‘Harry Potter’: She’s Unpretty in Pink

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April 16, 2007 issue – The first female villain hits Hogwarts in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Imelda Staunton, Oscar-nominated for “Vera Drake,” plays Dolores Umbridge, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. A year before Staunton got the part, a friend suggested she would be perfect for it. “I read the book, and Umbridge is described as a short, ugly, toadlike woman,” Staunton says. “I thought, ‘Oh, thanks very much’.” Staunton plays her as an apple-cheeked schoolmarm—drenched in pink angora—who is restricting freedoms (and free thought) to “protect” the students. “There can’t be any mess or any individuality,” Staunton says. “But, of course, that leads to brainwashed people.”  TO SEE PREVIEW VIDEO – KEEP READING THE ENTRY

With this film, Staunton joins a long list of British luminaries who have starred in the “Potter” films, including Dame Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh. “Every great British actor is either in the movies or desperate to get into them,” says Jason Isaacs, who plays Lucius Malfoy. “It’s a real badge of honor.” The set can feel like a game of six degrees of separation. “You either know somebody, or you know somebody who slept with them,” Isaacs says. Still, the roles are no joke. “You may think that it’s just a bunch of wand-waving, but there’s a lot of proper acting going on,” Staunton says. Emma Watson, who plays Hermione, has decided to continue that proper acting in the final two films. She told NEWSWEEK last fall that she was unsure she would stay past “Phoenix.” “She’s a very considered young lady trying to figure out what the next three years of her life are going to be,” says producer David Heyman. “Clearly, we wanted her back, but it was important that she make this decision for herself without any undue pressure.” There was enough pressure already.

—Sean Smith




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