Richard Harris' portrayal of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series was a very frail wispy old man. In the third movie, when Michael Gambon stepped in, they did a very good job of making him look similar, but it's obvious his speech patterns change from being a little old man to being a much stronger less wispy old man. His booming voice changed the character of Dumbledore. Is there an explanation of why the directors allow this change in an interview or public knowledge anywhere?

  • Well, they're different actors with different sensibilities. And Gambon was younger (he was in his 60s, Harris was in his 70s). And Harris died a year later, so he probably wasn't in the best of health.
    – Walt
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 16:10
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    Is there any evolution in Dumbledore's character in the books? Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 17:13
  • @GeraldEdgar This might even be an aspect worth to be added into the question.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 18:01
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    @GeraldEdgar - I've always thought that Gambon's Dumbledore was a lot more closer to the way he was portrayed in the books: mischievous, assertive and flamboyant. Harris' portrayal was more in line with the traditional way Wise Wizards are portrayed in movies. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 20:02
  • @SystemDown I can't help but agree, but at the same time the canonical "movie" dumbledore personality had already been established, for better or worse.
    – Sidney
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 20:13

1 Answer 1


I don't have any hard evidence, but there may be a number of factors that influenced the sudden change in character.

The first time we really see Dumbledore as anything more than a kindly old man, and do anything more than general headmaster duties, is during the events of OOTP (Book 5). This was released in June 2003, around half a year after the Chamber of Secrets movie (November 2002), and a year prior to the release of the Prisoner of Azkaban movie (May 2004), which is when Michael Gambon assumed the role.

Before book 5, the novelized versions of Harry Potter contained only rumors of Dumbledore's prowess as a wizard, but had shown no real evidence for it. He was smart, experienced and accomplished, but other than that he was reasonably mysterious.

However, near the end of OOTP, when

Dumbledore battles Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic

this is the first evidence we have that Dumbledore is still a powerful wizard in his old age.

I don't know if the producers were aware of what would occur in the later books or whether JK Rowling kept it a secret, or if she even knew all of it herself at that point, but it's possible that Richard Harris played it in the way that he felt Dumbledore was portrayed in the earlier books.

However, once more was revealed about Dumbledore's character, they may have decided to start to change the character of Dumbledore to more powerful and active to reflect what further information they knew about him and establish him earlier so that it wasn't so much of a shock to audiences later on.

In addition to a new actor playing Dumbledore, the director of the Harry Potter franchise changed from Chris Columbus to Alfonso Cuaron between the 2nd and 3rd films. It may have been the directors choice to adapt the character to what he felt was more suited.

So the character change may have been the actor's decision, the director's decision, a producer's decision because of the new information about the character from the books, influence from the author due to her creative changes or a combination of all of the above, but it is likely one of these reasons. Had Richard Harris continued to play the character, he may have changed how he played it also.

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