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Saturday, 26 October, 2002, 00:02 GMT 01:02 UK
Actor Richard Harris dies
Richard Harris
Harris had been expected to rejoin the Harry Potter cast
Celebrated actor Richard Harris has died following a fight against cancer, his family has confirmed.

The Irish screen veteran, 72, had been undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease, after falling ill two months ago.


He was an extraordinary man, a great storyteller

Michael Parkinson

His death was announced by sons Damian, Jarid and Jamie who said their "beloved father" had passed away peacefully at University College Hospital, London, at 1900 BST on Friday.

Harris, already a renowned actor, became known to a new generation of film fans through his role as Professor Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - the first movie based on JK Rowling's tales of the boy wizard.

He had just finished work on the second Harry Potter movie, Chamber of Secrets, when he became ill this summer.

Harris had expected to be discharged in time to work on the third Potter film, The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Richard Harris
Harris played 150-year-old Dumbledore

Film director Michael Winner said: "The lights have dimmed a lot with his passing.

"He was my neighbour for ten years, and he was the most wonderful, warm character."

Chat show host Michael Parkinson - who interviewed Harris three times - said: "He was an extraordinary man, a great storyteller, very intelligent."

Hodgkin's disease - a form of cancer that affects the lymph glands - was diagnosed when Harris went into hospital with a severe chest infection in August.

Only a few weeks ago his agent, Sharon Thomas, told BBC News Online he was "responding well to treatment".

Seven-film contract

Harris built his reputation on his commanding performances in films such as A Man Called Horse and This Sporting Life.

He was twice nominated for Oscars for This Sporting Life and The Field and was also recently nominated for a British Independent Film award for his performance as the leader of a Liverpool crime syndicate in My Kingdom.

However, he was also renowned for his hellraiser lifestyle and heavy drinking.

He admitted his wayward nature almost lost him the role of Harry Potter's wise old wizard headmaster.

He and the rest of the cast were asked to sign up for a seven-movie deal - the number of books JK Rowling has always said she intended to write.

"The thought of doing seven films was intimidating," he said at the time.

"I'm rebellious by nature and felt it could be rather difficult to handle."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Chris Jones
"Harris said that even as a child he was excessively wild"
John Marriot, film critic
"He was one of the greats"
Damon Wise, Empire magazine
"He was always better than the films he wa in"

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See also:

13 May 99 | Entertainment
09 Feb 99 | Medical notes
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