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LA Times: Michael Gambon "Sees No Point in Reading" Harry Potter Books by JK Rowling

Posted by: sue
July 13, 2009, 08:18 PM

Over the years, one topic of debate hotly discussed in our fandom has been actor Michael Gambon and his portrayal of Professor Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film series. Adding fuel to the fire has been his previous comments over the years regarding his deliberate choice to not read the source material found in the works of author J.K. Rowling. Michael Gambon repeats those same sentiments tonight in a candid interview with the LA Times Hero Complex blog, and also claims that apparently Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort) and Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) have not read the books as well. There are many quotes of interest (SPOILER CAUTION) from the article as follows:

The choice not to read Rowling’s book series, he explains, is deliberate and he points out that costars Ralph Fiennes and Alan Rickman haven’t taken up the books either.

“You’d get upset about all the scenes it's missing from the book, wouldn‘t you?” Gambon said via phone from New York, where he was promoting the opening this Wednesday of the sixth "Potter" film. “No point in reading the books because you’re playing with [screenwriter] Steve Kloves' words.”

And Kloves, along with director David Yates, have demanded an intense Dumbledore, who in the fourth film physically shook Harry when the boy wizard's name wound up in the Goblet of Fire. It’s a characterization that isn’t as pronounced in the book -- Dumbledore doesn’t yank and jostle his star student, for starters -- and it upset many "Potter" fans.


“He’s got to be a bit scary," Gambon said of his Dumbledore. "All headmasters should be a bit scary, shouldn’t they? A top wizard like him would be intimidating. And ultimately, he’s protecting Harry. Essentially, I play myself. A little Irish, a little scary. That’s what I’m like in real life.”

The actor says the enormity of the "Potter" phenomenon hit him again recently at the London premiere of “Half-Blood Prince,” where more than 4,000 kids turned up to get a glimpse of the magical cast. Gambon called it both heartwarming and bittersweet.

“I was really moved by the number of children there. It was raining and everyone was drenched, some of them had been there for hours. You feel responsible for them in a way. All their books and pieces of paper for autographs were all wet, the pens wouldn’t work. It was so sad. It makes you realize how big this thing is.”

The filming of the final Harry Potter movies, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” is underway but Gamon's contributions aren't schedule until February. He says that makes it feel as if the end is still far away for him, but he has already begun to reflect on the experience.

“It’s been," he said, "a real privilege.

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707 Points

see even if fiennes and rickman haven’t read the books they understand their characters and it works both with the movie and the books, not so with gambon who should know that DUMBLEDORE of all people is NOT scary (unless you’re hurting someone) thats why everyone loves Dumbledore- he’s approachable to the students and he offers them candy- how can that work with a guy who “should be” a bit scary…


mind you, i feel like (based on the previews) he might have done Dumbledore right this time around- and if he does then kudos- and if he continues it ESPECIALLY for the end of DH then i can say- he didnt need to read the books either, but based on movie 3 and 4 especially, he should have read them…

Posted by NyssaM [FTC!!!!] on July 13, 2009, 11:38 PM report to moderator
250 Points

i still think gambon does a good job…i mean…he was kind of harsh in the 4th movie..but when you see him in the 3rd he is just as corky as the book dumbldore. i can’t wait to see how he plays him in the HBP! And Alan Rickman was told the whole background info on Snape so he still understands whats going on. He even puts in little clues in the scenes. they are barely noticeable but you catch them if you pay attention a bit.

Posted by FijiSunrise. on July 13, 2009, 11:42 PM report to moderator
398 Points

Like most, I have mixed feelings.. Sometimes his Dumbeldore is such a conundrum. I personally liked Richard Harris as Dumbledore. He had a mysterious quality and a poker face without all the drama that Gambon displays. Oh well, that is the movie industry for you… You would think the adults would advocate literacy by encouraging younger persons to read. Nice.

Posted by sidnandragin on July 13, 2009, 11:54 PM report to moderator
402 Points

I can see his point, but it’s sad because he should realize we’re all comparing him to the books, so he might do well to read them. But if I were him I may be in the same opinion.

Posted by pansy parkinson on July 14, 2009, 12:25 AM report to moderator
160 Points

I miss Richard Harris :-( He was so much better than Mr. G: especially that scene at the end of CoS, where he looks over the top of his half moon spectacles in that way at Lucius that you KNOW that Lucius better not dare do any more hanky panky… may he rest in peace.

but if the directors have TOLD Mr. Gambon to be a freak, well, then, we have to lay some of the blame at their feet.

Posted by Caracticus on July 14, 2009, 12:28 AM report to moderator
159 Points

at least he is honest, and i can honestly say that sometimes when i watch the movie and see some scenes out i am telling friends that it would have run more smoothly if they put this certain scene in or something.

