Why Sir Ian McKellen Turned Down The Chance To Play Dumbledore In Harry Potter

Hint: It might involve a Gandalf-Dumbledore rivalry

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When actor Richard Harris passed away in 2002, after starring as Dumbledore in The Philosopher's Stone And The Chamber of Secrets, Sir Ian McKellen was tipped to be in the running to succeed the iconic Harry Potter role.

Yet when Sir Ian, aka Gandalf, was asked if he was interested in taking over as the headmaster of Hogwarts, he turned it down. Now, the Lord Of The Rings actor has discussed the reason why.

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In a recent interview, he said that he was put off from taking the part as he thought Richard, who reportedly once described Sir Ian as "technically brilliant, but passionless," wasn't his biggest fan.

Speaking to the BBC's HARDTalk, Sir Ian explained: "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," the actor said. "I couldn't take over the part from an actor who I know disapproved of me."

Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf
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Michael Gambon went on to play Dumbledore in all the remaining films, which has caused confusion for both Harry Potter fans and Sir Ian himself ever since. "Sometimes when I look at the posters of Michael Gambon, the actor that gloriously plays Dumbledore, I sometimes think it's me," he added. "You know, we get asked for each other's autographs!"

Still, he will always be rooting for the great wizard. In a 2007 interview with the Guardian, he was asked who would "win in a ruck" between Dumbledore and Old Greybeard.

"Gandalf. Of course," he said. "People say to me, don't you wish you'd played Dumbledore? I say no! I played Gandalf! The original."

Harry Potter fans, you've been told.