The Harry Potter movies are known for having the cream of British acting talent come in and out – often for small supporting roles, or for just one movie. One actor who was disappointed about not getting more screen-time was Kenneth Branagh – who gives a memorable performance in the Chamber of Secrets as the man with an ego bigger than a Quidditch pitch – Gilderoy Lockhart.
Not only was Kenneth Branagh hoping to come back for more Harry Potter movies as an actor, but there was also a stage when he was considered to direct one of the movies. This was before he directed the Marvel movie Thor in 2011, and most of his directing experience had been in Shakespeare adaptations.
When watching the Harry Potter movies in order, fans of the books, of course, noticed plenty of scenes that were cut for time – something that could potentially be addressed in the proposed TV series. And Gilderoy Lockhart is a popular Harry Potter character who does pop up again in the fifth book – Order of the Phoenix – but unfortunately not in the movie.
You may remember Kenneth Branagh last being seen with his Harry Potter cast mates Rupert Grint (Ron) and Bonnie Wright (Ginny) being pulled out of the Chamber of Secrets by the phoenix Fawkes. Lockhart has erased his own memory with Ron’s broken wand.
In what is actually a pretty tragic scene in the Order of the Phoenix book, the trio bumps into Lockhart at St Mungo’s Hospital – where he must remain for the rest of his life. It can be debated whether Gilderoy Lockhart was a true Harry Potter villain who deserved this fate – as he was certainly less evil than the Death Eaters.
In a 2007 interview via The Leaky Cauldron, Branagh said, “It would have been nice to have been in [Phoenix]. He was quite a popular character, Lockhart. There was no one quite like him.’ [But they never called] to my deep disappointment.”
“I was in the running to direct the one that Alfonso Cuaron did [Prisoner of Azkaban]. It was while I was working on the second one. They all felt for a minute, maybe it’d be great if Ken did one. It didn’t work out. It would have been interesting. I think there is a limit to what a director can bring to the films for reasons I’m sure you can imagine.” Guillermo del Toro was initially tapped for Prisoner of Azkaban, who then suggested his friend Cuaron – it worked out for the best, as it’s widely regarded as not only the best Potter movie but one of the best fantasy movies of all time.
Branagh took part in the funniest Harry Potter photoshoot of all time with Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, and you can see how well he got on with the child actors. As he said, “The thing that really drew my interest was working with those kids. I liked them very much. I thought perhaps that their potential hadn’t yet been realized, or at least I felt they were hungry and were about make huge strides as actors.”
Branagh has since been praised for the performance he got out of Jude Hill – playing a version of Branagh as a child in his Oscar-winning movie Belfast. Branagh cast Hill again in A Haunting in Venice.
Little details like Lockhart’s scene in Order of the Phoenix will be exactly the kind of thing we’ll be looking for in the Harry Potter TV series and we’re still very much holding out hope for a Cursed Child movie. Until then, we’ll have to make do with Wednesday season 2, House of the Dragon season 2 and the other best fantasy series.