I think it is fair to say that the two portrayals of Dumbledore on screen are somewhat different. (This answer explains in some depth)

Richard Harris seems to come across as a little frail, while Michael Gambon, while also old, seems much more sturdy.

Harris died in October 2002, so there were still plenty of books to be written.

What I am interested in is whether there is any evidence that the new Michael Gambon Dumbledore fed back into the character in the books at all?

I can't see the Richard Harris Dumbledore doing some of the things that he did in the later books, but I could be selling him short.

  • This is a very interesting question. I don't know the answer myself, but I'm curious to learn if there's any evidence to suggest this as well.
    – Steve-O
    Nov 25, 2016 at 15:20
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    My (useless) impression is that Richard Harris was indeed frail for the part, even though he was probably photo-perfect for what was in mind. Using only the books as reference, there doesn't seem to be any major changes in direction to the character over time, just reveals, but I could be misreading it.
    – Radhil
    Nov 25, 2016 at 15:29
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    I wouldn't say either of them were "photo-perfect". In the books, Dumbledore is repeatedly described as tall and thin, a description which fits neither Harris nor Gambon. Nov 25, 2016 at 16:53
  • It's worth noting that Michael Gambon Dumbledore has some radical departures from book Dumbledore. The infuriating "did you put your name in the Goblet Of Fire!!!" scene jumps to mind. Cross-pollination seems...unlikely.
    – DavidS
    Nov 29, 2016 at 14:56

2 Answers 2



Not likely.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Richard Harris died on the 25th of October, 2002. The role of Dumbledore was recast for the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, for which principal photography started on 24 February 2003. The film was released in the end of May 2004 in the UK.

The fifth book of the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, saw its worldwide release on 20 June 2003.

This means that the book must have been almost if not completely finished by the time filming started. If the book-character of Dumbledore was influenced by Gambon's portrayal, it must have happened for the books after the fifth.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The sixth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released on 16 July 2005. About two months before, the fourth film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had been released. So the only portrayal of Dumbledore that could have influenced this book, was the third film.

As we all know,

Dumbledore dies at the end of the sixth book.

His appearance in the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is pretty limited because of this.


The only books that could have been influenced by Michael Gambon's portrayel of Dumbledore, are the sixth and the seventh, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Dumbledore's part in the seventh book is pretty small.
There is only one film with Michael Gambon as Dumbledore that could have influenced Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Therefore, it's pretty unlikely that Michael Gambon's portrayal of Dumbledore influenced JKR's writing.


I'd bet JK would be the only person truly capable of answering whether or not knowing any of the actors changed how she characterised them in her writing. She claimed when Noma Dumezweni took on the role of Hermione Granger, that not only could Hermione always have been a black girl, that Noma Dumezweni "gets Hermione inside out", so I am going with it made no difference to JK who starred in the movie. Her characters were who they were.

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    Well, actually, the evidence is there in the books that Hermione was white. At the same time, all the characters that are black were explicitly described as black, and portrayed by black actors in the films (Lavender switched races from black to white in the movies, though I don't know that she was every (racially) described in the books) Nov 25, 2016 at 18:51
  • therowlinglibrary.com/2015/12/21/… there's an argument for it, but the books were not clear, imo.
    – WRX
    Nov 25, 2016 at 20:14
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    Nonsense. By the same logic, it's unclear whether they're human or not. Here is a link to a question which discusses this, the top two answers should help you out. Nov 25, 2016 at 21:15
  • as you wish... ;)
    – WRX
    Nov 25, 2016 at 21:59
  • @GhotiandChips - The most convincing answer to that question is Himarm's Panda answer
    – ibid
    Nov 29, 2016 at 17:31

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