There’s no denying that the Harry Potter series is one of the biggest movie franchises of all time, so it’s no surprise that the British-helmed production attracted some of the best talent the UK had to offer when it was shooting. The cast list is stacked with stars who had storied, decades-long careers across both stage and screen, as well as burgeoning young talent that would later grow into superstars in their own right.
Unfortunately, many of the actors responsible for making the Harry Potter series so great are no longer with us. These are 20 of the immense talents that we have lost in the years since the first Harry Potter film graced theatres.
Alan Rickman’s portrayal of the surly but surprisingly nuanced Professor Snape is considered to be one of the most heart-rending performances of not only the Harry Potter franchise, but also of cinema as a whole. Rickman was the only actor to be clued into J.K. Rowling’s plan for the series right from the beginning, allowing him to add shades to the character that no one else in the cast was even aware of.
Rickman passed away in 2016 at the age of 69, following a protracted battle with pancreatic cancer. Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger alongside Rickman, shared a touching statement on her public Facebook page, saying: “I’m very sad to hear about Alan today, I feel so lucky to have worked and spent time with such a special man and actor. I’ll really miss our conversations. RIP Alan. We love you.”
Like Alan Rickman, Richard Griffiths was another much-beloved British actor tasked with bringing a truly detestable character to life. Griffiths appeared in the very first Harry Potter film as the aggressive blowhard Mr Dursley, the fearsome adoptive father who makes Harry Potter’s life so miserable. Despite only appearing at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Griffiths’ performance is one of the most quotable, with gems such as “no post on Sundays!” still being referenced by Harry Potter fans today.
Griffiths died following complications from complications following heart surgery in 2013 at the age of 65. Daniel Radcliffe said of working with the man: “Richard was by my side during two of the most important moments of my career. I was proud to know him,”
Helen McCrory also had the difficult task of bringing a villainous but complicated character to life, all without erasing any of dimension that made her so beloved amongst fans of the books. McCrory played Narcissa Malfoy, wife to the aristocratic and evil Lucius Malfoy, and mother to Harry Potter’s arch-nemesis, Draco Malfoy.
McCrory passed away at her London home in April of 2021, following an extended battle with cancer. Her husband, fellow actor Damian Lewis, shared a statement to Twitter that read: “She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you.”
Richard Harris had the difficult task of originating the role of Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster and legendary wizard who lends Hogwarts much of its sense of safety. Unfortunately, Harris was only able to play the character in the first two films, as he passed away before work on the third film began.
Harris died in 2002 at the age of 72, following a lengthy battle with Hodgkin’s Disease. After he died, the search began for a suitable replacement to fill Harris’ wizard shoes, and Michael Gambon was eventually chosen to play Dumbledore throughout the rest of the series.
Robert Hardy appeared in four separate Harry Potter films: Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Askaban, Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix. Throughout the series, he played the authoritative and later disgraced Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge, whose chief role was to deny and downplay the return of Lord Voldemort for as long as possible.
Hardy died at the age of 91 in 2017, after a decades-spanning career that covered everything from film and television to the stage. Speaking to BBC News following his death, his family described Hardy as: “Gruff, elegant, twinkly, and always dignified” and “celebrated by all who knew him and loved him, and everyone who enjoyed his work.”
John Hurt is one of the more recognisable actors to have appeared in the Harry Potter series. The Academy Award nominee, with a resume that includes such giant British classics as Doctor Who and Watership Down, played Olivander, the kindly and somewhat mysterious wand-maker who sells Harry Potter his first wand. His performances bookended the series, with Hurt appearing in adaptations of both the first and last Harry Potter book.
Following John Hurt’s death in 2017 at the age of 77, J.K. Rowling herself took to Twitter to pay her respects. In a statement, she said: “So very sad to hear that the immensely talented and deeply beloved John Hurt has died. My thoughts are with his family and friends.”
If you’re scratching your head and wondering when Rik Mayall appeared in the Harry Potter series, don’t worry! Mayall’s contributions to the franchise never made it to the screen, but he was originally set to appear in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as Peeves the Poltergeist. Mayall’s scenes were all filmed and edited into a rough cut of the movie, but were left on the cutting room floor before the film hit theatres.
