Richard Harris is popularly known for his character in the first two parts of the Harry Potter movie series. He plays the role of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, the headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But did you know that Harris did not want to take the role at first? Why did he change his mind?
Richard Harris did not want to portray Dumbledore due to his declining health. But his granddaughter, who was a fan of Rowling’s work, threatened to never speak to him again if he did not take it.
Who is Richard Harris?
Richard St. John Francis Harris was born on October 1, 1930, in Limerick, Ireland. His family lived in Overdale, a rather tall and elegant house with nine bedrooms and a grand drawing-room. He was educated by Jesuit priests at the Cresent College and played rugby. Harris was part of teams that represented Cresent and also played for Garryowen. Unfortunately, after contracting tuberculosis, his athletic career ended.
After his recovery, Harris moved to England to become a director. He could not find suitable training courses and decided to enroll in the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) to learn acting. After completing his studies in LAMDA, he joined Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop. Harris made his film debut in 1959 in the movie Alive and Kicking.
Harris married Elizabeth Rees-Williams in 1957. They had three children, Jared, Jamie, and Damian, who are now part of the entertainment industry as actors and directors. The two ended their marriage in 1969, and Harris remarried in 1982.
What Convinced Harris to Play the Role of Albus Dumbledore?
Before actually saying yes to the role of Hogwarts’ headmaster, Harris admitted that he was pretty hesitant at first due to his declining health.
I was asked about the part of Dumbledore, and I wasn’t going to do it for various reasons. Then my granddaughter Ellie telephoned me and said, ‘Papa, if you don’t play Dumbledore, I will never speak to you again!’ So I didn’t have much choice in it.Richard Harris
In an interview, he also explained how playing Dumbledore was one of the most challenging parts he has taken. Although he appreciated the experience, he also built a meaningful relationship with the younger cast members. With Rupert Grint, especially.
Dumbledore’s presence is right through the books even though you don’t see that much of him. He’s a very important figure in the stories, and I needed to find a rhythm and a meter in this beautifully written dialogue in order to be able to play the part. Chris Columbus had asked me to come out to the studio to meet the young cast, and I came out to read with them. When I finished the reading, the little boy playing Ron Weasley turned to me and said, ‘Mr. Harris, that was quite a good reading. I think you’ll be quite good in this part!’ It’s that kind of magic that is everywhere in this film.Richard Harris
(Source: Screen Rant)
Why Was Richard Harris Not Cast in the Remaining Films?
Two weeks before the premiere of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the United States, Richard Harris passed away at the age of 72. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in August 2002 after being hospitalized for pneumonia. He died at the University College Hospital in Bloomsbury, London, on October 25 of the same year.
Harris was then replaced by another Irish-born actor, Michael Gambon. (Source: The Telegraph)