The real reason why Ian McKellen turned down the chance to play Dumbledore

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by Hannah Mellin |
Published on

We love Ian McKellen more than we love Harry Styles and cake, so when we found out that he was once offered the role of Dumbledore in Harry Potter, we wanted to know the reason why he turned it down.

And no, it's not because Dumbledore and Gandalf were considered 'rivals' – it's because he though he wasn't good enough to take the role after Richard Harris especially as Harris had previously described McKellen, Derek Jacobi and Kenneth Branagh as 'technically brilliant, but passionate.


Richard Harris famously starred in the first two Harry Potter films before he died in 2002. Producers then had to find a fitting replacement for the role of Dumbledore (pretty big boots to fill, right?).

Ian, 77, recently opened up to Hardline about why he never took on the role – that was filled by the incredible Michael Gambon.

"When he died – he played Dumbledore, the wizard – I played the real wizard [Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy] of course – but when they called me up and said would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films, they didn’t say what part.

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 hadn’t approved of me."


Ian was then asked if he could have been Dumbledore, to which he replied: : “Well sometimes when I see posters of Michael Gambon, the actor who gloriously plays Dumbledore, I think it’s me. You know, we get asked for each other’s autographs!”


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