Mayall passed away in 2014 after a long and storied comedy career, including the movie Drop Dead Fred, and TV’s Bottom and The Young Ones. Mayall’s long-time comedy partner Ade Edmondson released a statement following his death, saying: “There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing. They were some of the most carefree, stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him.”
One of the most detestable characters in Harry Potter history is Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf famed for biting children and inducting them into his werewolf army. This grimy and endlessly cruel character was brought to life by Dave Legeno, a London-based actor who had previously worked on both Batman Begins and EastEnders.
Legeno was just 50 years old when he was found by hikers in a remote area of California’s Death Valley, having apparently collapsed on a regular hiking route and passed away from heatstroke.
If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter movies, you’ve definitely seen Verne Troyer’s brilliant performance, even if you have never seen his face. Troyer was tasked with bringing the physicality of the snide goblin Griphook to life in his first appearance, while Warwick Davis took care of the voice. In later Harry Potter movies, Warwick took over physically performing the character too.
Verne Troyer passed away in 2018 at the age of just 49. According to the Los Angeles County Department Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office, the cause of death was determined to be self-inflicted alcohol poisoning. His family shared a statement to Facebook that read, in part: “Verne was an extremely caring individual. He wanted to make everyone smile, be happy, and laugh. Anybody in need, he would help to any extent possible.”
Timothy Bateson is another actor whose work you’ve no doubt noticed and admired in Harry Potter without ever seeing his face. Bateson was tasked with bringing to life the second house-elf we meet in the series, Kreacher. Kreacher is the exact opposite of the wide-eyed and earnest Dobby: he is curmudgeonly, unkind and more than a little rough around the edges.
Bateson performed as Kreacher just once, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and passed away at the age of 83. When Kreacher was brought back for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in accordance with the books, he was performed by fellow English actor Simon McBurney.
Many of the characters to be found in the Harry Potter books and movies are fairly grounded and believable, so much so that you could almost imagine bumping into them on the street in real life. However, many are far more whimsical, none more so than the cluster of ghosts that haunt the Hogwarts halls. Terence Bayler played one of these ghosts: the fearsome and mischievous Bloody Baron.
Bayler died in 2016 at the age of 86, after decades spent as a successful actor working in New Zealand. Aside from Harry Potter, Bayler’s most high profile role was in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, in which he played Gregory.
Robert Knox joined the Harry Potter franchise for its sixth instalment: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The young actor had a small role as Marcus Belby, a member of Professor Slughorn’s “Slug Club” who is most notable for enjoying desserts and eating a lot of ice cream. Knox would have continued on in the role, no doubt appearing as an extra in the battle of Hogwarts, but unfortunately, that never came to pass.
Before Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was even released into theatres, Knox was the victim of a fatal stabbing in London. When 22-year-old Karl Bishop attacked a group of five people with a kitchen knife, Robert Knox immediately came to the aid of his younger brother, shielding him. Unfortunately, this heroic action led to Knox’s death at the age of just 18.
Sam Beazley may not have had the most prominent role in the Harry Potter franchise, but he definitely had one of the most dignified. Beazley was one of many classic actors recruited to play a painting, since paintings in the wizarding world are charmed and able to think, speak and move around. Specifically, Beazley brought to life Professor Everard, one of Hogwarts’ most celebrated headmasters, with whom Professor Dumbledore often confers throughout the films.
Sam Beazley passed away in 2017, at the grand old age of 101. He left an amazing legacy behind, having returned to acting at 73 after leaving the profession as a young man to fight in World War Two and running a successful antique store for decades of his life.
Though the core cast of the Harry Potter movies remains mostly the same across the instalments, there are some scenes that see Harry Potter interact with the wider wizarding society of which he is now a part. One such scene is Professor Slughorn’s “Slug Club” Christmas party, an event where Harry Potter meets Eldred Worple, a writer with a deep interest in wizard celebrities.
