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Columbus spoke to Total Film to mark the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The film – the first big-screen adaptation of the Harry Potter book series – was released on 16 November 2001 in the UK and in the US.
During the conversation, Columbus explained that Williams expressed interest in the role of Lupin, who is introduced in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third instalment in both the book and film series.
However, the “goal” was to have “no American actors” in the franchise, Columbus explained – meaning Williams, a native of Chicago, Illinois, didn’t qualify.
"I had a conversation with Robin Williams, who wanted to play Lupin,” the director said. "It was very difficult for me to say ‘It’s all British. There’s nothing I can do.’”
The role of Lupin eventually went to English actor David Thewlis, who joined the franchise in 2004 in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and reprised the role until the 2011 released of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
Columbus, who is also American, directed the first and second Harry Potter films – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Alfonso Cuarón directed the third instalment, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Mike Newell was behind the fourth film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and David Yates took over for the four remaining movies – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.