If replacing an actor during a shoot is complicated, we can only speculate about what it may be like in the middle of a saga. That was the challenge faced by those responsible for Harry Potter, with Chris Columbus in front, when he died Richard Harris: the poor health of the original interpreter of Albus Dumbledore led to the search for a replacement, who finally had the face of Michael Gambon.
In August 2002, months before the premiere of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harris had been diagnosed with a Hodgkin lymphoma which forced him to be hospitalized immediately. Despite the trance that would take him to the grave, Harris did not lose even his characteristic black humor (when they took him away from the savoy hotel from London, where he lived, he joked that “It was the food!”) nor the hope of reprising the role of Dumbledore.
During his illness, Harris made Chris Columbus promise that he would not look for a replacement for the role of Dumbledore, hoping that his health would allow him to perform in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The actor’s death on September 28 nullified that promise, and forced a search for a new director for the Hogwarts school.
Who could replace Richard Harris?
The first name that was considered for the new Dumbledore was Peter O’Toole, one of Harris’s best friends. However, the protagonist of Lawrence of Arabia He had reservations about replacing his partner. Insurance companies, for their part, were even less clear: O’Toole’s advanced age, as well as the consequences of a very fast-paced lifestyle, made it almost impossible to write a policy for him.
The next candidate was a Ian McKellen who was even more reluctant. Not only because he didn’t like being typecast after having played Gandalf in The Lord of the rings, but also because he and Harris had never gotten along. “I can’t accept the role of an actor who didn’t like my work,” he said.
Sean Connery, Patrick McGoohan and Christopher Lee The next names on the list were not up to the task either. To begin with, Connery had decided to retire after the fiasco of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2003, while the creator of The prisoner and to the unforgettable Dracula of Hammer films were also getting older.
In this way, Michael Gambon seemed the most viable actor for the role: born in 1940, he was ten years younger than Richard Harris, and he had plenty of critical prestige thanks to his work in theater and films such as The cook, the thief, his wife and his lover either Gosford Park. Besides, He was a man who had been happily married since he was 22 years old. without any relation to party animals from the likes of Harris and O’Toole.
Harry and his friends fans discovered the new Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and their impression was almost unanimously positive. So was that of Ian McKellen, who described “glorious” the work of Michael Gambon, and even made jokes about the physical resemblance between the two.
In this way, the Dubliner ended up becoming the most remembered face of Dumbledore, a character he played until the end of the saga, bringing many of his most epic moments to the movies. All this despite the fact that, as he was not shy about stating, he never bothered to read the original novels by JK Rowling.
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