The role of Albus Dumbledore in the ‘Harry Potter’ series is truly iconic.
Although he did turn out to be a bit reckless and flawed as a person, he is without a doubt still one of the best literary characters ever created. It is a role that many actors could only dream of playing, but one actor did in fact pass up the chance for the role.
As everyone knows, the role of Dumbledore went to Richard Harris for the first two instalments of the film series, and then to Michael Gambon after Harris passed away.
Both actors brought something special to the role. Harris was a more kindly and fatherly Dumbledore, and Gambon gifted us this treasured meme.
The ‘Harry Potter’ film franchise featured the cream of the crop of British character actors – Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Robbie Coltrain (Rubeus Hagrid), Julie Walters (Molly Weasley), the list goes on and on. But one celebrated British actor who is conspicuously missing from the line-up is Sir Ian McKellen.
If you cast your mind back to 2002/2003 when the role of Dumbledore was being recast following Richard Harris’ death, Sir Ian McKellen already had one legendary wizarding role under his belt.
To go from Gandalf to Dumbledore would have been admittedly slightly confusing, but also supremely awesome. And in fact in an interview on BBC’s Hardline, Sir Ian McKellen revealed that he was actually offered the role of Dumbledore before Gambon, but turned it down.
Sir Ian McKellen revealed that it was Richard Harris’ disapproval that led him to make the decision. Harris once described Sir Ian McKellen as “technically brilliant, but passionless”.
Speaking on the BBC, Sir Ian McKellen explains the reason why he passed up the opportunity:
“When he died – he played Dumbledore, the wizard – I played the real wizard (Gandalf in the ‘Lord Of The Rings’) of course – but when they called me up and said would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films, they didn’t say what part. I worked out what they were thinking and I couldn’t. I couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I’d known hadn’t approved of me…
Sometimes when I see posters of Michael Gambon, the actor who gloriously plays Dumbledore, I think it’s me. You know, we get asked for each other’s autographs!”
It’s a great tragedy that Sir Ian McKellen felt he couldn’t play the role of Dumbledore. Although Michael Gambon did a stand up job, we’re sure McKellen would have been epic as well.
Could you have played the role of Dumbledore? Find out by taking the quiz below to see just how similar you are.