This Legendary Actor Turned Down The Chance To Play Albus Dumbledore Over A Personal Insult

Once most people become adults, they seek out a career that will reward them with a reliable source of income. When it comes to major movie stars, however, there is never any certainty when it comes to their next role. After all, there are many examples of actors whose careers suddenly tanked after a single movie they starred in flopped. On top of that, some stars have destroyed their careers simply by screwing up once.

Related: 15 Actors Whose Careers Flopped After Huge Roles


Given how fragile many movie stars’ careers have turned out to be, it seems clear that actors who still are on the top should make sure to do everything they can to stay in the spotlight. Despite that, nobody can predict which films will become hits all the time so it makes sense that many movie stars have missed out on huge roles. However, as it turns out, one actor turned down the chance to play Albus Dumbledore over an insult even though it was already clear that the Harry Potter movies were huge hits by that point.

Who Played Albus Dumbledore?

Years before Albus Dumbledore ever appeared on the big screen, millions of people had already grown to adore the character thanks to the Harry Potter books. As a result, there was a lot of pressure to find the right person to bring the much-beloved character to life. Thankfully, when it was announced that Richard Harris had been cast as Dumbledore, virtually everyone was happy. After all, Harris was British and that was extremely important to most Harry Potter fans, and he also was an extraordinarily talented actor.

Related: 15 Things That Happened BTS Of Harry Potter After Richard Harris’ Passing

To the great sadness of millions of people, a new actor needed to be cast as Dumbledore after the first two movies. Thankfully, Michael Gambon took over the role and he turned out to be marvelous. On top of that, Gambon managed to make the role of Dumbledore his own which was a really important thing to do if he didn’t want to be endlessly negatively compared to Harris.

After Michael Gambon appeared as Albus Dumbledore in six films, the character needed to be handed off to a new actor for the Fantastic Beasts prequels. Continuing the trend of casting extremely talented actors in the role, Jude Law was hired to play Dumbledore and he has played the character in two movies to date.

Why Ian McKellen Refused To Play Albus Dumbledore

Since the mid-1960s, Ian McKellen has been one of the most successful actors of his generation. After first getting his start as a theater actor, McKellen cemented his legacy as one of the most celebrated stage actors of all time. Far from satisfied with that incredible accomplishment alone, McKellen has gone on to star in an incredibly long list of movies and TV shows.

Related: How Ian McKellen Affected Hugh Jackman’s Acting Career

As of the time of this writing, Ian McKellen has almost 125 credits according to IMDb and some of those roles have been forgettable. However, McKellen also has starred in several movies that almost certainly will ensure that he is fondly remembered decades after he passes away. For example, McKellen headlined franchises like the Lord of the Rings, X-Men, and Hobbit movies as well as stand-alone films like Gods and Monsters, Richard III, Apt Pupil, and many more.

Given everything that Ian McKellen has accomplished during his career, it makes perfect sense that practically everyone in the film industry wants to work with him. However, there is only so much time in the day so it has been necessary for McKellen to pass on lots of roles for various reasons. For example, as it turns out, at one point McKellen was asked to play Albus Dumbledore on the big screen.

In 2001 and 2002, Harry Potter fans all over the world got the chance to see Richard Harris bring Albus Dumbledore to life in the first two films. Sadly, after working on those two films, Harris’ health went downhill and he passed away before the second film in the series was released. At that point, the people behind the Harry Potter film series approached Ian McKellen and asked him to take over portraying Dumbledore but he refused the role.

Given how successful and beloved the Harry Potter movies already were when Ian McKellen refused to join the series, a lot of observers were stunned by his decision. When McKellen was interviewed by the BBC in 2017, his reasoning for turning down the chance to play Dumbledore was explained and it made perfect sense.

Before Richard Harris passed away, he decried Ian McKellen and Kenneth Brannagh as actors, calling them “technically brilliant, but passionless”. As a result, when McKellen was approached about playing Albus Dumbledore he couldn’t do it because Harris previously brought the character to life. “I couldn’t take over the part from an actor I’d known didn’t approve of me.”

Next: 15 Tiny Details About Dumbledore The Harry Potter Films Left Out

Leave a Comment