We were saddened to learn of the passing of British comedian Rik Mayall yesterday. He’s probably best known to American audiences as Fred, the trouble-making imaginary friend of Phoebe Cates in Drop Dead Fred. While it may be old news for Harry Potter-philes, we just found out the actor was set to play poltergeist Peeves in the film adaptations. So why didn’t it happen?
“A long while ago, all the kids at my kids’ school were saying “Hello Rik, have you read Harry Potter? It’s fantastic.” I’d go “what?”
“My agent said, “Hey Rik, you want to be in Harry Potter?”
“I said, “What, is it a book?”
“He said, “It’s a film.”
“I said, “Ah, it’s my favourite book, course I want to be in it.”
“I’d never read a word. He said: “Alright, you’re in it.”
So he did it. He filmed in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone but…
I got sent off the set because every time I tried to do a bit of acting, all the lads who were playing the school kids kept getting the giggles, they kept corpsing, so they threw me off.
Well, they asked me to do it with my back to them and they still laughed. So they asked me to do it around the other side of the cathedral and shout my lines, but they still laughed so they said they’d do my lines with someone else.
It would have made for a far better story if Mayall was cut simply because he was too funny, but as Yahoo points out, director Chris Columbus went on record to say they thought they could do better with the look of the character. Mayall was only “in the film” for all of three weeks but he neglected to tell his children he’d been cut until later.
“I hadn’t told my kids I wasn’t in it yet, and they came back and they said, ‘Bloody good make up. You didn’t look like yourself at all dad,'” he said, “They thought I was playing Hagrid, Robbie Coltrane’s part.”
Out of all the side stories left out of the Harry Potter films, Peeves was one I missed the most so it’s unfortunate to hear we were so close. Also unfortunate? Though there have been several Harry Potter DVD releases, including many “special editions,” Mayall’s scenes have never been included.