Harry Potter will undoubtedly go down in the history books as one of the most successful and famous children's book and film series of all time. These stories captured the minds and hearts of a generation, and people young, old, and anywhere in between became superfans of the breathtaking saga. When Harry Potter first started gaining steam, though, no-one could have fathomed how successful both the books and the films would end up being.
Albus Dumbledore is one of the most iconic characters in literature already, and when it came to adapting the Harry Potter books to the screen, finding the perfect Albus Dumbledore was no easy task. However, lightning managed to strike twice, as both actors who played the role did a wonderful job and made Albus uniquely their own. So, here are five reasons why Michael Gambon was the best Dumbledore, and five reasons why Richard Harris was the perfect Albus.
10 Michael Gambon: Trained Under Laurence Olivier
Let's be clear, Richard Harris is absolutely no slouch when it comes to his acting training either. His legendary career speaks for itself. It's just that, when it comes to understanding and learning the craft of acting, there is legitimately no film actor who can come close to Laurence Olivier.
Olivier recruited him for the National Theatre Company (which Olivier himself had only recently created at the time). From humble beginnings there, Michael Gambon has gone on to win dozens of acting awards over the course of his career, ironically including three Olivier Awards.
9 Richard Harris: His Childlike Wonder
Albus Dumbledore is a character with a lot of depth and complexity to him, and it was always up to the individual actor how they wanted to present parts of his personality. What made Richard Harris stand out in his performance of Dumbledore was his demeanor.
Richard Harris made a perfect Dumbledore in the early years of Harry Potter because, despite the fact that he is outfitted and made up to look absolutely ancient, he still seems like someone who looks at the world with a sense of childlike wonder and excitement. This was ideal for relating to young Harry.
8 Michael Gambon: Brings The Playfulness That Dumbledore Needed
This feels like a kind of weird way to describe Michael Gambon's Dumbledore (because Dumbledore is a character that no-one would ever think of as edgy) but somehow Michael Gambon managed to make him feel that way. Richard Harris brought a gentle playfulness to his version of Dumbledore, but Gambon made Albus feel like more of a rebel.
Dumbledore may be the headmaster of the school, but it's also one of the strangest and most free-wheeling schools that anyone has ever seen. It made a lot of sense for Dumbledore to be much more lax and seem like he was even in on the fun sometimes.
7 Richard Harris: Brings The Kindness That Dumbledore Needed
Albus Dumbledore may be one of the most powerful and skilled wizards who ever lived, but he is also the headmaster of a school that teaches young children all the way up to teenagers. We all know that Dumbledore has a lot of wizard street cred and can absolutely throw down with the best of them, but Richard Harris had a face and demeanor that made everyone truly feel like he wouldn't ever hurt a fly.
He absolutely seemed like the kind of person who children would meet and have full trust and faith in right off the bat, which worked very well for the character.
6 Michael Gambon: Badass Enough For Dumbledore
So, one of the things that everyone knows about Dumbledore is that, although he would never use his magic on students and seldom uses his magic in school, he has gone toe-to-toe with the strongest and most dangerous dark wizards in the world.
Michael Gambon makes the audience believe that all of this is true. Dumbledore is an older man now, but Michael Gambon allows the audience to see what kind of fights he must have gotten into as a young man, as well as see that he still has that fighting spirit in him.
5 Richard Harris: He Made Dumbledore Feel Timeless
One of the brilliant things about Richard Harris is that his version of Dumbledore almost feels removed from reality. He looks perfect in his role as the wizened wizard, and if you told anyone that he was a hundred years old, or even a thousand years old, it wouldn't be hard to believe.
Dumbledore is a real man but he is also a legend, and Richard Harris really looked like the kind of legendary character who separates himself from the crowd and cements his legacy as one of the most exceptional wizards in history.
4 Michael Gambon: You Could See The Young Dumbledore In Him
Dumbledore may quite literally be a wizened wizard, but what makes Michael Gambon's performance so compelling is that he has the kind of attitude and spring in his step that allows him to perfectly blend in with the tweens and teens that are in his charge.
This Dumbledore felt relatable, he felt like someone who had made mistakes and who will probably make more. In the early years of Harry Potter, Harry saw Dumbledore as a kind of infallible mythic figure, so Michael Gambon's ability to humanize him and make him feel more down to earth was just what Dumbledore needed.
3 Richard Harris: He Felt Like A Real Teacher
In all fairness, it's not that difficult to manipulate ten-year-olds. But Richard Harris' version of Albus seemed like the kind of man who saw what was happening with his students, could sometimes foresee mistakes being made, but who would let those mistakes happen if it provided an opportunity to teach that student a valuable lesson.
Michael Gambon's Dumbledore felt a little cooler and a little more like someone that kids would be able to relate to, but Richard's ability to make his relationships in the film really feel like relationships between a teacher and a student was fantastic.
2 Michael Gambon: He Wasn't Afraid Of The Role
Given what a renowned and skilled actor Michael Gambon is, his humble nature and ability to underplay his achievements is pretty impressive. Taking over the role of Albus Dumbledore is something that most actors would find intimidating under any circumstance, but when Richard Harris had already successfully played Dumbledore and when it was clear how well all of the Harry Potter movies were going to do, it was a whole other story.
Even now, though, Gambon seems to feel very comfortable with it. He has said that he basically just stuck on the beard, donned the costume and went for it, as he has with every other role he's played.
1 Richard Harris: He Was Afraid Of The Role, But Did It Anyway
When the casting process for Harry Potter began, Richard Harris was open about the fact that he was reluctant to even put his name in the running, let alone to take the gig. Richard Harris was an incredibly accomplished actor by the time he was cast in Harry Potter, but he refused the role on three separate occasions before finally agreeing to take it.
A,pparently his granddaughter swooped in and saved the day. She told him that if he turned down the role then she'd never speak to him again, so he finally agreed to play the part.