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Richard Harris

 
Notes / Trivia
Was a pretty good rugby player in his day, still remembered in Limerick City for his tackling ability.

Father of director Damian Harris, actors Jared Harris and Jamie Harris.

Harris was a guest professor, teaching Theatre Arts courses at the University Of Scranton in the mid 1980s.

Received an Honorary Doctorate from the University Of Scranton in 1987.

Joined the Knights of Malta (SMOM), despite his two divorces.

Harris, Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton were drinking buddies in the early 1970s till Burton's Death.

Was knighted by Denmark in 1985.

One of 9 children born to Limerick farmer Ivan Harris and his wife, the former Mildred Harty.

A bout with tuberculosis ended his ambition of becoming a professional rugby player.

Only agreed to take the part of Albus Dumbledor in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) after his then 11-year-old granddaughter threatened never to speak to him again if he didn't.

While still a student, he rented the tiny "off-West End" Irving Theatre in London and directed his own production of Clifford Odets' "Winter Journey (The Country Girl)". The critics approved, but the production used up all his savings and he was forced to sleep in a coal cellar for six weeks.

His brother Dermot was married to actress Cassandra Harris and had two children. After his death she married Pierce Brosnan and they became Brosnan's stepchildren.

Died shortly before the U.S. premiere of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002).

He was awarded the 1990 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor for his performance in Henry IV.

Following his death, many of his family members wanted friend Peter O'Toole to take the role of Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004).

Was cremated and his ashes were scattered at his home in the Bahamas

Both he and his fellow Irish actor (and close friend) Peter O'Toole appeared in versions of "Gulliver's Travels": Harris played the title character in the 1977 film version Gulliver's Travels (1977) and O'Toole played the Emperor of Lilliput in the 1996 TV-film version Gulliver's Travels (1996) (TV), where Ted Danson played Gulliver.

Associate member of LAMDA.

Graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). He was rejected by the Royal Adademy of Dramatic Art.

Member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford Upon Avon, England, since the early 1960s. His last appearance on the Swan stage (RSC main) was in the mid-1990s.

Received the Laurence Olivier Award for his acclaimed performances at the Royal National Theatre, London, England.

Once said in an interview that he had a great fascination with authority figures and their use of power. During his career he portrayed King Arthur in Camelot (1967); Oliver Cromwell in Cromwell (1970); King Richard the Lionheart in Robin and Marian (1976); Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator (2000) and Headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002).

An alcoholic, he gave up drinking completely in 1981 and returned to drinking Guinness a decade later.

It was his lifelong ambition to play Hamlet. He never did, although he referred to This Sporting Life (1963) as his Hamlet and The Field (1990) as his Lear. He later had one final attempt at an updated version of Lear with My Kingdom (2001).

He and Patrick Bergin were two of the only Irish actors to play Irishmen in Patriot Games (1992).

Was friends with Sir Sean Connery.

Is one of only two actors to appear in two Best Picture winners from the 1990s. He appeared in 1992's Best Picture, Unforgiven (1992), and 2000's Best Picture, Gladiator (2000). The only other actor to do this was Ralph Fiennes, who appeared in Schindler's List (1993) and The English Patient (1996). Fiennes later followed Harris into the Harry Potter films.

Appears in Patriot Games (1992) with James Fox, whose niece is his daughter-in-law.

Well known for being a "method actor", Harris was once told that he would play the role of a filthy character, and so he went for a long time without bathing to fit in to the character better, much to the chagrin of his co-stars, who claimed that they could smell him coming a long way away.

He won the role of King Arthur in the 1967 film version of Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe's hit musical Camelot (1967) after drinking buddy Richard Burton, who had played Arthur in the original 1960 Broadway production, turned down an offer to reprise the role in the film. Burton had had a huge success with Lerner & Lowe's show, winning a 1961 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. Harris later replaced Burton in the roadshow of the 1980 revival of the musical when Burton was unable to continue due to bursitis, a tour that ended up back on Broadway, with Harris as Arthur, in 1981.

Harris did not enjoy his first time in Hollywood making The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959). Production had to be halted several times due to the frequent illnesses of its star, Gary Cooper. He turned down the role of Commodus in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) and was thirty-four when he starred in his first Hollywood movie, Major Dundee (1965).

He spent the last 12 years of his life living in room 758 at the world famous Savoy Hotel in London. His room was located in the "Courtside" section of the hotel. His room did have a view of the river, but not as fine a view as the "Hotel" section river side rooms. He only had his room cleaned once a week and very rarely notified the hotel that he was out of his room, so they had to check his door ten times a day to see if his "Do Not Disturb" sign flipped around to say "Make up my Room".

After giving up drinking alcohol for a time in the 1970s, Harris put a bottle of vodka in every room in his house in London. The temptation was huge but he didn't touch a drop.

Producers were initially reluctant to cast Harris as King Arthur in Camelot (1967) due to his limited singing ability. Harris was cast after Richard Burton, who had played the part on Broadway in 1961, demanded too much money. The Irish actor insisted on doing his own singing live and later enjoyed a successful pop career, touring America in 1972.

He enjoyed a friendly rivalry with the English actor Oliver Reed during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Harris would call himself "Mr Ireland" in contrast to Reed's "Mr England".

In his youth he was a fan of Marlon Brando, and could imitate or parody his performance in On the Waterfront (1954) at the drop of a hat. However he did not get along with Brando while filming Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) and blamed the American star's on-set behavior for the film going over budget and over schedule. During the 1960s he often criticized Brando's eccentric movie choices in interviews.

In 1979 he was diagnosed with hyperglycemia, a condition in which an excessive amount of glucose circulates in the blood plasma.

During the 1940s and early 1950s he went to see all the films of John Wayne and Gary Cooper. Later, however, he described both actors as "pantomine cowboys". The westerns he made, like A Man Called Horse (1970), were decidedly revisionist in tone.