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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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383 Points

I’ve also thought highly of Gambon’s Dumbledore. I know a lot of people don’t like it, but I just don’t understand why. It’s hard to replace an actor, and I think he’s done a good job. I know he says things in interviews that he probably shouldn’t say, but that’s nothing new. Most actors say stuff they shouldn’t.

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

Here we go. From Richard Harris:

(when asked if he had read the “Harry Potter” books)
Richard: I haven’t, even today I haven’t read them. Not because they’re not grand, I know they’re great. I love the script, but I don’t read fiction, it’s as simple as that. There’s more fiction in my life than in books, so I don’t bother with them.

Posted by JackHarkness on July 14, 2009, 04:19 AM report to moderator
47 Points

Well, I really don’t care if they read or not the book..but I admit I don’t like him very much as Dumbledore, but I guess it’s due to the fact that I found the previous actor who played the character simply perfect and in my mind Dumbledore still has his face

Posted by roby_boh on July 14, 2009, 04:29 AM report to moderator
340 Points

there’s no point? seriously? the point is to understand the character’s essence.

Posted by raisaers on July 14, 2009, 04:48 AM report to moderator
925 Points

I think the irritating thing about Michael Gambon in the part of Dumbledore as far as I am concerned is his costume. It is drab,thin and totally lacking the style and flamboyance of the character in the book. How can a character be intimidating dressed like that? Think of Lucius Malfoy and Gilderoy Lockhart,both hated characters, but they each radiated self confidence and their costumes were an integral part of their strong image. I do not know who was responsible for Gambon’s appearance but it has ruined my enjoyment every time.

Posted by Graymayne on July 14, 2009, 05:07 AM report to moderator
329 Points

Well, I didn’t expect Alan Rickman and the other adults to read the books, I mean, they’re more serious and famous actors, and the truth is that it would be weird watching someone at their age reading books like Harry Potter.
Anyways, the fact that the movies aren’t exactly like the books doesn’t mean there’s no point in reading them. I still don’t get why directors change scenes, it’s annoying. What’s wrong with sticking to the origin?

Posted by Jillian {WBM} on July 14, 2009, 05:13 AM report to moderator
329 Points

Anyways, it is clearly obvious that he won’t think like us.
Frankly I’ve never liked him as Dumbledore, since the third movie I didn’t like him.

Posted by Jillian {WBM} on July 14, 2009, 05:15 AM report to moderator
683 Points

Well,i’ll never like him as Dumbledore,and the fact that he refuses to read the books doesn’t help.I mean: “I play myself”? huh?,i though the point of acting was to play a character.But whatever(though, little evil voice in my head is shouting happily that he’ll have an “accident” in HBP and won’t be too much in seven, :P:P)

Posted by xxIBelieveInNarglesxx on July 14, 2009, 05:23 AM report to moderator
236 Points

The difference between MG not reading the books and AR not reading the books is that AR actually plays his character very well.

Posted by David on July 14, 2009, 05:43 AM report to moderator

@ Allium – it was Newell who wanted aggressive Dumbledore. Yates’s OotP Dumbledore isn’t actually very aggressive. He’s stressed out, but not particularly aggressive.

@JackHarkness – you think this Gambon bashing is subtle? LOL it’s not to me.

IMO at least he has a justification for not reading the books. No one said you had to agree with it – and frankly how many of the people commenting are Olivier and BAFTA award winning actors of stage, film and television anyway?

The guy runs off at the mouth – he’s said some truly odd things in interviews – before OotP springs to mind (I just say what the script tells me to say. I learn the lines and say them – I don’t have much sub-text. There’s no sub-text in Harry Potter really, it’s all magic. Anything can happen.) I trust we all went ape over this gem as well?

Either way I think his HBP performance is credible. In fact I think it’s very good.

Posted by Kezzabear on July 14, 2009, 06:09 AM report to moderator
594 Points

At about 5 AM this morning my time, I finished reading HBP for the very first time. I’m still crying when I’m writing this. ;-( Despite the fact that I knew the basics of what was going to happen. I can’t believe it, I don’t want to accept it. I refuse to accept it. He can’t be gone, he just can’t. ;-(

I know I still have the final book to go but… I’m not sure I want to keep reading. Not without Dumbledore around. I know just about everything is probably resolved in DH but right now, I feel like I’m sure most fans here felt when they read HBP for the first time, before DH was out. I feel that Harry stands no chance without Dumbledore. And I feel that I’m not sure I want to read the final book because Dumbledore is no more.

Posted by MischiefManaged on July 14, 2009, 06:18 AM report to moderator

Kezzabear – you’re right, ultimately the director plays a key role in deciding which way the character will go. Gambon’s performances are therefore quite different in each of PoA, GoF and OotP.

For me, by far the closest performance to book-Dumbledore that we’ve had from either actor was Gambon’s in PoA. The whimsy, the energy, the sense that he knows more than he lets on and that he’s manipulating things. Both of Harris’s performances were too old and sleepy, and killed the drama in his scenes. In PoA, Cuaron and Gambon got his role spot-on.

Posted by JackHarkness on July 14, 2009, 06:22 AM report to moderator
1040 Points

I wonder why he feels the need to justify his refusal to read the books so much. If he truly feels that strongly about it then he should have just said it once and been done with it. Now it feels like arrogance. He can justify it any way he wants, but the fact is his characterization of Dumbledore could have benefitted hugely from a deeper understanding of the true character, which he could only get from the books. Alan Rickman has benefitted from some one-on-one with Jo that has helped him to inform his character and whether he’s read the books or not, he’s managed to be the perfect Snape. Gambon MUST know that a lot of fans are unhappy with his portrayal of Dumbledore. But rather than decide to work on improving, he’s happy to just go along as is, as long as the director seems happy enough, and not work and stretch himself as an actor and not worry about doing his character the justice Dumbledore deserves. I was planning to go into HBP with an open mind, hoping he’d pull it off better this time. I am NOT a fan from the previous three movies he’s done, at all, but I’ve been pretty happy with what’s been shown in the trailers and sneak peeks. But now I’m just ticked off by his attitude again. If he doesn’t want to read the books, fine, we can’t force him to, but then I wish he’d just keep his mouth shut about it instead of making such a point over it and reminding us every time a movie comes out that he won’t do it. sigh

Posted by Headmistress LemonFaerie on July 14, 2009, 06:27 AM report to moderator
59 Points

It seems to me that actors would gain a lot more from reading the books than they would lose. Some of the actors (like Evanna) are major fans of the series and it doesn’t seem to be negatively affecting their ability to act in the films- if anything its helping because they know the characters so much more.

Posted by ender650 on July 14, 2009, 06:41 AM report to moderator
13519 Points

I didn’t know that Alan Rickman hasn’t read the books, either. With the way he portrays Severus Snape so well, I always assumed he had read them.

Posted by jenge {Meredith Mooncloud} ~ [ITC!] on July 14, 2009, 06:46 AM report to moderator
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