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Lord of the Rings star was constantly asked for Michael Gambon’s autograph – and he remembers it fondly


Lord of the Rings star Ian McKellen revealed that he and Michael Gambon often got mistaken for each other after both played similar-looking wizard characters.

Legendary actor Sir Michael Gambon has passed away at the age of 82, prompting fans and fellow actors to look back at his glittering career for which he is arguably best known for his portrayal of Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film series. However, Sir Ian McKellen, another actor who played a wizard in a beloved fantasy franchise, The Lord of the Rings, recalls how he and Gambon were often mixed up and asked for each other’s autographs.

Lord of the Rings star recalls being asked for Michael Gambon’s autograph

Speaking to the BBC Hardtalk programme in 2017, Ian McKellen recounted how he and film fans used to confuse himself and Michael Gambon.

“Sometimes when I look at the posters of Michael Gambon, the actor that gloriously plays Dumbledore, I sometimes think it’s me,” McKellen told presenter Stephen Sackur.

As both legendary actors played enigmatic and knowledgeable wizards who both sported long, grey beards, it’s not hard to see how mix-ups may have occurred over the years.

McKellen certainly saw the funny side of the affair and joked that he and Gambon “get asked for each other’s autographs!”

London Evening Standard Theatre Awards - Inside Ceremony
Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

Ian McKellen was considered for the role of Dumbledore

After the passing of Dumbledore’s original actor Richard Harris in 2002, Ian McKellen explained how he was considered to be Harris’s replacement for the role.

But McKellen revealed that he felt he could not possibly take the role owing to previous comments the late Richard Harris had made about him, thus opening the door for Michael Gambon to take on the role of the beloved wizard.

Harris is reported to have called McKellen “technically brilliant, but passionless,” and it was this comment that prompted McKellen to pass on playing Dumbledore.

In the Hardtalk interview, McKellen labelled Harris’s comments as “nonsense” and went on to say: “When he [Richard] died – he played Dumbledore the wizard [while] I played the real wizard [Gandalf], of course – they [the producers] called me up and said, ‘Would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films?’ They didn’t say what part [but] I worked out what they were thinking. I couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I’d known didn’t approve of me.”

Ian McKellen as Gandalf in the Mines of Moria in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
© Warner Bros Pictures | New Line Cinema | YouTube

Michael Gambon’s illustrious career

Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1940, Michael Gambon began his acting career in a 1962 stage production of Othello before going on to make his on-screen debut three years later in a film adaptation of the same play.

What followed was a glittering career that spanned almost six decades and a whopping 172 roles in film and television and countless more on stage.

Gambon is arguably best known for his portrayal of Albus Dumbledore in six of the eight Harry Potter films while other memorable movie roles came in the likes of Gosford Park, the Paddington films, Layer Cake and The King’s Speech among many more.

On the small screen, Gambon appeared in the likes of Fortitude, Doctor Who, Maigret and BAFTA-winning roles in The Singing Detective, Wives and Daughters, Longitude and Perfect Strangers while he also has a corner named after him at Top Gear test track after going through the corner on two wheels during an appearance on the BBC motoring show.

Laurence Olivier was an early mentor of Gambon during his stage career and the Irish actor went on to win the eponymous Olivier Award on three occasions for Best Comedy Performance in A Chorus of Disapproval and Man of the Moment as well as the main Best Actor award for A View from the Bridge.

Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore in his office in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
© Warner Bros Pictures | YouTube

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