Another Harry Potter Star Has Died

Leslie Phillips, who portrayed the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter has passed away.

By Charlene Badasie | Published

Leslie Phillips, known for his work in television and film such as in the Harry Potter franchise as the Sorting Hat, has died at the age of 98. Speaking to Deadline, his agent Jonathan Lloyd said the British actor passed away peacefully in his sleep after struggling with a long illness. The actor rose to prominence in the 50s with a glittering stage and screen career.

Leslie Phillips as the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter

He also appeared in several of the British Carry On comedies of the 20th century and voiced the Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter films. Despite perfecting a persona of an upper-class gent, Leslie Phillips came from a working-class background. So his mother sent him to elocution lessons.

By the time he was 14 years old, his new accent earned him several stage roles, making him the family’s primary breadwinner. Following a stint in the army, Phillips starred in three Carry On films. He became synonymous with the persona he created for his Nurse character as well as the catchphrase “I say, ding dong”.

Leslie Phillips returned to the franchise in 1992 with Carry On Columbus. In an interview with The Guardian in 1999, the actor spoke about his role in the popular British franchise. “In the old days most of the Carry On films would have died a natural death after doing the rounds at the cinemas,” he said.

“But then television came along and they were absolutely flogged to death, all over the world,” he continued in jest. He also starred in the Doctor franchise, succeeding Dirk Bogarde in Doctor in Clover and Doctor in Trouble, and was known for the long-running radio sitcom The Navy Lark. However, Leslie Phillips was not pleased with being purely associated with comedy.

To change his image, the actor took on more dramatic work in the 1980s. This included roles in Out of Africa, Scandal, and Empire of the Sun. He also appeared alongside Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and later lent his voice to three Harry Potter movies.

In the story, the Sorting Hat is a sapient vessel used at Hogwarts which uses Legilimency to determine which house each new student will join for their years at the magical school. Voiced by Leslie Phillips, the vessel resembles an old conical leather wide-brimmed wizard’s hat. Its folds and tears also make it seem like it has a face.

During the opening banquet at the beginning of each school year, the hat is placed on every first-year student’s head. The hat announces its choice aloud and the student in question joins the selected house. The vessel also speaks to the student and takes their preferences into account when it makes its decision. That’s how the hat placed Harry Potter in Gryffindor and not Slytherin.

In the last decade, Leslie Phillips took on fewer roles but impressed critics with his performance opposite Peter O’Toole in Venus. He also starred with Michael Caine in Is There Anybody There? and in several radio dramas based on Doctor Who adventures. The actor was appointed an OBE for his contributions to the British arts in 1998, which was upgraded to a CBE in 2008. He is survived by his third wife, Zara Carr, and four children.