Paul Ritter was tasked with bringing the eccentric Worple to life in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and the character appeared in just that single movie. Ritter passed away peacefully from a brain tumour in his family home at the age of 54. His representation released a public statement that said: “Paul was an exceptionally talented actor playing an enormous variety of roles on stage and screen with extraordinary skill. He was fiercely intelligent, kind and very funny. We will miss him greatly.”
Peter Cartwright / David Ryall
The role of Elphias Doge, member of the Order of the Phoenix and close friend of Albus Dumbledore, appears in both Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One. However, the look of the character changed dramatically between his first and second appearance, owing to a recast following the original actor’s death.
Peter Cartwright was the first actor to be given the role, but he sadly passed away at the age of 78 in London in 2013. Following that, fellow British actor David Ryall was brought on to play the part, but he passed away just a year later in 2014, at the age of 79.
Unless you count Hagrid, the half-giant who doesn’t really have any magic of his own to speak of, the first wizard Harry Potter knowingly interacts with is Tom, the bartender and landlord of the wizarding world’s most popular pubs, The Leaky Cauldron. Tom appeared in the first Harry Potter movie, before being bizarrely and entirely recast as a bald man with a hunchback in later appearances.
Derek Deadman brought the original version of Tom to life in 2001 and passed away in 2014 from complications related to diabetes.
When Hazel Douglas was cast as Bathilda Bagshot, famous author of A History of Magic, resident of Godric’s Hollow and muggle-sympathiser, she was already well into her 80s. She was brought on for the adaption of the very last book in the series, appearing in 2010’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
Hazel Douglas died in 2016 at the age of 92, after a long and storied acting career that began in 1947. Over the years, she appeared in everything from Coronation Street to Gavin and Stacey and continued to work up until just two years before her death.
Roger Lloyd-Pack might not have the most name recognition of anyone on the Harry Potter cast list, but he’s definitely had one of the most storied careers. Before being cast as Barty Crouch Sr, a prominent Ministry of Magic official and father of infamous Death Eater Barty Crouch Jr, Lloyd-Pack had already starred in such memorable British shows as The Vicar of Dibley, Only Fools and Horses and even Doctor Who.
Roger Lloyd-Pack played the elder Barty Crouch in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, released in 2005, before passing away in 2014 at the age of 69. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer.
The role that Jimmy Gardner played in Harry Potter was not a speaking role, but it managed to be hugely memorable never the less. Gardner played Ernie Prang, the somewhat reckless and spaced-out driver of The Knight Bus, a magical red double-decker that appears out of nowhere to rescue wayward wizards in need.
Prang appeared in just one Harry Potter movie: The Prisoner of Azkaban, released in 2004. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 85, after spending decades becoming one of the most well-regarded Shakespearean actors in England and earning a Distinguished Flying Medal for his work as a Royal Air Force gunner in World War Two.
Elizabeth Spriggs was brought on to the Harry Potter franchise, right from the beginning, to play the Fat Lady, the aristocrat whose portrait guards the entrance to the Gryffindor common room. Unfortunately, when subsequent films showed the Fat Lady, Spriggs was replaced with the famous British comedian Dawn French, whose take on the character was more melodramatic and less stern.
Spriggs passed away in 2008 at the age of 78, after a lifetime of working extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre Company, alongside decades of work in TV and film.
Born Anthony Robert McMillan in 1950, Scottish actor Robbie Coltrane first broke through as part of the early 80s British alternative comedy scene before proving he could also play it straight with crime drama Cracker. Cast as the good-natured giant Rubeus Hagrid in the first Potter film, he beat out competition from superstar Robin Williams. Author J.K. Rowling stated that Coltrane was always her first choice for the role.
Coltrane fell ill with osteoarthritis in his later years, and on top of suffering constant pain he was also restricted to a wheelchair. He passed away in October 2022 aged 72 after suffering from an undisclosed illness for some time. Many of Coltrane’s peers paid tribute; Rupert Grint stated he was “heartbroken” by the news, whilst Emma Watson said, “You made us a family.”