Harry Potter actor Oliver Phelps has revealed which British actor stole the show in the first ever cast read-through for the wizarding film franchise.
Oliver played George Weasley in the adaptations of JK Rowling’s best-selling children’s books, alongside his twin brother, James, who played Fred.
In 2000, when the siblings were 14, they skipped school in order to open audition for the roles and, six auditions later, were cast in the first film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
They then had the daunting experience of attending the readthrough of the film’s script with the entire cast present, including renowned actors Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Julie Walters and Maggie Smith, whom they said in a new intervie wthey knew at the time “from Sister Act”.
While being interviewed on podcast Inside of You, host Michael Rosenbaum asked the pair: “Who was the one person you were in awe of?”
While Oliver said “there was quite a few”, one actor has lingered in his memory as being particularly friendly.
“I remember the first person who I was sort of wide-eyed, like, ‘Wow,’ and that was, at the read-through.” he said, adding: “I sat down, and sitting next to me was Rik Mayall, who was cast to play Peeves.”
The Young Ones and Bottoms star Mayall filmed scenes as Peeves the Poltergeist, but the character didn’t make it into the films.
Oliver explained that, when he was “growing up”, he viewed Mayall as “a comedy god in terms of acting style – very over-the-top, very in-your-face humour, slapstick.”
The actor recalled Mayall enthusiastically introducing himself to the then-14-year-old, and writing a witty autograph in his book.
“He wrote, ‘Oliver, the best actor,’ he crossed that out, then added: ‘Worked with. Best wishes.’ It was just a real ice-breaker.”
Cementing Mayall as the most memorable star he met that day was his response to a funny line of dialogue Oliver delivered alongside his twin brother. The moment occurred during the scene at King’s Cross, in which they ride their luggage trolleys into Platform 9¾’s to board the Hogwarts Express.
“There’s a line where we have to say, ‘Honestly woman, you call yourself out mother?’ and it was supposed to get a laugh.”
Oliver said that every actor coyly mumbled laughter to themselves, whereas Mayall laughed really loudly.
“It was really over-the-top, which for me was great ‘cause it put me totally at ease [having] someone totally championing your humour.
Mayall died aged 56 in June 2014 after suffering a sudden heart attack.