Ralph Fiennes Almost Turned Down Playing Voldemort Because He Didn't Know Anything About Harry Potter

Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort.
Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort.
Image: Warner Bros.

Ralph Fiennes, great actor that he is, is probably more recognizable these days in sinister supervillain makeup than he is outside of it. That’s because he played Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, an iconic role that he filled excellently.


But that almost was not the case, as Ralph Fiennes recently revealed on the Jonathan Ross Show that he very nearly turned down the role. He was hesitant for one simple reason: He didn’t know anything about Harry Potter.

“The truth is I was actually ignorant about the films and the books,” he said, as transcribed by Digital Spy. “I was approached by the production. Mike Newell was directing the film that they wanted me to be in… the first time Voldemort was going to appear physically.”

He continued: “Out of ignorance I just sort of thought, this isn’t for me... Quite stupidly I resisted, I was hesitant. I think the clincher was that my sister Martha – who has three children who were then probably about 12, 10 and 8 – she said, ‘What do you mean? You’ve got to do it!’ So then I rewound my thinking.”

I hope he bought Martha flowers or something. Interestingly, this isn’t the first famous person who has expressed their hesitance to join the Harry Potter films, and who had to be cajoled by a friend or loved one. We’re thankful for the Harry Potter fans in these people’s lives, quietly helping to shape the films.

I mean, what would Voldemort even be without Ralph Fiennes, right? Just the ultimate magical evil? Well. Okay. Yeah. That’s still a lot. Fine. But Ralph Fiennes was great, is my point.

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It’s always interesting to see how movies would have turned out if their actors either changed their minds about the films or if those who were originally asked said yes.

I’m a big Lord of the Rings fan so here are some random ones from the trilogy:

  • Viggo Mortensen who played Aragorn was originally going to say no until his son convinced him to accept the role.
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicholas Cage and Russel Crowe were each offered the role of Aragorn multiple times but turned it down.
  • Stuart Townsend was hired as Aragorn but after two months of filming was fired from the position.
  • Liam Neeson -> Boromir.
  • Lucy Lawless -> Galadriel.
  • Uma Thurman -> Both Arwen and Eowyn.
  • And Sean Connery turned down the position of Gandalf because he “never understood the script”, adding: “I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don’t understand it. Ian McKellen, I believe, is marvellous in it.”