Harry Potter Cast’s Best Post-HP Roles


A little over a decade ago, actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint stood on a train platform, with questionable “middle age” makeup applied, and waved goodbye. Their characters were saying goodbye to their onscreen kids, but they were really waving farewell to millions of moviegoers and readers who grew up with their versions of Harry, Hermione, and Ron. In a way, the actors were also bidding adieu to their onscreen characters.

Admittedly a decade is not a super long time (though it’s a lifetime as far as media company CEOs anxious to exploit IP are concerned). Yet in these past 10 years, we’ve watched thespians we once knew as children mature into grown-up working actors, and some of the favorites who played their teachers and mentors go on to win Oscars and greater acclaim. Below are some of the best roles the Harry Potter cast has achieved since graduating from Hogwarts.

Daniel Radcliffe – Swiss Army Man

We admit it could sound like a backhanded compliment to say the best-Potter role in Radcliffe’s repertoire is where he spends the whole movie playing a corpse. But what a corpse it is! Directed by the Daniels before their Oscar-winning juggernaut Everything Everywhere All at Once, Swiss Army Man is a joyful curio in which a dude stranded on a beach (Paul Dano) discovers a recently deceased corpse (Radcliffe) with magical-ish abilities and a bad case of posthumous flatulence. It’s strange and endearing as Radcliffe brings subtle expression and charm to a role that is half Weekend at Bernie’s, half Wilson in Castaway, and total fearlessness.

Saoirse Ronan and Cast of Greta Gerwig's Little Women

Emma Watson – Little Women

Arguably the most impressive work Emma Watson has done since walking away from King’s Crossing 9 3/4 has been her activist and advocacy role, including as a UN Woman Goodwill ambassador. However, she did participate in Greta Gerwig’s vibrant ensemble for the 2019 version of Little Women. In that film, Saoirse Ronan portrays every reader’s favorite character over the last 150 years, Jo March. However, Gerwig reimagines Jo’s older sister into something altogether more poignant for Watson than what’s on the page. This Meg March lives a bittersweet life divided between her girlhood fantasies of domestic bliss and the painful, but ultimately rewarding, realities of being a woman who married for love (and poverty) in the 19th century.

Episode 2. Nell Tiger Free, Rupert Grint and Toby Kebbell in "Servant," premiering January 13, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Rupert Grint – Servant

Who knew that Ron Weasley’s future included becoming a muse for M. Night Shyamalan on the other side of the Shyamalanaissance? Yet here we are with Grint appearing in films like Knock at the Cabin and television like Apple TV+’s Servant. It’s the latter we’d also like to single out for just how amusing Grint has become, happily playing against type as a charming, if smarmy, American cad. The sidekick no longer, Grunt’s Julian Pearce turns out to be a real piece of work.

Michael Gambon in Quartet

Michael Gambon – Quartet

Dumbledore actor Michael Gambon has done some fine vocal work since closing his spell book, most notably as Uncle Pastuzo in the Paddington films and as a merrily droll narrator in Hail Caesar! Yet we think it’s worth celebrating his live-action turn in Dustin Hoffman’s underrated dramedy about aging and leaving the stage of life with grace. Quartet stars real opera singers of a certain age, as well as a bevy of British talent in the titular roles, including Maggie Smith, no less. However, Gambon, meanwhile, gets to invert his Dumbledore persona as Cedric Livingstone, the founder of a posh retirement home for British opera talent and a bit of a diva himself, walking around in flowing robes and insisting the young nurses give him manicures. Dumbledore would approve.

Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel

To moviegoers of a certain age, Ralph Fiennes might still be best known as He Who Must Not Be Named. But to plenty of others, his name is the very last word in refinement and droll daffiness. That’s because Fiennes played M. Gustave in Wes Anderson’s best film to date, The Grand Budapest Hotel. A surprisingly wistful and heartbreaking character, M. Gustave is the immaculate yet eccentric concierge of an old-fashioned 19th century hotel… which had the misfortune of meeting the 20th century in a country receding into fascism when the movie begins. Still, Gustave handles those “filthy goddamn, pockmarked fascist assholes” (his words) with grace and debonair wit. He doesn’t even lose his cool when framed for murder and pursued by Willem Dafoe on a bobsled.

Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

There’s something cynically true about this observation: If you want to win an award, play Winston Churchill. Whether it’s John Lithgow on The Crown or Albert Finney in The Gathering Storm, if you play the British Bulldog, you’ll get a prize. Even so, Oldman deserved his after making a meal of the British PM in the moment he observed Nazi Germany rolling through France, and rival members of his own cabinet pushing him to capitulate to Hitler or resign, and told them to sit down. It’s an Oscar bait vehicle, but even with his high-pitched voice, Oldman may have been the best Churchill of them all as he made his stand, with cigar and champagne in hand.

Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

Maggie Smith – Downton Abbey

Maggie Smith has found an impressive third act in the 2010s as the grand dame of the putdowns. After a rich and long career on British stage and screen, and often in roles that required a modest self-effacement, Smith is spending her golden years as women who have no more imperios to give. This is most apparent in Downton Abbey, a sometimes nauseatingly nostalgic series about the final years of empire and landed gentry. But at least her Dowager Countess doesn’t have to gild the lily when she tells off the sycophants and supplicants around her. “I’m looking forward to seeing your mother again,” she informs one great-niece, “when I’m with her, I’m reminded of the virtues of the English.” But isn’t she American? “Exactly.” Burn.

Helena Bonham Charter in The Crown

Helena Bonham Carter – The Crown

If you’re noticing a trend about British actors as they get older being cast in a subgenre of imperial nostalgia, you’re not alone. However, that subject can sometimes yield moving results, as is also the case with Helena Bonham Carter’s work in The Crown. Whereas Vanessa Kirby got to play Princess Margaret as the pseudo-rebel who attempted to resist the expectations of her family/firm, Carter portrays that same princess 20 years down the road, embittered and lonely after failing to break free. It was the beginning of the Netflix’s series’ turning of the worm, drifting from rose-tinted melancholia of a lost grandeur to disturbed anti-monarchical modernity as Margaret is asked to accept the same family which didn’t allow her to marry for love as a youth and would now prefer if she stayed in a loveless marriage, even as cancer encroaches.

Jason Isaac in The Death of Stalin

Jason Isaac – The Death of Stalin

In a different type of historical costumed picture, Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is less of a prestigious drama than it is a piss-taking satire about the scramble for power that occurred after Soviet leader and ruthless dictator Joseph Stalin finally croaked in 1953. And among the power players and would-be coup planners is Jason Isaac as Field Marshal Zhukov. Playing the Russian general as less a weary national hero and more as a cantankerous footballer whose had one too many shots at the pub, Isaac chews the scenery and threatens to steal the movie from Steve Buscemi as they plan to allow “a peaceful transfer of power” to occur Russian style.

Animation in Anamolisa

David Thewlis – Anomalisa

Professor Lupin’s tenure at Hogwarts may not have worked out, but David Thewlis has enjoyed a varied career out of wizarding academia. One of the most curious entries in his work though is Anomalisa, a stop-motion animated film co-directed and written by Charlie Kaufman, and it’s even weirder than it sounds. An adult psychological drama about middle age, loneliness, and regrets in love, the film is decidedly not for children and requires real emotional resonance in its vocal performances, including Thewlis in the lead role of a motivational speaker of a certain age who doesn’t practice what he teaches. This becomes surreal, then, when all the lost souls in the world, including his wife and child, begin having the same face and voice….

Harry Melling in The Devil All the Time

Harry Melling – The Devil All the Time

If you had asked us 10 years ago which of the non-main trio of Harry Potter children actors would go on to have the best career, Dudley Dursley performer Harry Melling would not have been at the top of our list. Nonetheless, Melling has grown into a terrific character actor who’s blossomed in a string of Netflix projects, including The Queen’s Gambit and The Pale Blue Eye, in the latter of which he plays a pretty great Edgar Allan Poe. While both of those projects are a lot better than The Devil All the Time, for sheer magnitude of performance, Melling’s as a Southern fire and brimstone preacher selling a bag full of snake oil is the highlight. He’s a man full of fire and fury, yet still never knew Jesus even when a gun was put against his head.

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse

Robert Pattinson – The Lighthouse

We’ve generally avoided actors for this list who only appeared in one Harry Potter film, however it felt worth acknowledging how Robert Pattinson got his start by stealing many a young viewer’s heart as Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It paved the way for Twilight and the fantastic career that followed. As he’s grown into one of the best millennial leading men working, he’s starred in many a new classic, but none with as much sweltering madness or hypnotic delirium as Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse. The film’s a two-hander between Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as lighthouse keepers in 19th century New England. But as Pattinson’s grasp on reality crumbles, the Gothic horror reveals itself to be one of the strangest and most Lovecraftian cinematic nightmares of the 21st century. Pattinson has never been more unhinged or triumphant.

Alan Rickman – Truly, Madly, Deeply

Any list about the Harry Potter cast would be remiss to not include the late great Alan Rickman. However, since many of his final roles after completing his tenure as Severus Snape occurred after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which limited his abilities in his last years, we’d rather remember him as he was in one of his all-time great performances.

There are plenty to choose from, be it his own legacy in poignant British dramas and period pieces, such as a sublime turn in Ang Lee’s Sense & Sensibility adaptation, as well as his iconic turns as all-time great Hollywood villains in Die Hard and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. However, we’d like to recognize one of Rickman’s favorite performances that has gone wildly overlooked: his turn as a lovelorn ghost in Truly, Madly, Deeply. The Anthony Minghella dramedy had the misfortune of coming out the same year as the Patrick Swayze flick, Ghost, but this British indie is infinitely more subtle and honest. In the film, Rickman gets a lead role where he isn’t a fiend; he’s a sentimental, if vain, specter who returns to haunt his partner Nina (Juliet Stevenson) and resume their life together. It’s sweet, heartbreaking, and features a scene where Rickman sings the Walker Brothers while thumbing a cello.

The post Harry Potter Cast’s Best Post-HP Roles appeared first on Den of Geek.

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