Ian McKellen Explains Why He Said No To Playing Dumbledore In Harry Potter

Ian McKellen has confirmed what many fans have long believed to be true: he passed on the opportunity to play Dumbledore in Harry Potter because of his feud with Richard Harris.

McKellen's name began floating around after Harris' death following The Chamber of Secrets, but his casting never came to fruition, with Michael Gambon taking on the role instead. Rumor has it that McKellen decided to turn down the role because Harris had critiqued his acting ability, although the going explanation has been that he didn't want to play another wizard after already doing so in the Lord of the Rings franchise. While McKellen had confirmed that Harris' critiques made him shy away from the role, he reaffirmed it in a recent interview with BBC's HARDtalk show, saying that Harris' claims that he was a "technically brilliant, but passionless" actor were "nonsense."

"When they called me up and said, 'would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films,' they didn't say in what part, I worked out what they were thinking, and I couldn't," McKellen said. "I couldn't take over the part from an actor I'd known didn't approve of me." However, he did joke that sometimes when he seems posters of Gambon in the role, he mistakes it for himself. (He has also previously said that many fans make the same mistake.)

McKellen is one of a few actors who turned down the part of Dumbledore following Harris' death, including his Lord of the Rings co-star Christopher Lee. If you want to spend even more time imagining what could have been, take a look at some of the actors who turned down roles in the Harry Potter franchise.