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Everyone loves a good villain. From TV to movies, audiences are eager to find someone they love to hate, and whose evil deeds are eventually brought to justice by the hero's journey. Although the Harry Potter world's main antagonist is Voldemort himself, there is no lack of evil henchman and side villains. While the more insidious characters like Bellatrix Lestrange and Peter Pettigrew are the first to come to mind, there is also the devilishly perky Dolores Umbridge, who made her debut in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In the film adaptation, Umbridge was played by the incomparable Imelda Staunton, though it appears she didn't exactly love playing the bigoted ministry worker.
Imelda Staunton recently sat down with the good folks over at Entertainment Weekly about her role in the Harry Potter film franchise. In addition to agreeing that Umbridge is a total monster, Staunton revealed her least favorite scene to film. She said the following:
I loved doing it, but I have to say, the most difficult scene to do, which did leave me feeling pretty bad for a couple days, was actually the scene where I make him do the lines and it happens in his hand. That touched into something that you think, 'Gosh, we're all capable of great cruelty.' It was a horrible, horrible feeling.
This sounds about right. Having to torture the likes of Daniel Radcliffe doesn't seem like a walk in the park, especially for a class act like Imelda Staunton.
The scene in question comes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When Dolores Umbridge takes over as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts, she sets up the class of students for a loss. Rather than practical magic and spells, Umbridge only allows the students to study in theory to pass their O.W.L.s. This strikes a cord with the fifth year Harry Potter, as he saw Voldemort rise and kill Cedric Diggory at the Triwizard Tournament. Harry begins to argue with Umbridge, and she assigns him detention.
That's when the crap really hits the fan. Umbridge has Harry write lines that say "I must not tell lies" with a magical quill. His handwriting soon begins carving itself into his hand, in a violent scene which is fairly uncharacteristic for the franchise as a whole. And while Imelda Staunton didn't enjoy acting in the scene, it's one of Dolores Umbridge's most iconic moments. It highlights her willingness to torture and hurt, and shows that Hogwarts isn't so safe anymore.
I'm eager to know what Imelda Staunton thought of Dolores Umbridge returning in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I was personally thrilled to see the villain back in the play, and am eager to see her come to life on the stage. Who knows? Maybe Staunton herself will reprise her role in the play one day.