Robert Hardy, Cornelius Fudge in ‘Harry Potter’ films, dies at 91

Robert Hardy (third from left) as Cornelius Fudge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Robert Hardy (third from left) as Cornelius Fudge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Image: Warner Bros.

British actor Robert Hardy, best known for playing Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter movies and Siegfried Farnon in the All Creatures Great and Small TV series, has died. He was 91.

Hardy’s family announced his passing in a statement today, writing, “Gruff, elegant, twinkly, and always dignified, he is celebrated by all who knew him and loved him, and everyone who enjoyed his work.”

Although Harry Potter was the role that made him famous to a whole new generation of fans, Hardy’s career spanned seven decades in theater, television, and film. As a young man, he attended Magdalen College, Oxford University, studying under the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, before he away to serve in the Royal Air Force. (He later returned to complete his degree.)

Hardy began his acting career in his 20s, joining the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1949. He crossed over to television just a few years later. In 1978, began the role that would become one of his most beloved, in the BBC drama All Creatures Great and Small. He stuck with the part in 90 episodes over the next twelve years, per the BBC. Meanwhile, he was also building up a career in film, starting with his cinematic debut in 1958’s Torpedo Run

In 1981, Hardy took on what would become another signature role – that of Winston Churchill in the miniseries Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years. He’d play Churchill three more times before the decade was out, and then twice more in the new millennium. His last Churchill performance was in 2015’s Churchill: 100 Days that Saved Britain

Younger generations, though, likely recognize him as Cornelius Fudge. Hardy portrayed the oblivious and ineffectual Minister of Magic in four movies, starting with 2002’s Chamber of Secrets and running through 2007’s Order of the Phoenix. To quote Pottermore:

Hardy knew how to play leaders; he knew what made them tick, what made them both authoritative and vulnerable. It was just a case of adjusting the balance. Through body language alone, it’s clear to see with Fudge: the way Hardy articulates the minister’s carefully honed insincerity, the way he exudes stubbornness and pig-headed hostility, the way his voices crackles under pressure and fear. Hardy took a largely unsympathetic politician and gave him humanity and depth, and hints of a larger story beyond the facade.

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