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Ian McKellen Has Revealed Why He Turned Down The Role Of Dumbledore

"I couldn't take over the part from an actor who I know disapproved of me."

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If you're a fan of Harry Potter, you know that in the first two movies the character of Albus Dumbledore was played perfectly by Richard Harris.

After Harris died in October 2002 – in between filming ending on Chamber of Secrets and starting on Prisoner of Azkaban – Dumbledore was recast. He was played by Michael Gambon for the remaining six films.
Warner Bros.

After Harris died in October 2002 – in between filming ending on Chamber of Secrets and starting on Prisoner of Azkaban – Dumbledore was recast. He was played by Michael Gambon for the remaining six films.

Some fans have issues with the way Gambon portrayed the characteristically wise and gentle Dumbledore – to be fair, Richard Harris was perfect, and it was a tough act to follow.

(Although he didn't help himself when he admitted to having not read the books.)
Warner Bros.

(Although he didn't help himself when he admitted to having not read the books.)

And ever since, fans have speculated over who ~should~ have played Dumbledore after Harris's death. One incredibly popular suggestion is Sir Ian McKellen.

It seemed like an obvious choice: He's one of Britain's finest actors, has experience playing the wise wizard Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, and has even been mistaken for the actor who did play Dumbledore in public.
New Line Cinema

It seemed like an obvious choice: He's one of Britain's finest actors, has experience playing the wise wizard Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, and has even been mistaken for the actor who did play Dumbledore in public.

But now McKellen has revealed that he actually was approached to play Dumbledore after Harris's death, and turned down the role – but not because he didn't want it.

Mike Coppola / Getty Images

In an interview on the BBC's Hard Talk, McKellen opened up about the experience and explained why he wouldn't take the role.

When they called me up and said would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films, they wouldn't say what part but I worked out what they were thinking. I couldn't take over the part from an actor who I know disapproved of me.

So it's not that he wasn't interested – it's that he didn't think Richard Harris approved of him as an actor. Apparently Harris had previously called him "technically brilliant, but passionless".

Warner Bros.

"Sometimes, when I see the posters of Mike Gambon, the actor who gloriously plays Dumbledore, I think sometimes it is me," McKellen continued.

Warner Bros. / New Line Cinema

Let's be honest, though: Ian McKellen would've made a perfect Dumbledore. 💖⚡️

New Line Cinema / giphy.com