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‘Harry Potter’ Director Says ‘British-Only’ Rule Was So Serious His Child Couldn’t Even Speak in Film

Chris Columbus cast his daughter in a small role in "Harry Potter," but she wasn't allowed to speak as an American.

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, 2001

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”

Courtesy Everett Collection

When Chris Columbus signed on to direct “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” he agreed to adhere to J.K. Rowling’s mandate that only British actors star in the big-budget fantasy adaptation. The “Brits only” rule famously resulted in Robin Williams being rejected from the film. As casting director Janet Hirshenson once told HuffPo, “The ‘only British’ rule was so important that Robin Williams was even turned down to play Hagrid…Robin had called [Columbus] because he really wanted to be in the movie, but it was a British-only edict, and once he said no to Robin, he wasn’t going to say yes to anybody else, that’s for sure. It couldn’t be.”

One American that did happen to land a part in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was Eleanor Columbus, daughter of director Chris Columbus. Speaking to Insider this week, Columbus remembered how his daughter was allowed to star in the small role of Susan Bones but was not allowed to speak in the film because she was not British. Bones is one of the first students to put on the sorting hat in “Sorcerer’s Stone.”

“She worked about 80 days,” Columbus said about his daughter’s role. “But she never spoke because you know the rule was if you’re not British, you can’t speak.”

It turns out Robin Williams got rejected twice from the “Harry Potter” franchise because of the rule, first losing out on Hagrid in “Sorcerer’s Stone” and then losing out on Lupin in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” The “Brits only” rule brought the team to David Thewlis instead, although Columbus told Insider that Williams had a great hold on the character. Columbus produced the third “Harry Potter” film, which was directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

“Robin would have been brilliant,” Columbus said. “It would have been a different interpretation — I thought David Thewlis was great — but Robin would have been brilliant. Jo Rowling and myself said to each other when we first met, ‘Look, we want this cast to be 100 percent British.’ And by the way, I stuck to that.”

After “Prisoner of Azkaban,” director Mike Newell stepped in to helm “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and then David Yates joined the franchise to direct the remaining four films. Columbus said earlier this month he’s interested in returning to “Harry Potter” to direct a film adaptation of Rowling’s play “The Cursed Child.” The director would want to reunite the main trio — Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint — as they are now “the right age” to play adult versions of their characters.

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