Ralph Fiennes has earned Oscar nominations for Schindler’s List and The English Patient, but his best-known role might be his performance as He Who Must Not Be Named, otherwise known as Voldemort, in the Harry Potter film series. While the movies introduced Fiennes and his work to a new generation of moviegoers, he recently revealed that he almost said no to the project altogether.
We first saw Fiennes as Voldemort in the fourth film in the series, 2005’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and he continued to play the Dark Lord of the Harry Potter universe until the series’ conclusion in 2011.
Though fans would argue that it was the role Fiennes was born to play, saying “yes” was not an immediate decision for the celebrated actor.
“The truth is I was actually ignorant about the films and the books,” the actor recently admitted while appearing on The Jonathan Ross Show when asked about his relationship to the Potterverse prior to taking on the role. “I was approached by the production. Mike Newell was directing the film that they wanted me to be in … the first time Voldemort was going to appear physically.”
“Out of ignorance I just sort of thought, this isn’t for me,” Fiennes continued. “Quite stupidly I resisted, I was hesitant. I think the clincher was that my sister Martha—who has three children who were then probably about 12, 10, and 8—said, ‘What do you mean? You’ve got to do it!’ So then I rewound my thinking.”
Potterheads everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to Fiennes’s sister—and her kids.