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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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115 Points

I’d also like to comment…How many here have went to sites like Sparknotes for synopsis for their book assignments rather than read the actual books? How many care to confess? Those who live in glass houses should never throw stones…especially from the inside!

Posted by The Hollow on July 14, 2009, 02:12 AM report to moderator
34 Points

I respect Gambon’s performance of Dumbledore if that is how he is written in the screenplay, and I also respect his choice not to read the book. However, I think it is wrong to play Dumbledore scary because “all headmasters should be a bit scary”. The point is that Dumbledore was different than other headmasters. He is the one man that Harry looked to and revered throughout his whole school career. And even though we found out that Dumbledore was not always the whimsical, grampa type in the last book… we didn’t find much of that out until the last book. Save the scary performance for the last film and give us a twist on the character we, like Harry, thought we knew.

Posted by GeorgesHufflepuff on July 14, 2009, 02:21 AM report to moderator
135 Points

They should all have read the book so as to kno where every1 is comin from

Posted by sianletley on July 14, 2009, 02:29 AM report to moderator
7475 Points

honestly Gambon only really got it wrong with GoF. Other than that, POA and Ootp he was dumbledore for me.

Remember JKR woul;d have told him alllll about Dumbledore jsut like she did for Alan Rickman an Snape. (she sat him down after he got the part and obviously shared with him the Prince’s tale.)

Other than that i don’t think he’s done such a horrible job that everyone goes on and on about. HBP seems to be very dumbledore like, so i think h’s doing it well. I think he had the wrong idea about how DD is supposed to be tired and weary and he took it as anxious etc

Posted by Luce-Lupin !~ROAR~! on July 14, 2009, 02:52 AM report to moderator
266 Points

true it would be disappointing to see certain scenes missing, but isn’t that more of a personal disappointment? if you’re committed to the job, then you do what’s best for the job, not for how it would affect you personally (especially on such a superficial level, it’s not like it would affect his physical or emotional health).

knowing more about the essence of dumbledore would have probably given him deeper insight into how he is in the films. even if he was always going to be different in the films, at least he would understand how he is different, and maybe also be able to think more about why he would be different.

Posted by iceymoon [Cygnus] on July 14, 2009, 03:15 AM report to moderator



I am a great admirer of Sir Michael Gambon, he is one of the UK greatest living actors. He is also very eccentric and mischievous as I am sure Dan can testify. An actor must do what the script and the director demand – that is what they are paid to do. Mike Newell directed GoF and decided that it would be a ‘hero in peril’ movie and the hero does not know it. Newell said he wanted it to be like Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. Newell needed Dumbledore to be desperately worried about Harry in order for the audience to also be worried, otherwise Harry’s name being in the cup seemed like no big deal (unless you had read the books).

Posted by SeaJay on July 14, 2009, 03:18 AM report to moderator
142 Points

Wow. This makes me like Michael Gambon even less.

Posted by Minihippogriff on July 14, 2009, 03:21 AM report to moderator
622 Points

Oh come on, Gambon, just about everyone else in the cast has read the books and they all do their jobs just fine. And I understand how ‘no point in reading the books’ makes sense in context, but, I mean, it’s not just that the books would give him great back-story, it’s also just that they’re amazing! I don’t understand how he doesn’t see what he’s missing.

Posted by The Hufflepuff Giraffe on July 14, 2009, 03:32 AM report to moderator
1046 Points

i get it but still…

Posted by bec majec *roar* on July 14, 2009, 03:34 AM report to moderator

@SeaJay – word. Watch HBP before you all diss Gambon too. At least please wait the next few hours and see what you think then.

Posted by Kezzabear on July 14, 2009, 03:40 AM report to moderator

he didn’t need to act intimidating. dumbledore is supposed to have a calm personality, and the fact that he is really gifted and intelligent is enough intimidation for most.

Posted by noxiousCaitSith on July 14, 2009, 03:43 AM report to moderator
765 Points

I kind of understand his point about not reading the books because he’s acting Steve Klove’s version and it might be difficult to reconcile the conflicts, but I still think it would give him a deeper understanding of the character, which his portrayal clearly lacks.

Posted by Verity Weasley on July 14, 2009, 03:54 AM report to moderator
344 Points

I think ha has a point. It would be hard to potray the Dubledore the movies need, if he had a totally different picture in his mind based on the books. I still think he is just an actor and he just needs to do the acting well. If he read the books and loved them it would be a bonus.
But it’s just a fact that some people don’t find anything for them in the books and it’s unavoidable that some of the people involved in making the films would feel indifferent toward the books.

Posted by hanname on July 14, 2009, 04:02 AM report to moderator

Er – why does everyone forget that Richard Harris ALSO didn’t read the books?

Sad that the selective memories and therefore subtle Gambon-bashing has now reached the news pages on Leaky.

Posted by JackHarkness on July 14, 2009, 04:11 AM report to moderator
29 Points

No wonder he’s such a rubbish Dumbledore. Makes me wonder if David Yates has ever really read the books either if he wants an aggressive Dumbledore.

Posted by Allium on July 14, 2009, 04:13 AM report to moderator
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