Ian McKellen is a movie icon, especially among the geek crowd. McKellen played Magneto, one of the greatest Marvel Comics villains of all time, in the X-Men film franchise. He then went on to play Gandalf, the legendary wizard, in Peter Jackson’s Academy Award-winning film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s seminal Lord of the Rings trilogy of fantasy novels as well as The Hobbit prequel trilogy. With the release of Beauty and the Beast into theaters, McKellen can also add a beloved Disney role, Cogsworth, to his resume.
However, is there is one iconic genre cinema role that McKellen did pass on, that of the Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in the Harry Potter movies. The role originally went to Richard Harris, but the actor died after filming the second Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Warner Bros. was forced to recast the role of Dumbledore and approached McKellen about the idea, but Harris was a known critic of McKellen’s acting abilities, calling him “technically brilliant but passionless.” Despite telling Stephen Sackur, host of BBC’s HARDtalk, that the criticism was “nonsense,” McKellen couldn’t bring himself to take over for an actor he knew didn’t appreciate his work.
“When they called me up and said would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films, they didn’t say in what part,” he said. “I worked out what they were thinking, and I couldn’t… I couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I’d known didn’t approve of me.”
The role ultimately went to Michael Gambon, who played Dumbledore through the remaining six movies in the series. McKellen seems to have no regrets about turning the role down, jokingly saying “I’m the real wizard,” in reference to his time playing Gandalf, though he does admit that, “Well, sometimes, when I see the posters of Mike Gambon, the actor who gloriously plays Dumbledore, I think sometimes it is me.”
In Beauty and the Beast, Belle (Emma Watson), a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) in its castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle's enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast's hideous exterior, allowing her to recognize the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside.
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