Jason Isaacs Nearly Turned Down ‘Harry Potter’ Because He Didn’t Want to Play Another Villain
While not exactly a household name, Jason Isaacs has very quietly put together an impressive resume of villains over his 30 years in Hollywood. Anyone who was in high school in the late ’90s will remember him from Mel Gibson’s The Patriot — I can’t possibly be the only person who had a lazy substitute history teacher, right? — but he’s also worked regularly in film and television, from frequent collaborations with Resident Evil director Paul W.S. Anderson to his most memorable role in the Harry Potter franchise. Often evil, always great.
But not everyone wants to play the bad guy every time out, and in a recent interview with Screen Rant (via Heroic Hollywood), Isaacs explains how a fear of being typecast nearly cost him his most famous role as Lucius Malfoy:
I auditioned for Gilderoy Lockhart and I was a little bit disappointed in the room when Chris [Columbus] asked me, ‘Did you read the whole script?’ I said yes. ‘Would you mind reading as Malfoy?’ [I said,] ‘Ugh, sure.’
I went in and I read it as Malfoy and I found out they offered it to me a week later. I told my agent, ‘Tell them no. Thanks very much. I appreciate it.’ He [said], ‘Take the weekend and think about it.’ I [said], ‘It’s just too similar to Captain Hook and another guy.’ He gave me the weekend and my nephews called… and my godchildren called… and then every child I knew and their parents called and told me that I had to do it. Not because they cared about my career but because they wanted to visit the set, I think. So I took the job, and thank God I did.
Stories like this always make me wonder about the missed opportunities of being a famous bad guy. Actors like Anthony Perkins (Psycho) and Andrew Robinson (Dirty Harry) have long been cautionary tales for aspiring actors of what can happen when casting directors only see you as the creepy serial killer or mass murderer. While Isaacs has managed to carve out a larger niche for himself in television shows and voice work, I can certainly sympathize with his desire not to back himself into a corner where he spends the rest of his career twirling his mustache and threatening the heroine.
When you’re talking about a franchise as big as Harry Potter, though, it’s hard to turn down a regular role over a half-dozen movies. Isaacs may not be the most memorable villain of the Harry Potter franchise — that honor probably goes to Alan Rickman near the beginning of the franchise and Ralph Fiennes closer to the end — but he plays an important part in this generation’s most important movies. At the end of the day, it’s better to have a story like this to tell interviewers than a story about how you read to play Han Solo in Star Wars but passed on the movie.