Harry Potter director reveals Robin Williams wanted to play Lupin

Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone turns 20 this year. As part of the anniversary celebrations, sister publication Total Film sat down with director Chris Columbus about launching the billion-dollar phenomenon on the big screen – and even confirmed a surprising casting rumor.

To maintain a degree of authenticity, one of the franchise’s early rules was that the series wouldn’t cast any American actors: "That was the goal. No American actors in this film," Columbus, who is American himself, says.

That led to some interesting conversations, including one with legendary comedian Robin Williams – who seemingly had his heart set on playing Remus Lupin. That role eventually went to David Thewlis, but Columbus reveals the story behind the rejection.

"I had a conversation with Robin Williams, who wanted to play Lupin," Columbus explains. "It was very difficult for me to say ‘It’s all British. There’s nothing I can do.’" What could have been…

Columbus also reveals he had doubts over whether Alan Rickman would want to play the sneering Professor Snape after his turn as Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

"I didn’t really think Alan would do it after playing such an iconic villain in Die Hard," says Columbus. "I can’t imagine anyone else playing Snape. And Alan was just the utmost professional."

For more from the blowout 20th anniversary retrospective conversation with Chris Columbus, be sure to pick up a copy of the new issue of Total Film magazine, out now.

And if you’re a fan of Total Film, why not subscribe so that you never miss an issue? 

Matt Maytum
Editor, Total Film

I'm the Editor at Total Film magazine, overseeing the running of the mag, and generally obsessing over all things Nolan, Kubrick and Pixar. Over the past decade I've worked in various roles for TF online and in print, including at GamesRadar+, and you can often hear me nattering on the Inside Total Film podcast. Bucket-list-ticking career highlights have included reporting from the set of Tenet and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as covering Comic-Con, TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival.