For those Potter fans who can still vividly recall Jason Isaacs’ diabolically regal performances as Lucius Malfoy in 2002′s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, it is truly shocking to see the character so grubby and broken down in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1. And Isaacs could not be happier about it. “One of the great privileges of being in the Harry Potter films for me is I’ve actually got to have a journey,” says the actor, 47. “Lucius has gone from being the most entitled, obnoxious, racist pig to a broken, emasculated shadow of a man — and that’s a fun thing for an actor to do.”
But how did Isaacs first decide to create Lucius’ rather unique bearing and haughty inflection? Blame Alan Rickman. “I got the part, and I thought, ‘I’d better watch what the first one was like,’” says Isaacs. “And then I realized to my horror that Alan Rickman was in the first film, and utterly brilliant. Nobody does sinister like Alan Rickman. I thought, ‘If I’m going to do something, it’d better be unbelievably extreme.’”
First up: Malfoy’s appearance.
“I went to the set, and they had this idea of me wearing a pinstripe suit, short black-and-white hair,” Isaacs recalls. “I was slightly horrified. He was a racist, a eugenicist. There’s no way he would cut his hair like a Muggle, or dress like a Muggle.” So Isaacs suggested instead that he wear a long white wig, and a particularly ostentatious wizard-like ensemble. “In order to keep the hair straight, I had to tip my head back, so I was looking down my nose at everyone. There was 50 percent of the character. I asked for a walking stick, which [Chamber of Secrets director] Chris Columbus first thought was because I had something wrong with my leg. I explained I wanted it as an affectation so I can pull my wand out [of the cane]. After a second’s thought, he said, ‘You know what, I think the toy guys are going to love you.’ He was completely right.”