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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.

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.

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

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.


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".