The “Harry Potter” film series finally cast Daniel Radcliffe (who beat out over 300 child actors in auditions) as the title character, a young boy who, on his eleventh birthday, finds out he’s a Wizard. Radcliffe went on to reprise his role in the remaining films of the franchise, which spanned seven years of Harry Potter’s life. Today, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Radcliffe doing Harry’s story justice. What if Warner Bros. had decided to go in another direction?
Before Chris Columbus was tapped to direct “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” the project was directed by Steven Spielberg, who had a very different creative vision than Warner Bros. and JK Rowling. Spielberg wanted “Harry Potter” to be an animated series, but the studio wanted a series of live-action movies. And if the adaptation had been animated, the director of “Schindler’s List” wanted Haley Joel Osment to lend his voice to the character of Harry Potter. Still, JK Rowling strongly opposed the idea of an animated series and envisioned Harry and the other characters being played by an all-British cast.
When Warner Bros. won the rights to the “Harry Potter” movies in 1998, Spielberg’s DreamWorks Animation company offered a partnership. They would combine a few of the books and bring in a cast of actors to voice the animated series, with Haley Joel Osment as the chosen one.
According to IndieWire, Warner Bros. studio head Alan Horn at the time disagreed with DreamWork’s vision.
“I thought it would be worth Steven Spielberg directing,” Horn said. “We offered it to him. But one of the notions of Dreamworks and Steven was, ‘Let’s combine some books, make them animated,’ and that was because of the [visual effects and] Pixar had demonstrated that animated films could be extremely successful. Due to the sorcery involved, they were highly effectual. So I don’t blame them. But I didn’t want to combine the films and I wanted it to be live.”
After Steven Spielberg dropped the project, Chris Columbus stepped in to direct the film. The cast included all-British and Irish actors while big-name American actors including Robin Williams (Hagrid, Remus Lupin), Rosie O’Donnell (Molly Weasley) and Liam Aiken (Harry Potter) were turned down for roles. The all-British casting rule remained in place until the ‘Harry Potter’ spin-off franchise ‘Fantastic Beasts’ came to light and cast American actors such as Johnny Depp (Gellert Grindelwald) and Zoë Kravitz (Leta The strange).