Shaw, Margolyes, and Fry: the Queers of Potter

Oct 21, 2008

Posted by: abandonedboyjon | Comments


size=”3″>In Queering Potter, I’ve been talking a lot about gay themes and characters within the HP series. This week, I thought I’d blog about the three (that I know of) real-life gay actors who have lent their talents to the movie adaptations of our beloved series: Fiona Shaw (Aunt Petunia), Miriam Margolyes (Professor Sprout), and British edition audiobook performer Stephen Fry.

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size=”3″>Irish actress Fiona Shaw has many claims to fame. She was awarded an honorary Commander of the British Empire in 2001. For her theater work, she has received numerous awards, such as the Laurence Olivier Theater Award, with which she was honored in four different roles, as well as a Tony nod in 2003 for Medea. She graduated and is now an Associate Member of RADA and she routinely makes an appearance on the Pink List (as have Margolyes and Fry), which annually honors Britain‘s finest and most influential gay talents. But perhaps above all that, she has become one of the only Potter actors to look a bit different from her character’s description, and yet still largely win over the fandom as the perfect Petunia Dursley. Equal parts insufferably anti-magic and bitterly jealous of her sister’s place in the Wizarding World, Shaw has been impressive in her ability to layer her performance, even while lacking the information included in The Prince’s Tale. Here she is on the red carpet, discussing that very subject: Fiona discusses Petunia.

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size=”3″>My favorite movie of Shaw’s is definitely My Left Foot, the story of artist Christy Brown (played by Daniel Day-Lewis), who was born with cerebral palsy. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must-rent. Here’s a clip of some of Fiona Shaw’s best turns in the film: Fiona as Dr. Eileen Cole.
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size=”3″>Order of the British Empire and BAFTA recipient Miriam Margolyes has had a varied and colorful career. Being one of Britain‘s premiere funny ladies, she has made numerous appearances on British comedy staple Blackadder and also notably managed to crack up fellow Potter actress and comedian, Dawn French (the second Fat Lady). Here’s a very worthwhile video of that interaction (starts at the 7:40 mark): Miriam and Dawn. Margolyes has also lent her voice talents to several comedic roles in films such as Babe, Happy Feet, and James and the Giant Peach. Her film career doesn’t end there; she has worked with acclaimed director Martin Scorcese, as well as taking on more classic roles (Oliver Twist), as well as modernized classics such as Romeo+Juliet and As You Like It. She is also a success on the stage, having starred in the London production of the immensely popular Wicked. She has recently confirmed her return in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, in which she will hopefully be lobbing Mandrakes over the walls of Hogwarts with Neville. Though an intensely private person, Margolyes is openly gay and has been with her partner for forty years.

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size=”3″>Renaissance man Stephen Fry has given life to JKR’s countless characters for all seven British editions in the Potter series. Fry has always been involved in the Harry Potter phenomenon, having interviewed Jo in the past, and also appearing on documentaries about the series and its author. He has praised this fantastical world for its surprising realism, once telling Jo, “The thing is, you have created a world, it’s the sort of the definition of successful fiction, to have a world that is somehow circumscribed by its own rules, its own ethics, its own cultural flavor, and smell and senses, and you’ve done this, and that’s why it’s very common to hear about children and adults dreaming that they are in Hogwarts, dreaming that they are side by side with Harry and Ron and Hermione and so on.” In case you’ve never heard Fry’s version of Potter, here’s a clip: Weasley is Our King.

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size=”3″ face=”Times New Roman”>Fry often plays gay characters, having portrayed Oscar Wilde and starring as the title character in Peter’s Friends, a film about a man who must tell his close-knit group of friends that he is battling HIV/AIDS. Peter’s Friends was directed by and also starred Kenneth Brannaugh (Professor Lockhart), as well as Imelda Staunton (Professor Umbridge) and Emma Thompson (Professor Trelawny). In 2007, he appeared in Stephen Fry: HIV & Me, a hard-hitting documentary focusing on the spread of HIV in Britain and Africa.

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