Ian McKellen reveals why he didn't want to play Dumbledore in 'Harry Potter'

McKellen could’ve doubled up on his famous wizarding roles.
Image: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock/warner bros./mashable composite

If you were making a league table of famous fictional wizards, Dumbledore and Gandalf would probably be pretty big contenders for the top spot.

So why, after actor Richard Harris passed away in 2002 after filming the first two Harry Potter films, was Ian McKellen (a.k.a. Gandalf) not considered to replace him?

Well, it turns out he was.

During a recent interview on the BBC’s HARDTalk show, McKellen explained that he was actually contacted about appearing in the franchise — but he said no.

While talking about McKellen’s critics, interviewer Stephen Sackur recited a quote from Richard Harris about McKellen and some other actors. Apparently Harris had previously described him as “technically brilliant but passionless.”

“Yeah,” responded McKellen. “Nonsense.”

McKellen then went on to describe the phone call he received about Harry Potter after Harris had passed away.

“When they called me up and said would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films, they didn’t say in what part,” he said. 

“I couldn’t…”

“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 didn’t approve of me.”

“You mean you could’ve been Dumbledore?” responded Sackur.

“Well sometimes, when I see the posters of Mike Gambon, the actor who gloriously plays Dumbledore, I think sometimes it is me,” joked McKellen in response.

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