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“It would have been unfair”: Sir Ian McKellen Refused Dumbledore Role After Being Called ‘Dreadful Actor’ by Harry Potter Star

sir ian mckellen and dumbledore

The passing of Richard Harris, who portrayed Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film series, left a gaping hole in a world where iconic characters often transcend actors. Many people wondered who would replace Professor McGonagall as headmaster of Hogwarts. The great Sir Ian McKellen sprang to mind immediately.

Nonetheless, McKellen made a decision that went against expectations and ultimately decided not to play Dumbledore in the film adaptation. Some may have expected a simple response or a yearning for fresh challenges, but McKellen’s reasoning was more nuanced and impressive. It came from a genuine respect for his fellow actors and a strong commitment to artistic integrity.

Ian McKellen’s Wizardly Dilemma: Gandalf vs. Dumbledore

Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen

Ian McKellen’s honesty was displayed when asked if he wished he’d played Dumbledore instead of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings franchise. McKellen stated that he turned down the part because he feared being typecast or repeating himself after having previously played a wise and powerful wizard.

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The dedication and enthusiasm that he has shown throughout his successful career were on full display in his pursuit of new roles and personal growth. But another, more personal factor contributed to McKellen’s choice, which spoke to his exceptional character and regards for his contemporaries.

Ian McKellan as Gandalf
Ian McKellen as Gandalf

The renowned actor admitted that a comment made by Richard Harris before his death made it clear that he wasn’t the right choice to play Albus Dumbledore in the films. Harris had previously been heard deriding McKellen in public, even going so far as to call him a “dreadful actor.”

“Seeing as one of the last things [Harris] did publicly was say what a dreadful actor he thought I was, it would not have been appropriate for me to take over his part. It would have been unfair.”

While it’s not unusual for actors to have differing opinions, Harris’ public criticism and the proximity to his death made the situation more delicate than usual. By declining the role of Dumbledore under those conditions,

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Michael Gambon Added His Own Charm

Michael Gambon as Dumbledore
Michael Gambon as Dumbledore

After Sir Ian McKellen’s classy exit, another talented actor, Michael Gambon, was entrusted with continuing the legacy of Albus Dumbledore. Gambon gave Dumbledore his own charisma and charm with his interpretation of the role.

Fans loved Gambon’s performance, but with McKellen’s ability to give depth to even the flattest characters, it’s impossible not to imagine him in the part. However, his decision highlighted the value of integrity, honesty, and treating one’s colleagues with respect.

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Sir Ian McKellen’s refusal to take on the role of Albus Dumbledore was not driven by ego or personal grudges but rather by a deep sense of integrity. By declining the opportunity to portray Dumbledore, McKellen ultimately respected his fellow actors and displayed his commitment to preserving the legacy of Richard Harris.

Source: Vanity Fair

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Written by Mabel Andrady

Mabel, aka MJ, is a FandomWire Sr. Writer, pop-culture fanatic, and an MA in Health Demography holder. When she's not indulging in her guilty pleasure of penning everything Hollywood, Marvel & DC, she writes academic essays on COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS. With 2500+ articles published online, she brings a unique twist to entertainment writing. A jack-of-all-trades, MJ enjoys movies, writes/acts in plays, writes music, and dreams of being a successful actress. She offers a fresh perspective, making her writing a must-read for those seeking knowledge and entertainment.