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Leslie Phillips, actor and voice of the Sorting Hat in ‘Harry Potter,’ dies at 98

A man with gray hair smiling in a suit and holding a red ribbon with a medal around his neck
Actor Leslie Phillips with his CBE, which was given to him by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 2008.
(Fiona Hanson / Associated Press)
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Leslie Phillips, the prolific British actor who voiced the Sorting Hat in the “Harry Potter” movies, died Monday. He was 98.

The performer’s agent, Jonathan Lloyd, confirmed to the Associated Press that he died “peacefully at home.”

Phillips played a relatively small but pivotal role in the blockbuster “Harry Potter” franchise as the Sorting Hat, a magical wizard’s cap that places first-year students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry into their respective houses — Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin. In the first film, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” Phillips’ regal voice booms across Hogwarts’ Great Hall as the titular boy wizard (played by a young Daniel Radcliffe) begs not to be sorted into Slytherin.

“Not Slytherin, eh?” Phillips’ Sorting Hat sneers. “Better be ... Gryffindor!”

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Phillips was also revered for his comedic work in the “Carry On” films in which he delivered exaggerated performances satirizing rich people of England. His “Carry On” characters were known for blurting out suggestive catchphrases such as, “Ding dong,” “Well, hello” and “I say!”

Throughout his career, Phillips appeared in more than 150 film and TV projects. In 2007, he scored a BAFTA nomination for his supporting turn in “Venus,” starring Peter O’Toole. He is most recently credited for the 2012 mystery “After Death” and for reprising his role as the Sorting Hat in the final “Harry Potter” film.

Phillips also had an illustrious stage career and was a member of London’s Royal Shakespeare Company. In 2008, Phillips was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

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“I’ve always been happy. I’ve always enjoyed my work,” Phillips said in an episode of the British talk show “Anderson on the Box.”

“I hate learning [lines], of course … There’s a kind of fear that grows [in your stomach], and it becomes … rather like a journalist, I imagine, having to meet a deadline. You know that if you don’t know your lines, you’re going to walk in front of the audience and make an absolute idiot of yourself. So you actually get on with it. That’s what makes you learn.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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