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Sir Ian McKellen Reveals The Reason He Turned Down Playing Dumbledore

Mark McGowan

| Last updated 

Sir Ian McKellen Reveals The Reason He Turned Down Playing Dumbledore

Sadly, we'll never have a quintessential answer to Who'd win in a fight between Gandalf and Dumbledore?"

Firstly, they're both from different worlds, meaning they'd never cross paths. Secondly, Dumbledore is dead and Gandalf sailed away to the Undying Lands. And thirdly, this is all completely fictional.

However, let's get it straight here: If we're talking Gandalf the Grey vs Dumbledore, we're probably looking at Dumbledore just coming out on top. However, if we're talking about Gandalf the White vs Dumbledore, old Albus would be down on his knees begging for mercy within seconds. He just wouldn't stand a chance.


As it turns out, the two wizards could have been the same person.

Following Richard Harris' death in 2002, the role for Dumbledore needed to be filled. By this point Sir Ian McKellen had already cemented himself as Gandalf the Grey in The Fellowship of the Ring, and was awaiting the character's return at the end of the year in The Two Towers.

You'd think that already playing one wizard in a mega film series would be enough of a reason to let Michael Gambon take the role in Harry Potter's world, but there was another, fairly emotional reason.

Speaking on the BBC's HARDtalk the 77-year-old revealed that he was called by the producers of Harry Potter and asked if he'd like a part in the film.


Credit: BBC/HARDtalk

Sadly, he turned it down due to the fact that the deceased Harris, who brought the role to life, allegedly expressed homophobic views.

"When he died - he played Dumbledore, the wizard - I played the real wizard of course - but when they called me up and said would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films, they didn't say what part," openly gay McKellen said on the show. "I worked out what they were thinking and I couldn't. I couldn't take over the part from an actor who I'd known hadn't approved of me."


McKellen came out a gay to the general public back in 1988 on a BBC Radio show, and has since been an activist for LGBT rights.

In a statement on his website, he said: "I have been reluctant to lobby on other issues I most care about - nuclear weapons (against), religion (atheist), capital punishment (anti), AIDS (fund-raiser) because I never want to be forever spouting, diluting the impact of addressing my most urgent concern; legal and social equality for gay people worldwide."

The actor is the co-founder of Stonewall, a LGBT rights group, named after the Stonewall riots.


Earlier this year, McKellen and millions of other demonstrators took to the streets for the Women's March in both the USA and the UK.

He was pretty much the star of the show, rocking up to the London march with this amazing sign:

The sign, which has his best pal Sir Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in his famous face-palm meme pose. Perfect.


Taking to his own Twitter, Sir Ian posted a photo of himself with the Picard placard and this message:

"The Women's March in London was the longest I have been on. Unlike most demonstrations it was not commandeered by any one group with its identical posters.

"The women and their allies had devised their own visual protests, hand-written and improvised at home, expressing their personal reaction to the new President, whose name in schoolyard English means 'to break wind' appropriately.

"The placard of Sir Patrick, by the way, was not my own - I found it at then end of the March in Trafalgar Square. But there were hundreds of others, including the other three here.

"President Breaking Wind has impacted us all; and personally. Some like him, think they can identify with him, believe him because they've seen him on television perhaps and think the billionaire and his billionaire team are truly their friends. The rest of us, including the majority of voters in the USA, see through the charade: after all, the schtick is not exactly subtle. But he's riled us, got under our skin, asking us angry and despairing that he should have got through to the final of his show and turned democracy into a TV/Twitter spectacular.

"What will happen? No doubt his believers will soon be disillusioned. The rest of us cannot let him reign unchallenged. The Marches today were a good beginning. Some who fear him say 'give the man a chance', OK - he's started by removing LGBTQ people, climate change and state funding of the arts from POTUS's website. He's had his chance."

What a man.

Featured Image Credit: Newline Cinema/Warner Bros.

Topics: Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings

Mark McGowan
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