Ian McKellen appeared on the BBC show HARDtalk for an interview, and during the interview, he explained why he turned down the role of Albus Dumbledore in the “Harry Potterfilm franchise (which probably would’ve paid a lot of money) after Richard Harris, the original actor to take on the role, died in 2002 between filming “Chamber of Secrets” and “Prisoner of Azkaban,” leaving the crew in a bit of a sticky situation.

It was because Harris didn’t like McKellen as an actor

McKellen explained that he couldn’t play Dumbledore after Richard Harris had played him because he knew Harris didn’t think he was a good actor or respect him as a performer.

He must’ve been insane to think that, of course, because this is Ian McKellen we’re talking about, but McKellen says that Harris had called his, Derek Jacobi, and Kenneth Branagh’s acting abilities as “technically brilliant, but passionless.” It’s ridiculous, right? This is Ian McKellen, he has passion in spades. But anyway, knowing that this is what Harris thought of him, McKellen could not take on the role.

But it wasn’t like a “hah-hah, you’re dead and now they can’t fill the role because I say no” kind of pseudo-revenge, because McKellen’s better than that. He simply explained, “I couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I’d known didn’t approve of me.” It was out of respect for Harris that he couldn’t fill his Dumbledore shoes, because he knew that if he was alive to see McKellen take his most famous role, he’d hate it, and he might even die all over again.

McKellen says Michael Gambon did a great job

McKellen had some extremely kind words for Michael Gambon’s performance. Gambon is the actor who was eventually given Harris’ role as Dumbledore and continued to portray him for the next six “Harry Potter” films. McKellen called Gambon’s performance in the role of Dumbledore glorious, and praised him for doing such a great job.

“Lord of the Rings” star McKellen has previously said that he does not regret turning down the part of Dumbledore, and that he got an even better role as “the superior wizard” in his defining role as Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s immensely popular Middle-earth movies adapted from JRR Tolkien’s work. McKellen wrote on his website that when Harris derided him and the other actors as “passionless,” he may have been “a little upset” that he got to play a better wizard character than him.

From 3 July to 9 July, McKellen will be reprising his role as Gandalf for a one-man charity performance at London’s Park Theatre, which surprised and delighted fans upon announcement.