Ian McKellen Explains Why He Turned Down Playing Dumbledore In The ‘Harry Potter’ Films

Sir Ian McKellen is British and dignified (that’s British for “old”) — therefore, he was offered the chance to play Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film franchise after the original Dumbledore, Richard Harris, passed away following Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Of course, by the time Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban came out, McKellen was already playing another wizard: Gandalf the Grey in The Lord of the Rings. That’s one reason he turned the part down. The other? He didn’t get along with Harris.

McKellen told BBC’s HARDtalk that when Harris died, “he played Dumbledore, the wizard, [and] I played the real wizard, of course.” Shots fired. But the feud goes beyond dueling white beards. “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,” McKellen explained. “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.” Harris called McKellen, as well as fellow thespians (that’s British for “actor”) Derek Jacobi and Kenneth Branagh, “technically brilliant, but passionless.” That comment stuck with McKellen, and he passed on the role.

“Sometimes, when I see the posters of Mike Gambon, the actor who gloriously plays Dumbledore,” the X-Men star added, “I think sometimes it is me.” And when he sees Voldemort, maybe he thinks of his bald BFF Patrick Stewart.

(Via Entertainment Weekly)