Emmy-winning Scottish actor Brian Cox might have played Mad-Eye Moody in the Harry Potter films, but lost out on the role to Golden Globe-nominee Brendan Gleeson. Mad-Eye Moody is one of the many substitute father figures, along with Sirius Black and Albus Dumbledore, for Harry in the original novels. First appearing in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Gleeson’s Mad-Eye is eventually found to be Barty Crouch Jr. masking as the Hogwarts teacher under the guise of the Polyjuice Potion, before the real Mad-Eye is recovered at the film’s end.
Recently, Cox opened in his new memoir, “Putting the Rabbit in the Hat,” about the many famous franchises he turned down, or lost, roles in. One of these passes was the character of Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones, as Cox was unfamiliar with the novels and unaware that the HBO adaptation would turn out to be as hugely popular as it did. The actor also turned down the role of the Governor in Pirates of the Caribbean, eventually played by Jonathan Pryce, after he “turned [his] nose up” at the opportunity to star the franchise, despite his respect for director Gore Verbinski. However, these weren’t the only iconic characters that Cox managed to let slip through his fingers.
In an extract from his memoir (via GQ Magazine), Cox reveals the Harry Potter movie role that he could potentially have played in Mad-Eye Moody. The actor said that he “might” have taken on Moody had Gleeson not landed the role, as he was more “in fashion” at the time the Harry Potter films were in production. However, the actor clearly doesn’t hold a grudge against Gleeson for getting the part over him, saying he is “much better than I would have been” in the role. Read Cox’s full quote below:
“Harry Potter. That’s another one they ask me about. Harry f**king Potter. I think someone had a burning cross held up for me not to be in Harry Potter, because all my pals were in it. I think the part I might have played was the one that Brendan Gleeson got, Mad-Eye Moody, but Brendan was more in fashion than I was at that point, and that’s very much the way of the world in my business, so he got it. Also, he’s much better than I would have been.”
It’s true that Mad-Eye Moody was very important to the Harry Potter fandom, and the role went out to several well-known actors in addition to Cox, including Ray Winstone. Mad-Eye Moody is a prominent figure in both the Harry Potter novels and films for his role as an Auror against the Dark Arts in the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and up until his tragic death in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow. Harry Potter’s friend Ron Weasley aptly points out that “half the cells in Azkaban” are filled because of him, and Moody proves a vital figure during Hogwarts’ war with Lord Voldemort. The role would have been an excellent opportunity for Cox to show his acting range, as the character is very outlandish and has several memorable character quirks.
Cox, however, is not the only well-known actor to lose a role in Harry Potter. Hugh Grant, Tilda Swinton, Kate Winslet, Peter O’Toole, and even the late Robin Williams were all considered for roles in the franchise at some point. This is in keeping with typical Hollywood casting, where a casting director will float out an actor as a “type” or overall aesthetic for a role, and whittle down the list to the actor who fits the role the best. Cox might have been amazingly well-cast as Mad-Eye Moody, but Brendan Gleeson’s iconic Harry Potter performance will forever be remembered as one of the best in the franchise.