Here’s Why the ‘Harry Potter’ Movie Producers Rejected Robin Williams’ Request to Play Hagrid

Williams asked Chris Columbus if he could play Rubeus Hagrid and Remus Lupin, only to be disqualified by this very British rule
Here’s Why the ‘Harry Potter’ Movie Producers Rejected Robin Williams’ Request to Play Hagrid

Despite his desire to play the jovial gamekeeper and groundskeeper Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter film series, comedy legend Robin Williams wasn’t even offered an audition by the film’s makers — it was the biggest miscarriage of justice since they took Hagrid’s wand.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of watching Williams’ enchanting improvisation in Aladdin knows that Mork and magic are a match made in the wizarding world’s equivalent of heaven. The stand-up sensation’s evolution into beloved children’s entertainer was even smoother than Harry Potter writer J.K. Rowling’s transition from adored kids’ book writer to abhorred transphobe. And, as luck would have it, Williams, like many millions of readers across the globe, was a massive fan of the magical book series upon their initial release in the late 1990s — so, when it came time for director Chris Columbus to cast the first Harry Potter film adaptation, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone for those snooty Brits), Williams made a couple calls inquiring about the possibility of playing a few of his favorite characters.

However, as Williams was disappointed to learn, he was automatically excluded from the casting pool for the roles of both Hagrid and Williams’ second choice, Remus Lupin, because the producers decided that, as a rule, they would never consider an American actor for their series. 

At least it’s not because Rowling was triggered by Mrs. Doubtfire.

“There were a couple of parts I would have wanted to play, but there was a ban on American actors,” Williams lamented to The New York Post around the time of the premiere of the first Harry Potter film in 2001. Years later, Janet Hirshenson, the casting director for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, confirmed that Williams had made inquiries about the positions but was turned down on account of his nationality. However, Hirshenson insisted that the “no Americans” rule wasn’t just some excuse made by Columbus to let the star down easy. “Once he said no to Robin, he wasn’t going to say yes to anybody else, that’s for sure,” Hirshenson told The Huffington Post in 2020.

In 2021, Columbus talked to Total Film about the rejection he had to deliver to Williams and the justifications for the yankee ban, saying that the idea was to “maintain a degree of authenticity,” and an American actor’s unconvincing British accent could ruin the magic of the movies. “It was very difficult for me to say ‘It’s all British. There’s nothing I can do,’” Columbus said of his conversation with Williams.

To a certain extent, it’s understandable that a blanket ban on bad accents would be necessary to make the movies a hit in their home country, but, I mean, come on — we’re on our second straight British Spider-Man, and you don’t see any Americans complaining about Tom Holland’s occasionally shaky elocution. 

With all due respect to Robbie Coltrane and David Thewlis, who played Hagrid and Lupin respectively, Williams would have killed in either role with his humor and his pathos, and it’s hard to believe that the film series wouldn’t have been elevated by his inclusion.

Unfortunately, the sad reality of Hogwarts is that there are no muggles (i.e., Americans) allowed.


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