11/27/2001 at 12:00 AM EST
It just didn't feel right, this "Harry Potter" fairy tale. "I didn't like the commitment; the idea that if I do the one, you gotta do the other four or five," said Richard Harris to the Associated Press about his initial decision to turn down the role of Headmaster Dumbledore. "So, some newspaper printed the fact I wasn't going to do it, or didn't want to do it, and all of a sudden my granddaughter panicked and said, 'You're going to do it,' and I said, 'OK.' I used to get maybe 12 fan letters a year, if that, because I'm at the pinnacle of my decline as an actor. And all of a sudden as soon as it was announced I was doing Dumbledore, the sacks are coming in his high . . . I'm talking about thousands and thousands of letters coming in." Showing no evidence of decline as the "Duck of Death" in Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" or as Emperor Marcus Aurelius in "Gladiator," Harris, 71, would seem to be more at the pinnacle of his pinnacle. His favorite scene in "Harry"? The chess game in which the pieces destroy each other. "I think it's unbelievably imaginative and creative. Brilliantly done. Superbly shot."