Posted by sinwillys822 ROAR on July 14, 2009, 12:32 AM report to moderator

“Essentially, I play myself” – point made.
Disappointed that Alan Rickman hasn’t read the books, but as LaurenMyrtle notes, he plays Snape as he is written. And he has taken time out to chat to Jo about the characterisation.
There are very specific moments in the text when Harry notes that Dumbledore looked so angry and powerful that he finally understood why it was that people said, “Dumbledore was the only one Voldemort ever feared”. And NONE of these moments is when Dumbledore is dealing with Harry!
Also, for the record, Yates didn’t direct Goblet of Fire, so he was not the one urging Gambon on to half-throttle and yell at Harry. I find that, under Yates’ direction, Gambon has reigned in his “intensity”.

Posted by pottershrink on July 14, 2009, 01:00 AM report to moderator

I think Goblet of Fire suffered from some truly misguided direction. Yates has done wonders to bring Dumbledore back from what Newell did.

Please, I’m telling you, his HBP Dumbledore is wonderful. It really is. Yates has read the book. Yates has directed something powerful here. Gambon’s pulled it off.

Posted by Kezzabear on July 14, 2009, 01:29 AM report to moderator
879 Points

I really like Gambon’s Dumbledore, and I understand where he’s coming from, but if I were an actor I’d want to research all the roots of my character—which, interestingly, is what just about ALL of the young actors have done.

Posted by deadtree ♥WBM♥ on July 14, 2009, 01:29 AM report to moderator
55 Points

I am astonished that professionals in the field of performing arts would not do every thing in their power to ensure they are performing to the best of their abilities. As a musician I will read several different scores and parts of an orchestral excerpt and listen to as many different recordings as I can before I even attempt to practice an exceprt, much less audition on one. I consider it highly unprofessional that fellow performing artists wouldn’t do the same.

Posted by oboenerd on July 14, 2009, 01:34 AM report to moderator
1603 Points

Gosh! Gambon.. Please don’t compare yourself with Alan Rickman and Ralph… They do justice to their parts.. unlike you… C’mon just because Dumbledore is a headmaster it doesn’t mean that he has to be scary..

Posted by vandy[FTC] on July 14, 2009, 01:39 AM report to moderator
590 Points

Yeah, Dumbledore or any headmaster should be ‘scary’ but not in such a way that a student fears they’re going to get beat up by them! There’s ‘scary abusive’ and then there’s ‘scary intimidating.’ Intimidating because of their age & knowledge & unknown qualities; again not scary because they’re going to fly off the handle & start choking a student to death!

Sigh. At least I can’t blame it all on Gambon; this is the first I’ve heard about how Kloves wants DD portrayed. Now he’s on the list too. :)

Posted by vespasian68967 on July 14, 2009, 01:47 AM report to moderator
6552 Points

I have a feeling that they may all eventually read them after all the movies are made. I understand where Mr. Gambon is coming from, but I think he would have read it for better understanding of the character he was playing.

Posted by Figment on July 14, 2009, 01:49 AM report to moderator
113 Points

To quote Spock; “Fascinating.”

This would explain the scene where Snape shoves Ron and Harry’s head.

I dunno, I suppose, the actors are paid to do what the director wishes and not to interpret the books.

Posted by NuttyAsSP on July 14, 2009, 01:54 AM report to moderator
115 Points

I once recall an interview of Richard Harris referring to Dumbledore as a Christ-like figure, yet we know that that is not who Dumbledore is. So, it shows that even if actors understand their characters at a certain point, that is not so. There have been several times in the books where Dumbledore has come across as scary (especially in the eyes) to Harry. Therefore, Gambon gets points. The Dumblefore in the 7th book (who meets Snape in secret about Lily and James) is somewhat scary. And evident from the last book, there was a lot not known about Dumbledore. How could Gambon (of years past) have had that sense of characterization and still played the character the script and directors wanted? It would seem pointless to read the book and also the script at the same time. For starters, if an actor read the books and the script together, there would be a chance of messing up his lines, confusing the actor. Also, considering the films have taken the series into slightly different directions, it would seem irritating to read stuff in the books and then learning to act a different way due to changes and cuts. Some people don’t work that way. Good for those who did read the books and scripts. But in the end, it is the screenwriter’s work (not the author’s) that the actor is being paid to read and perform. Anyways, Gambon is a great Dumbledore. I truly liked how he had concern for those at the screenings during the rainstorm…and I liked how he feels its a priviledge to be in the films. He loves working in them, so quit baffling about him in rude manners. I wonder what Daniel Radcliffe would think if he saw some of the comments about a guy he truly liked working with in the 6th film.

Posted by The Hollow on July 14, 2009, 02:06 AM report to moderator
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