Death Is But the Next Great Adventure: Documentary About Richard Harris to Be Released for 20th Anniversary of Passing

Richard Harris played Professor Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets before passing away from Hodgkin lymphoma in October 2002, just a month before the theatrical release of the second installment in the series. Though Sir Michael Gambon would eventually take over the role for six of the eight Harry Potter films, most of us who grew up with the movies still fondly remember Harris’s quiet, pensive take on the Hogwarts headmaster.

Soon, Potter fans will have the opportunity to learn more about their first Dumbledore in an upcoming documentary called The Ghost of Richard Harris. The film will be released sometime this year to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the late actor’s passing.

Directed by documentarian Adrian Sibley and produced by Bright Yellow Films, Samson Films, and Groove Intl, The Ghost of Richard Harris is expected to air in the United Kingdom later this year on Sky Arts, as well as the streamer NOW. The rest of us may have to wait a little longer. Variety recently reported that Abacus Media Rights nabbed the worldwide distribution rights to the film. With the distribution rights of the film outside of the UK having just been acquired, it may take some time before we hear any updates regarding when and where those of us in the United States will be able to see it.

 

Richard Harris played Albus Dumbledore in the first two "Harry Potter" movies. Tragically, he would pass away just a month before the release of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."

Richard Harris played Albus Dumbledore in the first two “Harry Potter” movies. Tragically, he passed away just a month before the release of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

 

Though Harris forged a highly decorated acting career in theater, TV, and film, it’s often clouded by his tumultuous personal life full of alcoholism and debauchery, which the documentary aims to cover.

While there have been many attempts by several other filmmakers to document the late actor’s extraordinary life, Harris’s sons, actors Jamie Harris and Jared Harris, and director Damian Harris, refused all offers because they wanted to honor their father’s wish for Sibley to be the one to tell his story. Jamie, Jared, and Damian will be featured in the documentary.

Having seen Sibley’s documentary on Anthony Hopkins, Anthony Hopkins: A Taste for Hannibal, wherein the Thor actor discussed drinking, Harris believed that Sibley would be the right fit to document his life. It seems that the film was initially meant to begin production before Harris’s death, as explained by Sibley while he reminisced about a meeting with Harris to discuss the film.

I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Harris through his son Damian at the Savoy to talk about making a documentary about his life and times. He’d seen my film with Anthony Hopkins where he talked about drinking and thought we’d work well together. Richard took me out for supper, and I had one of the best nights of my life. He was the ultimate storyteller, and everyone in the restaurant stopped to listen to him, but I still felt that he was only talking to me.

I knew I could make a fascinating film about this unusual man, but unfortunately, soon afterwards, he became ill and died. Now on the 20th anniversary of his death, using hours of unheard audio tapes of interviews with Richard over many years, I have the opportunity to actually work with him from beyond the grave and make the film we discussed, with him unravelling the story of what he calls ‘a turbulent journey’ of ‘great highs and lows,’ in short, a life that few can even imagine.

What a beautiful memory. Considering Harris’s long life and career, it makes sense that Harris would be a phenomenal raconteur.

Being that Dumbledore was one of Harris’s last roles before his death, Chris Columbus, director of the first two Potter films, has spoken fondly about him. On one occasion, Columbus recalled a memory on set where the director was playing basketball and found himself being cheered on by Harris in costume as Dumbledore.

There is currently no release date for The Ghost of Richard Harris, but check back on MuggleNet for any updates.

Are there any other movies featuring Harris that you enjoy? Which of Harris’s scenes as Dumbledore is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

 

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Adam Poncharoensub

"Hogwarts is my home!" is a phrase that I've uttered more times than any sane person should (and my long-suffering friends can attest to it.) For as long as I can remember, I've always found myself escaping reality into the wizarding world to feel at peace. Instead, I'm more likely wandering the suburbs of South Florida shouting choice "Harry Potter" and Batman quotes at unsuspecting victims.