Harry Potter is one of the most popular series of novels ever written. Since its release in 1997, the series has sold over 450 million copies worldwide and been translated into over 30 languages.

The books were inspired by J.K. Rowling’s life and love for British history, and the author has said that Harry Potter is a “tale of triumph against all the odds.” One of the defining aspects of the series is its villains: Voldemort, a dark wizard who wishes to destroy everything Harry Potter stands for; and his nemesis, Harry Potter himself. The two regularly engage in epic battles that can only end in bloodshed.

The battles between these two powerful adversaries are what make Harry Potter so compelling and, at times, disturbing. But who is the actor who plays the grown-up Harry in these scenes? Let’s take a look.

Tom Hardy

In 2009, Warner Bros. released the first of its two Harry Potter prequel films, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The studio had acquired the rights to make five films about the boy wizard following the success of the first four books, and it intended to continue the story begun by J.K. Rowling in the 1980s. (The second of the two prequel films, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was released in 2010.)

Although these films are set in an alternate timeline and do not feature Harry Potter himself (the central character is a young girl named Sophie), they pick up right where the novels leave off: Hardy’s character is revealed to be one of the legendary Boy Wizards, chosen to bear the power of Godric Gryffindor in his possession. As with all magical creatures, Hardy’s character develops through the use of magic and grows in strength over the course of the films. (It’s worth pointing out that while the other characters in the film develop and change as a result of their involvement in the magical world, Hardy’s role is quite minimal and he never fully grows into his character. He remains a fairly childish and naive boy throughout the entire series, which is a large departure from the Tom Hardy we know and love from cinema and television.)

Wesley Snider

In 2018, Warner Bros. released the conclusion of its five-film Harry Potter series with Justice League. For the final film, the studio had turned to A-list actors to play the major characters: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavendish, Armie Hammer, and Jason Momoa. The movie focuses on the Dark Lord Voldemort’s plan to take over the world using the powers of legendary superheroes.

The casting for this film was a masterstroke; Momoa plays the evil genius with an exquisite combination of strength and grace, while Hammer embodies the physically intimidating presence of comic book villain Gold Face. (Hammer is also known for starring in the 2018 movie Tintin, and before that he appeared in Doctor Strange.)

The scene-stealer, though, is Snider’s character: Conner Hawke. At first he seems like a regular teenage boy, eager to fit in with the cool kids and have fun with his friends. But once you get to know him, you realize he’s the complete opposite of his counterpart in the books. Instead of being a nervous, mild boy, he’s a loud, boisterous, and incredibly unimpressed with authority figures of any kind. He’s also a natural leader, and the Avengers go easy on him because they know that if they don’t, they’ll never be able to bring down the huge wall of muscles that is Conner Hawke.

Where Do the Movies Leave Off and Where Do the Books Begin?

The Harry Potter series could probably exist in either realm. In the literary world, J.K. Rowling began her series in the 1980s and continued to publish until 2007, at which point she handed the reins over to her trusted assistant, David Bagley, to complete the series.

Rowling had always hoped that, one day, someone would want to make a film of one of her books. When that film project finally came to fruition with the help of Warner Bros., she was thrilled. “I could not be more pleased that Harry’s adventures have finally been made into a film, and I honestly could not be more involved,” she said. “I love watching the development process, seeing my characters come to life, and I certainly don’t want to miss a single frame.”

Unfortunately, Rowling’s assistant took his own life shortly after finishing up the last book in the series, and the author had no choice but to step back and hand over the reins entirely to David Bagley, who was also the editor of the last four books. (Bagley had been with Rowling since the beginning and worked his way up from an assistant position to a co-author and full partner on the project. He is credited with coming up with the concept for the series and was closely involved in the writing process.)

Warner Bros. had a different take. It wanted to give the Harry Potter films a more contemporary feel and decided to go for an older actor to play the young wizard. After trying out a number of individuals, they landed on two-time Golden Globe nominee and renowned badass, Robert Pattinson, who had just wrapped up a film stint in the South of France. (Pattinson had recently done a voice for a character in an animated film called The Secret Life of Pets.)

Once they made the decision to go for broke and cast Pattinson as Harry, director Christopher Nolan had to fight for more than a month to get the okay from J.K. Rowling. (Nolan had initially wanted to get Katherine Waterston, but she was committed to another project at the time.)

During that time, he held meetings with Rowling and her representatives, as well as with her assistant, who had recently signed on to be the executive producer of the series. (Waterston was eventually replaced by Emma Watson.)

The result of all this behind-the-scenes legwork is a fascinating look at the making of the Harry Potter films. Instead of simply retelling the stories of Harry Potter, the documentaries about the making of the movies dive into the minutiae of the production process. This level of access gives the viewer an unprecedented window into the creative mind of one of the greatest authors of our time: J.K. Rowling.

What Other Books or Film Adaptations are Covered in the Harry Potter Docs?

Besides the original Harry Potter series, the documentaries about the making of the movies also cover a number of other adaptations. Here is a partial list.

  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
  • The Hobbit (2012)
  • The Golden Compass (2007)
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2007)
  • Dungeons & Dragons (2011)
  • The Silmarillion (2006)
  • A Short History of Time (2012)
  • Sense and Sensibility (2011)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2011)
  • The Hunger Games (2012)
  • The Children of Men (2020)

How Does Hollywood View the Classics Vs. Contemporary Literary Works?

When creating an adaptation, the biggest challenge is striking the right balance between making the story more contemporary and maintaining the essence of the original work. (This is even more difficult when taking on a literary classic.)

Some of the greatest authors ever written, like Agatha Christie and Jane Austen, wrote stories that were ahead of their time and could easily be adapted for modern audiences. Their works still hold up after all these years because their unique perspectives and attention to detail retain their timeless quality.

Other novels, like Dracula, are simply impossible to adapt to film. They were written so long ago that most of the technology we use today would not even be available. Trying to portray Vlad the Impaler on screen would be like trying to film the Roman Empire and not using any of its modern equivalents.

What can be more difficult is adapting a work that is truly a classic and was written before the form of entertainment we know today. A good example is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which was first published in 1818, a full year before the modern form of film even existed. Since then, the novel has been adapted twice for film (once in 1932 and again in 1940), but it never properly felt like it belonged in the movies. (Shelley’s novel never fully jelled, and it always felt like a bit of a handicap to try to adapt it for film when compared to what came after it. It’s more of an example of a literary work that was ahead of its time and never really felt like it worked in film.)