Movie Legends Revealed | Was Dumbledore Originally Going to Be Straight in ‘Harry Potter’ Films?

Albus-Dumbledore

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Dumbledore was originally going to be straight in the Harry Potter movies.

I can’t say for sure exactly when the first work of art was translated into a different medium (like, what was the first book that was adapted into a play), but I can say with some certainty that whatever it was, there was somebody who said, “The original was better.”

That’s the tantalizing risk/reward nature of adapting a popular work into another medium: You enter your work with an established audience (you know people are already interested in the story because it was popular in the other medium), but you also enter your with an established audience that is going to be wary of any changes you make in the story. Now we are nearly a century removed from seeing stuff like the early days of Hollywood saying, “Yeah, Anna Karenina is good and all, but can we give it a happy ending?” but we still see dramatic changes in plots and characters as source material is adapted into films, television shows and plays. (The obsession with giving dark stories happy ending is nothing new: Henrik Ibsen was forced to give A Doll’s House an alternate happy ending when it opened in Berlin in 1879 and that was the version that was performed in the United States at the time.)

Comedian Ngaio Bealum recently spoke about explaining to his young daughter that the “movie universe” and the “book universe” will always be different things when discussing the changes made to the Harry Potter novels written by J.K. Rowling as they were adapted into a series of films. He told her she just had to accept it for what it is (he called it as “a life lesson for a young nerd”).

The Harry Potter films were mostly adapted by screenwriter Steve Kloves, who worked closely with Rowling (he skipped the fourth film in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but wrote all the others). Kloves had to make a lot of changes to adapt the novels, but Rowling was supportive, saying, “Steve’s a compassionate surgeon. We couldn’t make eight-hour-long films, and I’d rather have had him wielding the scalpel than anyone else.” However, Kloves had another challenge much different than just cutting material: He had to adapt the books while Rowling was still writing, so he had to always worry about making plot points in the films that would conflict with what the author had planned for future books. An example that often comes up to demonstrate this concern is that Kloves was intending to have Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore be revealed to be straight while Rowling always wrote him as gay (only officially revealing that fact after the last book in the series had been released). Is that true?

From Rowling’s perspective, it’s true. In 2007, when she made news around the globe through her “outing” of Dumbledore, Rowling further elaborated (as reported by David Haber):

She went on to say that while she was reading Steve Kloves’ script for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, she came across a passage in which Dumbledore was reminiscing about past loves, and she corrected it by crossing it out and scrawling “Dumbledore is gay” in the margin.

That’s the basis for the whole “Dumbledore was going to be straight in the films” story. However, while it is largely true, Kloves takes some issue with how it is reported.

The basic gist of what happened was accurately retold by Rowling: She came across a scene in Kloves’ script for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that she felt implied Dumbledore was straight, and she wrote on the margins “Dumbledore is gay” (she and Kloves were actually working in the same room at the time). However, Kloves notes that he never intended to make Dumbledore straight and that, in fact, he always presumed the character was gay. “When you live within a narrative the way I have and you start to feel the DNA of the book, you can tell,” he recalled. “There was something about the way she wrote about him. There was a freedom and a quality to his humor that made him someone who was slightly outside, and who was comfortable being outside normal conventions.” He was only having Dumblefore talk about a woman he once knew, not meaning to imply anything about Dumbledore’s sexuality. Rowling thought it seemed otherwise, but as noted above, Kloves never meant to have Dumbledore be straight in the films. So it is a bit of a slight misunderstanding between colleagues.

So the legend is…

STATUS: False

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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Comments

  • Ozancan Demirışık

    Steve Kloves didn’t skip the fourth movie. He skipped the fifth movie, The Order of the Phoenix, which was written by Michael Goldenberg. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0373889/

  • Platitude

    This is correct. Also, I wish they had used the writer for the fifth film for the other ones too. Thats my favorite of the films (though my least favorite book)

  • Thedude3445

    You could certainly tell, too.

  • The Dread Pirate Steve #812

    Dumbledore wasn’t ever gay in book or movie. It was never written or shown. Saying after the fact he was doesn’t count. If it’s not on the page or on screen it’s not there. A writer can intend all she wants but unless she actually does it, it doesn’t count for shit.

  • Ian

    By that logic, he was never straight because he was never shown to be straight either. A message board poster can intend all he wants but unless he can actually point to where the author did it, it doesn’t count for shit.

  • The Uncanny Haydn

    Actually it is implied with Dumbledore’s ‘friendship’ with Gellert Grindelwald when they were young. I think you just didn’t read between the lines.

  • Rick

    That’s some interesting news, I always went for the Rowling’s note version and never knew about Kloves comment. Good piece.

