By MICHAEL HINMAN
Soon after actor Richard Harris died, there was a lot of talk that Ian McKellen -- another premier British actor -- could take over the role of Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films.
For McKellen, however, it was never an option.
"People say to me, 'Don't you wish you'd played Dumbledore? I say, 'No!' I played Gandalf. The original."
McKellen shared those comments with Ireland Online about this character from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But McKellen's refusal to take on the role seemed to have more to do than simply what character from which franchise was superior.
McKellen -- who also is known to genre fans for playing Magneto in the X-Men film series -- said a lot of his refusal to take on the Dumbledore role was personal against Harris, who died in 2002.
"There was a question as to whether I might take over from Richard Harris, but seeing as one of the last things he did publicly was say what a dreadful actor he thought I was, it would not have been appropriate for me to take over his part," McKellen said. "It would have been unfair."
Harris was instead replaced by virtually unknown actor (in the United Sttes, at least) Michael Gambon, who has received mixed reviews for his portrayal of the master wizard. Gambon's casting was more about his likeness to Harris than acting, according to some people close to the production of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" in 2004. However, Gambon is a celebrated stage actor and has won several awards for his work over the decades.
Production is underway for the fifth film, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," which is gearing up for a Nov. 21, 2008 release.
The "dreadful" McKellen can be heard in the upcoming "The Golden Compass," as the voice of Iorek Byrnison. That film opens Dec. 7.
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