Sir Ian McKellen is an internationally renowned British actor. His filmography is extensive, and his reputation is astonishing. He is the winner of six Laurence Olivier Awards, a Tony Award, A Golden Globe Award, A Screen Actors Guild Award, A BIF Award, two Saturn Awards, four Drama Desk Awards, and two Critics’ Choice Awards.
Not only that, but he has been nominated twice for the Academy Awards, four times for BAFTA and five times for Emmy Awards.
He might’ve been able to add more awards to his extensive list, but Ian McKellen passed on the $25 billion Harry Potter franchise for a surprising reason.
The famous British actor turned down the role of Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, after the role’s actor Richard Harris died in 2002. Harris was the actor who played the role of Dumbledore in the first two movies of the series including The Sorcerers Stone and The Chamber Of Secrets.
In an interview with BBC’s Hardtalk, McKellen admitted that the producers of the Harry Potter series called him initially but didn’t tell him what part he would be playing. When he found out about the role they wanted him to play, he knew in his heart he couldn’t do it.
“I worked out what they were thinking and I couldn’t. I couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I had known didn’t approve of me.”
Allegedly, Harris had some beef with McKellen for being a “passionless performer.”
Harris said “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?”
When McKellen decided not to pursue the role because of the lack of approval from Richard Harris; Michael Gambon stepped up to the plate to portray the wizard in the franchise’s last films.
Ian McKellen joked in an interview that looking at the poster of Gambon playing Dumbledore sometimes makes him think he is looking in a mirror. The actor said, “We get asked for each other’s autographs.”