    Side note, it’s a nice pun the one you make at the beginning, but it made me think: actually it doesn’t make great sense to search the first book to be translated into a play, because it started the other way round. As everything in the mankind knowledge, fiction was born spoken, not written, so technically the first book was -likely- itself a translation of something played in front of an audience by a narrator/singer. Homer’s poems were born this way. So when the “first” book -whichever it had been- was adapted into a play centuries later it was just walking the way backwards, although many see adaptations as depaupering literature.

  • Lyle

    I wonder if Dumpledore being gay would have been more overt if the movies (or books) were made now. I’ve recently been reading the Game of Thrones books, and there are two characters in the book that are suggested to be gay, but, in the TV show, it is shown to be a fact. I found out that the Game of Thrones novels began at a time when people were still ‘touchy’ about gay characters being in the stories they read or saw in movies or TV, and the TV show came out when having overtly gay characters was considered ‘edgy’. I have to believe having an overtly gay person in a children’s book now would be more acceptable, but I cannot say for sure, since I have not been reading children’s books lately.

  • JokersNuts

    subtext.

  • Brian White

    I don’t care is Dumbledore was or wasn’t but JK Rowling did not write him as gay or as straight. I read those books to my children; there was never any such indication.

  • 7Thunders

    a “writer” You mean the CREATOR? So basically as long as he stays in the closet he’s not gay to you? I wish she would put out her encyclopedia she said she was going to do and add the fact so that people like Dread Pirate stop saying “it doesn’t count cause she doesn’t write it plainly out for me”

  • 7Thunders

    I never thought about it till the part about his friend. I read that and thought… “wait…are they in love with each other?” So ya, you can say it was there, it was just if you picked up on it or not.

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  • Philip

    He only molested the male students, so that makes him gay?

  • http://batman-news.com Darkwynd

    The sexuality of those characters in GoT (only one of which I know for sure who you’re referring to, but I’m only through the third book) is vague because those books are written from a third-person limited POV. So unless the person who is the focus of those chapters knows for sure about the characters’ orientation, they won’t be able to make any statement about it outside of their own observations. In addition, given the social standing of the characters, being openly gay isn’t really an option for most of them.

    Given how violent and risqué everything else in the books is, I can’t imagine Martin shying away from portraying a character as openly gay if it fit, or was relevant to, the narrative.

  • The Dread Pirate Steve #812

    She wrote him asexual. There was nothing to suggest any kind of sexual being there. And yes, a creator can screw up. If it’s not in the book, it hasn’t happened. That so called sub text with the school friend was shallow enough to project any kind of interpretation you want on it. Writing a cipher and saying after you’ve killed him off that he’s gay just sounds like someone who doesn’t know how to write us gays…

  • No Common Sense Needed

    You know, I just realized that we never saw any of the Harry Potter characters have sex in any of the books. And some people may wave their hand and just say subtext, or it’s implied, or something silly like “read between the lines”; I think that makes it clear to everyone that all of the characters in Harry Potter are born through magic.

  • rickjm

    What pirate is saying is that since it’s not explicitly stated in the books, the reader should have the right to interpret the character the way they want and if Rowling wanted us to think Dumbledore was gay, she should have done a better job putting it on the page. Its a valid theory even if you don’t agree with it. I never saw it even being implied that Dumbledore is gay. I saw it more like Dumbledore just being young and because of what happened to his sister, he was easily influenced by Grindelwald (I also think that was what Rowling intended when she wrote and was just trying to score some PC points, but that’s just me).

    In my view, the only thing that counts is what is in the books. While the stories and characters belong to the author in the technical sense, once I fork over my 20 dollars, the story is also mine and the way I interpret the story is all the matters. So if I don’t read Dumbledore as being gay on the page, then he’s not gay, no matter Rowling says after the fact.

  • Jason A. Martin

    I don’t buy it. Rowling retconned his homosexuality as a publicity stunt.

  • fraser

    She wrote him “asexual” because it’s told from the POV of schoolkids. It’s easy (or at least it was for me growing up in England) not to think about your teachers as sexual beings at all.

  • rodney

    Well, sure, as a reader, you’re free to think that the entire Harry Potter series was in that kid from St. Elsewhere’s mind if you want. But what the creator says is canon.

  • PretenderNx01

    Uh as a gay person myself, I’m gay whether you realize it or not and whether you see it happening or not- so to speak.

    So Dumbledore is gay whether there was explicit text or not if that’s how she thought of him while writing him and it was clearly a part of her thought process if she was correcting someone who she felt was portraying him otherwise.

  • PretenderNx01

    Violence is often more acceptable to western audiences than gay people are though. America especially seems to have an easier time seeing a man kill a man than kissing one.

  • PretenderNx01

    Then how come she and the screenwriter knew about it?

  • Eshuster

    The main difference is that you’re real and he’s not, but some say if you look closer at the text you could see hints of it. I didn’t read all the books, so I can’t say for sure myself.

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