Sir Ian McKellen has done everything from movies to television, from Shakespeare to Peter Pan, and from sci-fi to historical during his 56-year acting career. He’s proven his ability to embody characters time and time again and The BBC has even remarked that his “performances have guaranteed him a place in the canon of English stage and film actors.”
When the first X-Men movie was released in 2000, McKellen shot to geek culture fame as Magneto, leader of The Brotherhood of Mutants, and when The Lord of the Rings movie was released a year later, he cemented his place even further as he took on the role of the iconic wizard from the books, Gandalf the Grey.
However, it might not be as well known that once upon a time, McKellen was offered the chance to play a second powerful and long-beared wizard: Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witcraft and Wizardry and one of the most complicated characters in The Harry Potter series.
In an interview with Stephen Sackur of BBC News, McKellen explained that he personally knew Richard Harris, who originated the role of Albus Dumbledore in the first two movies before sadly passing in 2002. Surprisingly, Harris apparently did not approve of McKellen as an actor. He had once called him “technically brilliant but passionless”, alongside other notable actors of the stage and screen Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jacobi. When Harris died and McKellen got a call from producers discussing him being in the upcoming films, it didn’t take long for him to figure out whom they had in mind for him to play.
“I worked out what they were thinking, and I couldn’t…take over the part from an actor who I’d known didn’t approve of me.”
The role of Dumbledore was eventually given to Michael Gambon who went on to successfully play him for the rest of the franchise.
What do you guys think? Do you wish McKellen had accepted the role? Or did everything work out for the best? Let us know in the comments below!