In Defense of Michael Gambon
It seems that there is one Harry Potter actor in particular who gets an extraordinary amount of flack for his portrayal in the series. I am talking, of course, about Michael Gambon, the substitute Dumbledore that just can’t seem to please the majority of Potter fans. Is the strong stance against him really justified? On an Internet where there are many, MANY articles and memes dedicated to telling you that Gambon was a poor Dumbledore, I am here to write an article that will do the complete opposite. I happen to be among the minority of fans who actually prefers Gambon’s Dumbledore to Richard Harris’s portrayal of our favorite bearded wizard.
My preference of Gambon over Harris has nothing to do with acting skills. Harris was a phenomenal actor, and to ever insinuate otherwise would be an insult to his memory. Every once in a while an actor gets cast for a role that they just don’t fit. This was the case for me with Harris as Dumbledore. When reading the books, I pictured someone old and wise but spritely and full of energy. Harris got the old and wise, but he was so calm and soft-spoken that I missed that spunk that the book Dumbledore possesses. When Gambon came on the scene in the Prisoner of Azkaban, I felt that Dumbledore regained that energy and strength. I really wonder if Gambon had just been cast from the beginning if we would even be having this discussion. I feel as if people get so attached to the way things originally were that they are not open to seeing anything re-imagined. We see this in the way fans react over minute changes in book to screen adaptations as well. Something in our nature clings to the familiar.
Speaking of the familiar…
Why on earth do people care so much about this interpretation of a quote? Does it really matter if he says it calmly or urgently? Gambon is an actor, and actors sometimes read a script and make a choice about how to deliver a line. The volume at which a line is spoken isn’t the most important detail in a two-hour movie.
The root of why I prefer Gambon’s portrayal of the character lies in a certain human imperfection that the actor gives off. While some have criticized him for making Dumbledore appear out of control or too intense, I see a human quality in this performance that aligns with what Dumbledore turns out to be in the books. Harris was cast at a time when all we knew of Dumbledore was that he was the greatest wizard of all time, wise, and reliable. Harris’s gentle demeanor works for this view of the Hogwarts Headmaster, but as the character developed it became obvious to me that Gambon was the man for the job. Harris has a pure, almost angelic kind of presence that just doesn’t fit the Dumbledore we’ve come to know. By showing moments of emotion, loss of composure, and an imperfect kind of pizzazz, Gambon brought to life the Dumbledore that I see when I read Rowling’s novels. Maybe it’s time for the Harry Potter fandom to reach the realization that Harry eventually does in the books – Dumbledore (and Gambon) is human.