Actor Michael Gambon, who died at the age of 82 on Thursday, will always be remembered for portraying the iconic character of Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter after the death of legendary actor Richard Harris.
Harris had embodied the much-loved Hogwarts headmaster in the first two Harry Potter movies. After Harris’ death, Sir Ian McKellen was one of the thespians approached to succeed the late actor in the role. However, the award-winning actor rejected the role because he disapproved of Harris, leaving Gambon free don the wizarding hat and join the magical world of Harry Potter.
Gambon not only went onto portray Dumbledore in six of the eight Harry Potter films but did it so successfully that he won high praise for his acting. He first appeared on the big screen for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in 2004.
Prior to Gambon, many other actors had been approached to step into Harris’ shoes, including Sean Connery, Patrick McGoohan, Christopher Lee, and Harry Robinson. However, the reason given by McKellen to turn down the role is perhaps the most interesting one.
During a BBC interview, McKellen revealed that he got a call asking if he would be interested in playing the next Professor Dumbledore. However, Harris had apparently, at the time, made some disparaging comments about him which made him feel uncomfortable in following on Harris’ footsteps.
McKellen recalled that Harris had dubbed himself and fellow actors Derek Jacobi and Kenneth Branagh “technically brilliant, but passionless.” McKellen said that he did not agree with Harris’ comments at the time as he branded the criticism “nonsense”. As a result, the Lord of the Rings actor admitted it wouldn’t feel right following in the late actor’s footsteps.
“I couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I’d known didn’t approve of me,” McKellen declared.
Upon Gambon’s death, a statement was issued by his publicist Clair Dobbs on behalf of his wife, which said, “We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon. Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia. Michael was 82. We ask that you respect our privacy at this painful time and thank you for your messages of support and love.”