Before Bill Nighy confirmed he was going to be joining the cast of “Harry Potter,” he wasn’t being facetious when he complained that he was the last big British actor to not be involved in the series. With heavy hitters like the late Richard Harris, Kenneth Branagh and Ralph Fiennes weaving in and out of the series, who can blame him for feeling left out?
The professors at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in particular possess acting talent which comes from the upper echelons of British celeb royalty. Young Americans might not recognize all of their faces outside of "Potter," especially those who are masked behind beards and more extensive makeup. So we've decided to profile the top Hogwarts talents for you here; not their fictional professorships, but rather the reasons you should look for them in roles outside the "Harry Potter" universe.
Michael Gambon: Michael Gambon, who replaced the late Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore after the first movie, has won numerous awards for his work in theater over the course of his career. He was even awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1992. Gambon also enjoys the not-so-typical celebrity hobbies of flying planes and collecting antique weapons. He also likes to lie during interviews, to make them more interesting as he puts it. He once responded to a question asking if it bothered him to play a gay character by saying it was easy to play one because he used to be a homosexual but was forced to quit because it made his eyes water.
Jim Broadbent: Easily the most recognizable of the Hogwarts professors, Jim Broadbent has most recently and notably been seen in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Moulin Rouge” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” Originally starting out in a Quaker boarding school, Broadbent eventually transferred to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Like Gambon, Broadbent started his career in theater but quickly moved on to television and film. He’s won an Oscar and two Golden Globes, and has been nominated for a Grammy, two Emmy's and another Golden Globe. Broadbent also turned down the chance to be an Officer of the British Empire.
Maggie Smith: Wonder how Maggie Smith has been able to portray a regal bearing of McGonagall in all the “Harry Potter” films? Probably because she is one of the greatest actresses of all time. She's a Dame Commander of the British Empire (which makes her Dame Maggie Smith) and was one of the first actors to be honored at the Avenue of Stars, the British version of the Walk of Fame. Smith also has multiple awards and nominations for her work in film, TV and theater. Having begun her television and film acting career in the mid-1950s, she had the opportunity to perform as Desdemona in the Laurence Olivier version of “Othello,” Thetis in the original “Clash of the Titans” and alongside fellow Hogwarts prof Jim Broadbent in “Richard III.”
Robbie Coltrane: Robbie Coltrane is one of England's leading comedians, a fact that is clear to anyone who's seen his performances in the “Harry Potter” series. The 59-year-old actor began his career at age 12, delivering rants from “Henry V.” He later starred alongside Hugh Laurie and fellow Hogwarts professor Emma Thompson in the BBC’s “Alfresco.” Coltrane can also count himself as one of few actors to have made an appearance twice in the “James Bond” franchise: “Goldeneye” and “The World Is Not Enough.” He continues to be a strong presence in films beyond “Harry Potter,” including recent appearances in “Ocean’s Twelve” and “The Brothers Bloom.”
Alan Rickman: Long before Alan Rickman was Severus Snape he was Hans Grüber, Bruce Willis’s coldhearted enemy in 1988’s “Die Hard.” His deadpan delivery, cold gaze and deep, carefully controlled voice make him perfect villain, but Rickman's roles in films like “Dogma” and “Love Actually" show a diverse range. He got his first boost to fame as Valmont in a Broadway version of “Les Liasones Dangereuses,” ("Dangerous Liaisons") though the film role was given to John Malkovich. Most recently he returned to his villainous roots in Tim Burton’s “Sweeny Todd,” and he will be reteaming with Burton in 2010 to play the Caterpillar in “Alice in Wonderland.” Don’t think his malicious and dark tendencies translate over into real life, however: Rickman once failed his California driving test for driving “too cautiously” through a green light.
Warwick Davis: You may or may not realize it, but Warwick Davis is something of a god in the science fiction and fantasy loving communities. Most notably he played Willow in the George Lucas film of the same name. Davis first met Lucas when he was cast as the lead Ewok, Wicket, in “Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi.” He has been cast in as the Leprechaun in all of the “Leprechaun” films,” Marvin in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (a character voiced by Alan Rickman), the mouse Nikabrik in “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” and he will be returning in a different form to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” as the goblin Griphook. Davis also created Willow Management, which the website proclaims as the “biggest agency for short actors in the world.”