sure fans would have loved Rowling in the part too.