Mirror Magazine


Harris won't be back for the third Potter
By Jack Matthews
Actor Richard Harris, known to one generation as King Arthur and the latest as the wizened Prof. Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movie, died at University College Hospital in London late last month. He was 72.

A tribute from the Harry Potter crew
The director of the Harry Potter films has said Richard Harris's death feels like losing someone from his own family.

Chris Columbus was paying tribute to the actor who died on October 25.

"We're all still in an incredible amount of shock. We knew Richard was sick but he was such a fighter that somehow deep down we all expected him to make it and get through it and be in the third Harry Potter film.

"So it's a complete shock because we've all worked so closely together. It's like losing a member of your family."

Harris starred as the wise and white-haired wizard Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and the Chamber of Secrets.

The film's cast and crew made this statement: "Richard Harris was a remarkable actor and a generous and free spirit. He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very sad time."

Harris was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease this year and had undergone chemotherapy at a private clinic, but his condition was not made public until just before his death.

At the time, Harris insisted he'd be well enough to complete his obligation for three Harry Potter movies. Production on the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, is scheduled to begin in London in January.

Not even the film's director, Chris Columbus, was aware of Harris' illness. Columbus saw Harris two weeks ago and told a British news agency he looked frail but sounded strong.

"He said to me: 'If you're thinking about recasting me, I'll kill you!'" Columbus said. "He says he's going to be back for the third film, and I said, 'Okay.'"

Harris, born Oct. 1, 1930, in Limerick, Ireland, trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and began his career on the British stage.

He had several strong supporting roles in movies before breaking out with an Oscar-nominated performance as an ambitiously ruthless rugby player in Lindsay Anderson's 1963 film, This Sporting Life.

More roles playing rugged adventurers and soldiers followed, including a well-regarded turn as a Confederate officer in Sam Peckinpah's 1965 Major Dundee.

But it was the role of King Arthur in Joshua Logan's film adaptation of Lerner and Loewe's Broadway musical Camelot, and his reprisal of the role in a touring American stage production, that made Harris something of a middle-age heartthrob.

Harris, like many of his characters, was a rough-hewn man with a musical voice and an enormous appetite for life, which encompassed near-fatal addictions to cocaine and alcohol.

A cocaine overdose put him off drugs in 1978, and four years later, he took his doctor's advice that his drinking was life-threatening and gave that up, too.

The abuse years paralleled a career slide that had the angular star mugging in a series of bad action films. But he made a stellar comeback in the 1990 Irish film The Field, which earned him his second Best Actor Oscar nomination, and went on to deliver indelible performances in Philip Noyce's Patriot Games, Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven and Randa Haines' Wrestling Earnest Hemingway.

Then came the role of Albus Dumbledore in last year's blockbuster adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Harris was disinclined to accept the part, but he told reporters his granddaughter persuaded him to do it with the threat that she'd never speak to him again if he didn't. "I thought, 'Well, I can't afford that," he said.

Harris was divorced from his second wife, model Ann Turkel. He's survived by three sons with his first wife, Elizabeth Harris.

Back to Top  Back to Mirror Magazine  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.