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The story of how Robin Williams almost appeared in 'Harry Potter'

For any of us wondering just where the hell our hair has gone or why little black crows feet are starting to appear under our eyes, reality just delivered another heavy blow. Earlier this month, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone turned 20. It’s been two decades since Radcliffe and his crew first hit our screens, and to think of popular culture now without the colossal impact the franchise has had is nigh on impossible.

To consider that two decades have passed since its release is truly mind-blowing, and the world has changed so much since then. To put it starkly, the invasion of Iraq hadn’t yet happened, and the tragedy of 9/11 was very fresh in the memory. In 2001, the future arrived, and although it might have seemed grim, thanks to Potter and Co., the misery of the adult world was kept at bay via their childish optimism and host of spells. 

To celebrate two decades since its release, last month, Total Film had a discussion with the film’s director, Chris Columbus, and covered everything Potter. As with every massive movie, there’s always rumours that abound about production, and Columbus confirmed an age-old one, and expanded on it. 

Famously, in the early days of the film series, a rule of casting was to not hire any American actors in an attempt to capture the British authenticity of the novels. Ironically, Columbus is American, but being behind the camera, that didn’t matter. He confirmed: “That was the goal. No American actors in this film”.

The strict rule stopped something surreal from happening. The late icon, Robin Williams, genuinely wanted to play Professor Remus Lupin but was rejected on the basis of the rule. The role instead went to David Thewlis, and to be honest, he was perfectly cast. 

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“I had a conversation with Robin Williams, who wanted to play Lupin,” Columbus revealed. “It was very difficult for me to say ‘It’s all British. There’s nothing I can do.'” It’s a shame, but it’s hard to see where Williams would have fit in amongst all the rather chirpy Surrey accents and quaintness. 

In the interview, Columbus also discussed his surprise that Alan Rickman accepted the role as Professor Snape, given how huge of a star he was. “I didn’t really think Alan would do it after playing such an iconic villain in Die Hard,” Columbus admitted. “I can’t imagine anyone else playing Snape. And Alan was just the utmost professional”.

The world of film is full of possibilities and, given just how iconic the Harry Potter series remains, imagining any of the casting being different just sends shudders down your spine, regardless of how corny the franchise is guilty of being. 

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