This Is What the Harry Potter Characters Should Have Looked Like, According to the Books
Tue Dec 20 2022
This article was originally published on ForwhatItsearth.com and has been republished to The Gossip Geek with permission.
Harry Potter is perhaps one of the most popular movie franchises in history. It saw the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and other famous faces step into the shoes of J.K Rowling’s iconic book series – and for many Potterheads around the world, they became the embodiment of the characters they were paid to play. However, sometimes the book descriptions and what we saw in real life didn’t quite match up.
When comparing original books and their movie adaptations, books almost always win. And while casting directors can find what they think are perfect actors to play the people we read about in the books, their appearance can either be hit or miss. Now, a Vietnamese artist who goes by the internet name of MsBananaAnna has used AI to show us what the Harry Potter actors should have looked like, according to J.K Rowling’s book descriptions. Some actors were the spitting image of their bookish counterparts… but others were the complete opposite.
Aunt Petunia was always jealous of her sister’s magical powers, and this jealousy soon turned to hatred – especially for her nephew Harry. In both the movies and the books, we learn to despise the character of Aunt Petunia, which in turn made us hate the character that Fiona Shaw brought to life. What we also hate, though, is the fact that the Aunt Petunia we saw on the screen was nothing like we imagined.
Yes, Aunt Petunia was described differently in the books – but only in terms of her appearance. Rowling wrote that “Mrs. Dursley was thin and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbors.” She was also described as having a “horse face,” but we didn’t see this in the movies. We didn’t even see the blonde hair.
Bill Weasley may have only had a short stint on the big screen, but every member of the Weasley family deserves their chance to shine – and Domhnall Gleeson brought Bill to life in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. In this movie, we saw Bill with the tell-tale red hair synonymous with the Weasley family, but Domnhall seemed to be missing one vital aspect of J.K Rowling’s book description of the character.
In the book, Rowling wrote: “He was tall with long hair that he had tied back in a ponytail. He was wearing an earring with what looked like a fang dangling from it. Bill’s clothes would not have looked out of place at a rock concert, except that Harry recognized his boots to be made, not of leather, but of dragon hide.” So, where was Domnhall’s earring? And what about the classic Weasley freckles?
When Harry Potter lovers were first introduced to Luna Lovegood in the books, they instantly fell in love with her. The Ravenclaw witch was unlike any other character at Hogwarts, and fans fell in love with her quirky, kooky ways. Amazingly, Harry Potter super-fan Evanna Lynch was offered the chance to play this character if she promised J.K Rowling that she would recover from her eating disorder – but she was the perfect young lady for the job.
As you can see by these two pictures, Evanna was the embodiment of Luna Lovegood. Rowling described this character of having “straggly, waist-length dirty-blonde hair and a dazed look on her face.” It was also noted that her eyes were “protuberant,” “misty,” and “silvery.” Evanna had all of these characteristics at her disposal, and her Irish accent made the character seem even more floaty and mystical.
With her pink outfits, her cutesy voice, and her love of cats, Dolores Umbridge seemed like an adorable character. But we all know that appearances can be deceiving, and that’s the kind of character that Imelda Staunton had to bring to life. After all, the High Inquisitor seemed all sweetness and nice, but really she was as dark as they came.
In the books, Dolores Umbridge is described as having a “broad, flabby face, a wide, slack mouth, and a little neck. Her eyes are bulging and pouchy, and in her mousy hair she often wore a black velvet bow, which reminded Harry of a fly perched dangerously above a toad, furthering Umbridge’s toad-like characteristics.” We’re not saying Imelda looks like a toad herself, but she definitely did in these movies.
We all know that the position of the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher was cursed, but Remus Lupin’s presence in the Harry Potter series lasted much longer than a year – even when he wasn’t teaching. The professor, werewolf, and member of the Order of the Phoenix was dealt a tough hand during his life, and actor David Thewlis was tasked with bringing this tired but talented character to life in the movies. Did he pull it off though?
Well, it’s safe to say that he nailed it. Not only did Thewlis showcase a troubled man, but he also looked just like we imagined him to. After all, Rowling described this character as “wearing an extremely shabby set of wizard’s robes that had been darned in several places. He looked ill and exhausted. Though quite young, his light brown hair was flecked with grey.”
While Cedric Diggory only attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for a short while before his story was tragically cut short, he still made his mark – especially in the movies. His character was played by the one and only Robert Pattinson before his Twilight days, and fans fell in love with his floppy hair, his chiseled jawline, and his rosy cheeks. Amazingly, the casting directors hit the nail on the head with his character.
In the books, J.K Rowling described Cedric as a “tall and extremely handsome young man with chiseled features, dark hair, and bright grey eyes. Although he was a Seeker (a position usually taken by small and light players) he was well-built and burly.” When looking at the real-life Cedric and the AI Cedric, it’s fair to say that the casting directors matched Rowling’s vision perfectly.
Harry’s Muggle family made no secret of the fact that they wanted nothing to do with him, but the Dursleys still played their part in his story. Whenever he returned to number 4, Privet Drive readers and film lovers alike loved to hate Harry’s cousin, who was played by the dark-haired Harry Melling. However, the Dudley we read in the books looked a little different in our heads.
In fact, Dudley was described as a “pig in a wig.” Rowling wrote that “He had a large, pink face, not much neck, small, watering blue eyes and thick, blonde hair that lay smoothly on his thick, fat head.” And while the AI book description of Dudley is certainly different from what we saw on the big screen, fans were still taken by the Dudley we saw in the movies – even if they didn’t exactly like him.
Argus Filch was certainly dealt a short straw when he was born into a magical family without any magical powers of his own, but that wasn’t any reason for the caretaker of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to be so mean. Nevertheless, David Bradley brought this cantankerous character to life in the movies, and he was exactly as many Harry Potter fans imagined him to be.
Although Filch wasn’t a central character in the book series, he still made his presence known. He was described as having bulging and “pale, wild eyes,” sunken cheeks, a missing bald patch, and a “soft, greasy voice.” It was also noted that “Filch owned a cat called Mrs. Norris, a scrawny, dusty creature with bulging, lamp-like eyes just like Filch’s.” When you see these two images together, you can see just how perfectly cast David was.
Ginny Weasley started off as a very insignificant character – left behind and forgotten as the seventh Weasley child. But by the second movie, she’s brought into the dark and evil spotlight by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself, and this movie gave actress Bonnie Wright the chance to showcase her talent. As you can tell by the pictures below, Bonnie was the perfect young lady for the job.
Of course, no Weasley character would be complete without the red hair – and Bonnie had that in abundance. In the books, J.K Rowling described Ginny as having “vivid, flaming red hair worn as a long mane” and “bright brown eyes.” Although Bonnie’s eyes are a greeny-blue color and she didn’t have the Weasley’s tell-tale freckles, she still looked just as we imagined Ginny to look.
Harry Potter wouldn’t have been the same without everyone’s favorite know-it-all, Hermione Granger. As part of the almighty trio, she made the books and the movies even more impressive. Of course, most of that was down to the existence of the book character – but a huge part of that was also down to the one and only Emma Watson. With her brown hair, her dazzling smile, and her overall intelligence, Emma brought Hermione to life.
What fans of the book might realize, though, is that Hermione did look a little different to the book description. Rowling wrote that Granger “had a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth.” Emma certainly had the bossy voice and the bushy brown hair sorted, but the costume and makeup team decided to stick with her own teeth – which weren’t as large as described in the books.
While Viktor Krum only made his presence known in The Goblet of Fire, he still made a pretty remarkable entrance. The Durmstrang student and professional Quidditch player had that “dark and brooding” look about him that made all of the girls swoon. So, we bet Bulgarian actor Stanislav Lanevski enjoyed his time on the Harry Potter set. Especially as he looked strikingly similar to the Viktor Krum we were all expecting.
When reading the books, we learned that Viktor was a “tall, thin, sallow young man with dark hair and eyes. He had a large, curved nose that he inherited from his father, a sharp profile, and thick, black eyebrows. Despite appearing graceful while flying on a broomstick, he was round-shouldered and duck-footed while on the ground.” Stanislav was a bit stockier, but the comparisons are pretty bang-on.
Professor McGonagall may have been a little stern, but her pride and loyalty for her students has to be commended. The Head of Gryffindor House was not only the Transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts, but she also stepped in to act as Headmistress on multiple occasions and played a huge part in the Order of the Phoenix. And while Maggie Smith will always be celebrated for her role as McGonagall, she didn’t exactly look as we expected her to.
You can see in these two photos that there was a slight discrepancy in how J.K Rowling imagined her to how McGonagall really looked. In the books she was described as “a rather severe-looking woman who was wearing square glasses exactly the shape of the markings the cat had around its eyes. She, too, was wearing a cloak, an emerald one. Her black hair was drawn into a tight bun.” But despite this, Maggie nailed her role.
Ralph Fiennes will always be congratulated for bringing the evil dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, to life. While he’s considered to be one of the worst villains in movie history, it’s fair to say that the story of Harry Potter would be nothing without He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. And what makes his appearance in the movies even more astonishing is the fact that Voldemort was exactly how we imagined him to be.
In the books, J.K Rowling made sure to describe Voldemort as a shell of a man. After making so many Horcruxes he ceased to be a human and was instead described as having a pale, “chalk-white, skull-like face” with “snake-like slits for nostrils” and “red eyes and cat-like slits for pupils.” And when you see these two images together, you can see that everything about the character and the production was perfect.
Narcissa Malfoy certainly wasn’t a main character in the Harry Potter franchise, but as the mother of Harry’s enemy and as a firm believer in the philosophy of blood purity, she still played her part. Her blonde hair and stern face made it clear that Helen McCrory was a Malfoy, but Helen’s appearance was a little different from how Narcissa was described by J.K Rowling in the books.
While Narcissa was described as “nice-looking,” these good looks were torn apart by her associations with the Dark Lord. It was said that she was a “blonde with blue eyes and a look on her face as if there was something smelly under her nose.” Her arrogance made her ugly in both the books and the movies, and it seems as though the hair department decided to make a stylistic choice when it came to Helen’s on-screen hair.
Sirius Black (Post-Azkaban)
We met two different Sirius Blacks throughout the Harry Potter franchise. We met Sirius while he was in Azkaban (more on that later), and we met him after his days behind bars. After escaping from the wizard’s prison, Sirius made his way back to the Order of the Phoenix and back to Harry – and he looked healthy and happy once again. On our screens, Gary Oldman was the perfect fit.
During his post-Azkaban days, Sirius was described as having “long dark hair and grey eyes” and he was noted as being “regally” handsome with perfect skin – despite the fact that he had been through such an ordeal. Gary sported the good looks of the Black family, and the only real difference between the on-screen Sirius and the book Sirius was that Gary’s mustache just so happened to be a little longer.
Neville Longbottom went from zero to hero in the Harry Potter franchise. He started off as a forgetful, dim-witted student before transforming into the main character we never expected. J.K Rowling obviously wanted such an impressive journey for the Gryffindor and Matthew Lewis absolutely nailed this role and his character’s development. What you might have forgotten, though, is that Neville should have looked totally different.
While the books don’t offer much of a description of Neville, we do learn that he was “round-faced, short, chubby” and had buck teeth. In interviews later on in the Harry Potter franchise, J.K Rowling went further with this description and confessed that she imagined Neville to be “short and plump and blond.” Of course, Matthew Lewis’ hair wasn’t dyed blond for the role, but we don’t think it impacted his performance in any way.
The character of Pansy Parkinson actually changed throughout the Harry Potter movie franchise. In the first movie, she was played by Katherine Nicholson, in the third by Genevieve Gaunt, in the fifth by Lauren Shotton, and in the sixth and seventh by Scarlett Byrne. However, some would say that none of the actresses who played the ringleader of the “gang of Slytherin girls” actually looked like her character description in the books.
When writing about Pansy – one of Draco’s cronies – J.K Rowling wrote that Pansy had dark hair and dark features and that she was “hard-faced” and looked “like a pug.” Of course, the women who played Pansy in the movies didn’t look like a pug in any way, shape or form. But they did still have this dark and brooding look about them.
It’s not every day you come across a character who spends most of his time living as a rat, but that’s exactly how Peter Pettigrew lived his life. As the man who sold out Lily and James Potter to the Dark Lord, Peter was a traitor and a coward – and it was down to Timothy Spall to bring this person/creature to life. This was a hard task for the casting crew and the makeup department, and some would say that they just missed the mark.
Peter was described in the books as having grubby rat-like skin, a pointed nose, watery eyes, and a squeaky voice that seemed synonymous with a man who spent most of his time living as a rodent. However, he was also described as having balding and thin hair, as well as being incredibly thin. So, why did Peter have so much hair in the movies?
The Bellatrix Lestrange we watched on the big screen had wild, scraggly, curly hair with dark circles under her eyes and a gaunt face. Helena Bonham Carter seemed like the perfect actress to bring this evil Death Eater to life, and she certainly looked the part – but was she cast correctly? Well, the casting directors weren’t too far off when you look at J.K Rowling’s physical description of the witch.
In the books, Bellatrix Lestrange was described as a tall woman who had “long, thick, shining black hair.” She had “thin lips, heavy-lidded eyes, and a strong jaw.” Although she was described as a classic pure-blood beauty, her arrogance and her time in Azkaban prison made her ugly, and her gaunt and dark appearance shone through. So, the only real difference is that Helena’s Bellatrix had curly hair, while Rowling’s Bellatrix had straight hair.
The Ron Weasley we saw on our screens could be summed up with Draco Malfoy’s famous quote: “Think my name’s funny, do you? No need to ask yours. Red hair… and a hand-me-down robe. You must be a Weasley.” However, Rupert Grint was so much more than just the Weasley family’s youngest son. He was Harry’s best friend, and he was the secondary hero we all needed in the book and movie franchise. And the casting directors got him almost spot-on.
Rupert Grint grew up in front of our eyes as the Harry Potter movies continued, and while the red hair made it obvious that he was Ron Weasley, he wasn’t exactly as J.K Rowling described him in the books. He was noted as being “tall, thin, and gangling, with freckles, big hands and feet, and a long nose.” You wouldn’t associate those characteristics with the young Rupert Grint, but he became more and more like that as the years went by.
We will always remember Alan Rickman for his incredible work as Severus Snape. His character development from evil Potions Master to the hero we all needed was something that changed many fans’ lives – and that’s not just due to his impeccable acting talent. Part of the reason Snape’s character proved to be so iconic was that he was exactly as readers of the books imagined him to be.
In the books, Snape was described as “a teacher with greasy black hair, a hooked nose, and sallow skin.” The way he walked and talked also seemed synonymous with the man we had concocted in our imaginations while reading the books, and the whole character was a slam dunk. Looking at the real-life version of Snape and the AI version of Snape, you can see what we mean.
Sirius Black (While in Azakaban)
Our first look at Sirius Black was certainly a scary one. We were told of this supposedly dark wizard’s horrifying crimes, and we saw his Azkaban mugshot plastered across The Daily Prophet. During this time, Gary Oldman looked pretty different from his appearance later on in the series, and the production crew did well to match J.K Rowling’s book descriptions to the final movie look.
