Ian McKellen is well known for playing one of literature’s most famous wizards in the Lord Of The Rings movies, but he recently revealed on BBC’s HardTalk that he actually had an opportunity a few years ago to play a different famous wizard in the Harry Potter movies. This goes back to 2002, when original Dumbledore actor Richard Harris died. Scrambling to find another person who could believably portray an elderly Englishman with magic powers, the studio apparently turned to McKellen—who had appeared in Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship Of The Ring about a year prior. McKellen refused to take on the role, though, but it actually has nothing to do with him not wanting to suddenly be typecast as a guy who only plays elderly Englishmen with magic powers.
As it turns out, Harris had been kind of a jerk to McKellen in the past, referring to him, Derek Jacobi, and Kenneth Branagh as “technically brilliant but passionless” in their acting work. So when the Harry Potter people contacted McKellen after Harris’ death, he decided to turn them down. “I couldn’t take over the part from an actor I’d known didn’t approve of me,” McKellen said.
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