Ian McKellen may be best known for his role as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and for his portrayal of Magneto in the X-Men films, but the 77-year-old actor could have scored the acting hat trick if he had accepted the invitation to play Dumblebore in the Harry Potter films.
Following the death of the original Dumbledore, Richard Harris, in 2002, the filmmakers were looking for someone to take over the iconic role, starting with the third movie in the series, Prisoner of Azkaban. As we all know, it ended up being Michael Gambon who donned the robes and the impressive beard. However, McKellen was approached to play the part but ultimately turned it down, and his reasoning may not be what you might expect.
McKellen specifically turned down the role of Dumbledore because Harris had once criticized McKellen’s acting, calling it “technically brilliant, but passionless.”
“When [Harris] died – he played Dumbledore, the wizard [while] I played the real wizard [Gandalf], of course – [the producers] called me up and said would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films, they didn’t say what part. But I worked out what they were thinking. I couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I know disapproved of me.”
Because of past criticism, McKellen didn’t take up the mantle and continued lending his voice to Gandalf over a series of videogames while continuing on in the role of Magneto.
However, despite the fact he turned down a role in Harry Potter, some fans still mistake him for Michael Gambon, for Dumbledore.
“Sometimes when I look at the posters of Michael Gambon, the actor that gloriously plays Dumbledore, I sometimes think it’s me. You know, we get asked for each other’s autographs!”
Ian McKellen is currently lending his voice to Cogsworth in Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast remake, which is in theaters now.