In the books, Sirius seemed to be a shell of himself during his time in Azkaban. He was described as having “a mass of filthy, matted hair hung to his elbows. If eyes hadn’t been shining out of the deep, dark sockets, he might have been a corpse. The waxy skin was stretched so tightly over the bones of his face, it looked like a skull.” If we’re being honest, though, we think the production team could have taken this skeletal look a little further in the movie.
Kenneth Branagh had the pleasure of bringing one of the most laughably annoying Harry Potter characters to life. Yes, with his blonde floppy hair, his cheesy grin and his outlandish arrogance, he became Gilderoy Lockhart in The Chamber of Secrets. While he was a little older than the man described in the books, he still looked fairly similar to his bookish counterpart.
Known for wearing “incredibly extravagant robes in a wide assortment of colors,” Gilderoy wasn’t a shy wizard – and he knew that he was good-looking. He was described as being “blandly handsome” with his bright blue eyes, his straight white teeth, and his wavy blonde hair.” Of course, the age gap between the book’s Gilderoy and the movie’s Gilderoy is apparent in these two photos, but that didn’t ruin anything for us.
Every story needs a villain, but Draco Malfoy’s story was an unusual one. Although he started off as one of Harry’s main enemies, their stories soon merged – and while they never became friends, they eventually tolerated each other. But like all villains, J.K Rowling wanted Draco to look the part. He had to look smug, entitled, and evil, and Tom Felton nailed this in the movies.
But did Tom pull off Draco’s evil look? Well, he certainly matches J.K Rowling’s description of him. He was described as having slick white-blonde hair, cold grey eyes, and a “pale pointed face.” And while Tom Felton’s hair was more of a yellow blonde, this is just one small inaccuracy in terms of an almost identical appearance.
While some would say that Aunt Petunia had a soft spot for Harry very, very, very, deep down – it’s safe to say that the same can’t be said about Uncle Vernon. He hated Harry and bullied him relentlessly during his time at Privet Drive, but we have a feeling that the late and great Richard Griffiths probably got on quite well with Daniel Radcliffe in real life. His resemblance to his book character was certainly uncanny, though.
J.K Rowling described Uncle Vernon as a “big, beefy man with a large purple face. He had thick, dark hair, a bushy black mustache, with hardly any neck, and mean little eyes that narrowed to slits when he was angry.” And while the Uncle Vernon on our screens was very similar to the Uncle Vernon we read in the books, there was one major difference; the color of his hair and his mustache.
Before there was Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter had his sights set on another young lady – and in the movies, Cho Chang was played by the wonderful Katie Leung. With her dark hair and her petite frame, Cho became a central figure in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix, and it was clear to see that multiple Hogwarts students thought the was a beauty. But how did her appearance in the movies compare to her description in the books?
As you can see from these two photos, the casting directors got the likeness pretty spot on. In the books, Cho is described as having long, shiny hair and a freckled nose. She’s also described as being around a head shorter than Harry Potter himself. Of course, the only real difference between these two is the fact that Katie Leung didn’t have any freckles – and the makeup department decided not to add any, either.
Fred & George Weasley
It’s not every day you come across identical twins with red hair and a huge, red-haired family – but that’s exactly what Harry Potter gave us, both in the books and on the screen. The actors tasked with bringing these two lovable troublemakers into the real world were James and Oliver Phelps, real-life twins who don’t naturally have red hair. But, they were happy to have their hair dyed for the sake of the big screen, and thank goodness they did.
After all, a Weasley wouldn’t be a Weasley without the red hair. Even in the books, J.K Rowling described these two as having brown eyes, freckled faces, and bright red hair. However, these two weren’t exactly dead-ringers for the book descriptions. Rowling wrote that the twins were “stockier and slightly shorter” than Ron, but that just wasn’t the case. Fred and George were tall and lanky in the movies.
We’ve already seen the youngest Malfoy and the matriarch of the Malfoy family, but what about the patriarch? Draco’s father and cowardly Death Eater Lucius Malfoy played a huge part in the Harry Potter book and movie series, and we got to see his slimy, silvery ways on our screens. For this role, Jason Isaacs became the head of Malfoy manor, but how did he stack up compared to his bookish counterpart?
