Actor Daniel Radcliffe’s life changed forever when he was cast as Harry Potter, but there was a time when he wanted to quit being an actor. Casting director Janet Hirshenson once recalled the story of how Radcliffe, and his co-stars Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were cast in the series.
She told the Huffington Post in 2015 that the process was very intense, because of author JK Rowling’s demand that only British actors be cast. Besides, Harry needed to be of a specific age, and have green eyes. “For Harry, to complicate things, I needed a blue or green-eyed kid because part of Harry is his green eyes or blue-green, but they couldn’t be brown eyes, so that was another elimination thing. We said, ‘Oh, drat! He’s great, but he has brown eyes,’” she said.
When they found Radcliffe, Hirshenson said that ‘he just wasn’t interested. He didn’t want to be an actor anymore.’ But director Chris Columbus and producer David Heyman were quite impressed with him. “One evening, David Heyman the producer went to the theatre and he knew Daniel’s father, who was an agent … so the producer ran into Daniel and his dad and said to Daniel, ‘Why don’t you come in and audition? Think about it.’ So he said, ‘OK.’”
Hirshenson continued, “We must’ve had about six Harrys, only two or three Hermiones ― there wasn’t a lot ― and there was probably five-ish Rons.” She said that Watson immediately caught everyone’s attention. “For the Hermiones, as soon as Emma came on, there were six of us in the screening room. We just gasped. It was like, ‘Oh my God.’ Like, ‘Whoaaa!’ She took up the screen,” she said. For Ron, it was Grint’s face that sold it.
But Harry was proving to be a bit difficult to cast, and it came to Radcliffe and another actor. “We went back and looked at Daniel again,” she continued. “The other kid was terrific and very vulnerable and very Harry-looking, but besides that, Harry was going to become a very powerful kid, too. And Daniel had both sides. He was very vulnerable, but the other kid ― it was like, he [was] not going to have the balls that Daniel has, to put it that way.”
But Columbus and the producers were sure. Hirshenson recalled all three young actors being brought up to Columbus’ office, without telling them that they’d been chosen. “After we chose, they pulled the three of them up to Chris’s office, not telling them they got the part, but they were standing there, the three of them, looking at each other, probably figuring, ‘I think we may be it.’ So they told them they had it. ‘Yay, yay, yay,’ and then they started chattering amongst themselves because they hadn’t known each other very much. Emma asked Daniel if he liked the books and he said, ‘Yeah, I like WWF better, and she did a harumph or some Hermione thing that was so perfect, just as herself. ‘[Gasp] WWF!’ And we just all were like, ‘Whoa, this is them.’”
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