Why an X-Men Star Said "F*** Off" to a Harry Potter Role

X-Men actor Alan Cumming told Harry Potter producers to "f*ck off" over a less-than-magical offer to join the Warner Bros. franchise. The Scottish actor, who played the teleporting mutant Nightcrawler in 2003's X-Men sequel X2, reveals he rejected the role of celebrity Hogwarts professor Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Actor and director Kenneth Branagh would ultimately play the character in the second Harry Potter film, which outgrossed Spider-Man and Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones to become the highest-grossing blockbuster of 2002 behind only The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

"I didn't turn it down," Cumming told The Telegraph of the Harry Potter role. "I told them to f*ck off!"

Cumming shared an agent with My Best Friend's Wedding and An Ideal Husband actor Rupert Everett, who competed for the Lockhart role before it went to Branagh.

"They wanted me and Rupert Everett to do a screen test, and they said they couldn't pay me more than a certain sum, they just didn't have any more money in the budget," Cumming said. "And I had the same agent as Rupert, who of course, they were going to pay more. Blatantly lying, stupidly lying, as well. Like, if you're going to lie, be clever about it. I said, tell them to f*** right off. And thought, well Rupert's going to get the part. They made him screen test, and I remember he brought his own wig. And then they f***ing gave it to Kenneth Branagh, came out of the shadows."

In 2007, Branagh told MTV that he was disappointed not to return for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and revealed he might have directed the third movie.

"It would have been nice to have been in [Phoenix]. He was quite a popular character, Lockhart. There was no one quite like him," Branagh said of his vain wizard, who makes a brief return in author J.K. Rowling's fifth Harry Potter book. "[But they never called] to my deep disappointment."

"They all felt for a minute, maybe it'd be great if Ken did one," added Branagh, referring to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the 2004 installment of the saga directed by Alfonso Cuarón. "It didn't work out. It would have been interesting."

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Cumming would later share the stage with Daniel Radcliffe, who played the titular boy who lived in all eight Harry Potter movies, for an adaptation of Samuel Beckett's play Endgame in 2020. The 56-year-old four-time Emmy nominee previously revealed he hoped to reprise the Nightcrawler role for 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past, saying in a 2012 interview that X2 was "a really great film, not just as a comic book film. I think it's one of the films I'd been in that I think of as really good."