Sir Ian McKellen passed on joining the $25 billion Harry Potter franchise — with good reason.
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The Brit turned down the offer to play Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore after the role’s then-actor Richard Harris died in 2002. (Harris starred in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and its sequel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.)
“When they called me up and said would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films, they didn’t say what part,” McKellen, a.k.a. Lord of the Rings’ Gandalf, said in a recent interview with BBC’s Hardtalk. “I worked out what they were thinking and I couldn’t. I couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I had known didn’t approve of me.”
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Harris had criticized McKellen for being a supposedly passionless performer. “I’ve seen these so-called ‘nice’ actors. Very able fellows like Ian McKellen and Kenneth Branagh,” he had said. “But they’re like bank managers. So sweet and careful. Who needs them?”
With McKellen out of the picture, Michael Gambon stepped up to portray the wizard in the franchise’s remaining six films.
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“When I see the posters of Mike Gambon, who gloriously played Dumbledore, I think sometimes it’s me,” McKellen joked. “We get asked for each other’s autographs.”
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