Does ''Harry Potter'' have a new Dumbledore? Ian McKellen denies reports that he'll take on the role -- Is Michael Gambon the would-be wizard who'll replace Richard Harris at Hogwarts?

By Gary Susman
Updated December 31, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
Ian McKellen: John B. Zissel/Ipol/Globe Photos

Since Richard Harris’ death in October, the rumors have been flying fast and furious as to who would replace him as Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the next ”Harry Potter” movie. Coming on the heels of this weekend’s tabloid reports that ”Lord of the Rings” wizard Ian McKellen would take the role (despite his earlier denials), E! is now reporting that another actor has been cast. Citing a source close to the production, E! names the actor as Michael Gambon.

Gambon, 62, starred opposite ”Potter” professor Maggie Smith in last year’s ”Gosford Park,” playing the country estate owner whose murder drove the plot. This year, he’s received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his starring role as President Lyndon Johnson in the HBO movie ”Path to War.”

Warner Bros., the studio behind the ”Potter” franchise, has not commented on who will play Dumbledore in ”Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” which is scheduled to start shooting in a couple months. However, the studio is expected to make an announcement after the first of the year.

Of course, that expectation was raised in this weekend’s tabloid stories, which cited a ”Potter” insider as saying the role would go to McKellen. On McKellen’s website, however, is a statement that says ”Ian McKellen has NOT agreed to succeed the late Richard Harris in the role of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies. He has expressed interest in perhaps playing a different role some time in the future of the series.”

The site also says that McKellen will be bringing his Broadway production of August Strindberg’s play ”Dance of Death” to London’s West End in February, around the time ”Azkaban” is to start shooting. So it doesn’t look like McKellen will be taking on a third franchise (after ”Rings” and ”X-Men,” where he plays Magneto) any time soon.

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