Ian McKellen is a versatile actor, having appeared in everything from Shakespeare to George Ezra music videos. McKellen solidified himself as a pop culture legend when he took on the role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But there was one role that thespian could never bring himself to take on – that of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series.
What was his row with Richard Harris?
According to McKellen, he had to turn down the role of Dumbledore because of a semi-feud between himself and Richard Harris.
The Dumbledore actor who died in 2002 called him, Derek Jacobi and Kenneth Branagh: “Technically brilliant, but passionless.”
Slate reported the full quote as: “’I’ve seen these so-called ‘nice’ actors. Very able fellows like Ian McKellen and Kenneth Branagh.
“But they’re like bank managers. So sweet and careful. Who needs them?’”
McKellen recalled the moment he was offered the role of Dumbledore after Harris’ death, saying: “When he died, he played Dumbledore the wizard. I played a real wizard.
“When they called me up and said would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films, they wouldn’t say what part but I worked out what they were thinking.”
As for why he turned the role down, he said: “I couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I know disapproved of me.”
The part of Dumbledore was eventually filled by Michael Gambon, who McKellen says performs the part “gloriously.”
Why is Ian McKellen on the Graham Norton show?
McKellen joined Madonna, Danny Boyle, Lily James, and Hemish Patel to discuss his one-man show.
Of his show, McKellen said: “I can reveal it here that I am enjoying it so much that I don’t want to stop so I’m not. I’m going to do it for three months in London.”
At 80, and age which McKellen told Norton is “wonderful”, he is now an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights.
In the same BBC interview in which McKellen discussed his row with Harris, he also talked about his activism.
He said: “Friends now say ‘Will you stop talking about being gay?’ But I do it because for so many years I felt like I couldn’t. So I do it for the kids who feel like they can’t.
“I wasn’t the only one who took a long time. I was only the second person to be knighted who was openly gay.
“I think I probably would have been a better actor younger (if I had come out earlier).
“Life becomes better in every possible way because it’s honest and that clearly affects your work.
“My work deals with the truth of human nature so would have been more convincing.
“Friends and colleagues say overnight my work took on more depth it hadn’t had before.”
Ian McKellen’s one-man show is playing across the UK from now until September 15, 2019.
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