Aside from the length of his hair, we have to say that the movie producers worked well with J.K Rowling’s book description. Although Malfoy was described more in terms of his personality than his looks in the books, we did learn through Rowling’s words that he had “cold grey eyes” and a very pale, pointed face with white-blonde hair. Essentially, he was an older version of Draco – but in the film, he had much more luscious locks.
Before there was the slit-nosed, snake-like Voldemort, there was Tom Marvolo Riddle. In the movies, we saw two different iterations of this former Hogwarts student and heir of Slytherin. In the Chamber of Secrets, we saw an older version of Tom – but in the later movies, we saw the younger version. And as you can see from these two images below, the younger version of Tom Riddle was pretty spot-on in terms of his physical appearance.
Part of what made Tom Riddle so powerful was his charm and his good looks, and J.K Rowling made it clear that the young Tom was a handsome man. In fact, he was essentially described as the tall, dark, and handsome man that many people love. He was described as having dark hair and dark eyes, as well as black hair and a commanding presence about him. Of course, we all know that there was an intense darkness behind those handsome eyes.
We would have loved to have seen more of Natalie Tena in the Harry Potter movies. After all, it’s not every day you see a Metamorphmagi who is able to change their appearance at the drop of a hat. But that’s exactly what she brought to the screen in the form of Nymphadora Tonks, an Auror and member of the Order of the Phoenix who helps Harry and the gang get out of some sticky situations. Her purple hair was captivating, but was it correct?
As you can see, the Tonks we saw on our screens was very similar to the Tonks that was described in the books. It seems as though Rowling had great fun in writing about Tonks, describing her as having a “pale heart-shaped face, dark twinkling eyes, and short, spiky hair that was a violent shade of violet. She knocked over a plate in the Dursley’s kitchen when the ‘Advance Guard’ came to pick up Harry to take to number twelve, Grimmauld Place.”
We met two versions of Lily Potter in the film series. We saw the older, married Lily next to her husband James in Harry’s magical photograph. And we also saw the younger, Hogwarts-age Lily in the Pensieve. However, we also learn a lot about Lily from the countless people who tell Harry that he has his “mother’s eyes” – but what else did he inherit from his mother? Because it’s certainly hard to tell through the movie version of her.
In the books, J.K Rowling goes into a little more detail about Lily, her life, and her appearance over the years. She’s described as having bright green, almond-shaped eyes, and beautiful, thick dark red shoulder-length hair. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to see more of Lily in the movies, but at least they managed to get the hair right.
Like Harry’s mom, we didn’t really get the chance to see much of James Potter. Of course, he was gone before we really met Harry – but he still had his part to play. The memories and the photos of James Potter still remained for us to see on the screen, and he looked just like Harry with his circular glasses and his dark features. But is that how Rowling described him in the books?
Well, in the books, James Potter is described as being a “tall, thin man with hazel eyes and untidy black hair that stuck up at the back.” He was an incredibly well-liked and adored student during his time at Hogwarts, and it was clear to many of Harry’s teachers that he was the spitting image of his father. And we don’t think the casting directors and makeup team did too badly to match them up.
Sadly, Charlie Weasley didn’t really get the chance to shine in the Harry Potter movies. While he appeared in a photo of the family taken in Egypt (he’s the one above and between Ron and Mrs. Weasley), we didn’t get to meet him in person. However, it’s even clear from this small photo of him that the movies didn’t quite get it right when it came to the second-oldest Weasley sibling.
In the books, J.K Rowling wrote that “Charlie was built like the twins, shorter and stockier than Percy and Ron, who were both long and lanky. He had a broad, good-natured face, which was weather-beaten and so freckly that he looked almost tanned; his arms were muscular, and one of them had a large, shiny burn on it.” So, if Charlie had been given a larger role in the movies… who would have played him?