In fan circles, it is often speculated why Sir Ian McKellen never took up the mantle - or, in this case, half-moon glasses - of Albus Dumbledore after the death of original actor Richard Harris. And while there have been answers to this age-old question circulating on Reddit and fan blogs for years, McKellen recently addressed the question in an interview with BBC.
In the interview, McKellen alluded to the fact that Harris once famously characterized several other British actors (including McKellen) as "technically brilliant, but passionless." So, when he was unofficially asked to take on the role of Dumbledore after Harris's passing, McKellen felt it would be inappropriate:
"When he died - he played Dumbledore of course, the wizard . . . But when they called me up and they said would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films, they didn't say what part. 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."
While McKellen joked in the same interview that he played the "real wizard" as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, it certainly seems that this move was an act of artistic respect for Harris. Plus, it worked out for us all in the end; McKellen delivered a truly memorable role as Gandalf, and Michael Gambon won hearts as the replacement Dumbledore. No matter what he thought of McKellen in life, we're positive that Harris would approve of the actor's decision.