Was a pretty good rugby player in his day, still remembered in Limerick City for his tackling ability.
Father of director Damian Harris, as well as actors Jared Harris and Jamie Harris.
He was a guest professor at the University of Scranton in the mid-1980s, teaching Theatre Arts courses.
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 partners from the 1960s until O'Toole had to stop drinking in 1978.
Was knighted by Denmark in 1985.
One of nine 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 Dumbledore 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. Harris claimed that he was forced to sleep in a coal cellar for six weeks, but he actually stayed with some relatives in London.
His younger brother, Dermot Harris, was married to actress Cassandra Harris and had two children, Charlotte Brosnan and Christopher Brosnan. 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 fellow Irish actor (and close friend) Peter O'Toole appeared in versions of "Gulliver's Travels": Harris played the title character in Gulliver's Travels (1977) and O'Toole played the Emperor of Lilliput in Gulliver's Travels (1996), in which 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).
Is one of a few 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). Others in the same category are Colin Firth, who appeared in The English Patient (1996) and Shakespeare in Love (1998) and 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", he 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 Camelot (1967), the film version of Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe's hit musical, after close friend and drinking buddy Richard Burton, who had played Arthur in the original 1960 Broadway production, turned it down. Burton had had a huge success with the, winning a 1961 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. Harris 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 star Gary Cooper. Harris turned down the role of Commodus in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) and was 34 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. It did have a view of the river, but not as fine a view as the "Hotel" section riverside 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 him 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. Harris insisted on doing his own singing live and later enjoyed a successful pop career, touring America in 1972.
He enjoyed a friendly rivalry with English actor Oliver Reed during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Reed would often refer to himself as "Mr. England." When Harris would hear him saying that, he would then refer to himself as "Mr. Ireland.".
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 "pantomime cowboys". The westerns he made, like A Man Called Horse (1970), were decidedly revisionist in tone.
Befriended Russell Crowe while filming Gladiator (2000).
While living in England he popped out for milk one day and saw in a newspaper that Young Munster were playing in Thomond Park, Limerick. He got the next available flight to Ireland and spent the next three weeks on a drinking binge. All of this was unknown at the time to his wife, who had no idea where he was. When he finally returned to England he rang the doorbell of his house. His wife answered the door and before she had a chance to say anything, he said, "Well, why didn't you pay the ransom?".
Ex-father-in-law of actress Emilia Fox and Annabel Brooks.
Turned down the role of Commodus in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), then went on to play Commodus' father Marcus Aurelius (who dies at his son's hands) in Gladiator (2000).
In an interview on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962), he told a story about when he was a young actor playing Seyton in a theatrical production of "Macbeth." The lead actor was a real jerk to him, making constant demeaning references to Harris' Irish heritage. On opening night Harris couldn't take it anymore. In Act V, Macbeth turns to him and says, "Wherefore was that cry?" Harris was supposed to reply, "The queen, my lord, is dead," after which Macbeth goes into his famous soliloquy about "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow." Instead, Harris decided instead to say, "Oh, don't worry. She's fine. She'll be up and about in ten minutes." He ruined the performance and was promptly fired.
He hated making Caprice (1967) with Doris Day so much that he never watched the film. Once when he was on a flight, he noticed that it was the in-flight movie and immediately got off the plane.
By the time he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in August 2002, it was so advanced that there was no hope of recovery.
Uncle of actress Annabelle Wallis.
Mickey Rourke dedicated his 2009 BAFTA award for Best Actor to Harris, calling him "a good friend and great actor.".
Despite his initial reluctance to accept the role of Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films (he only agreed to do so at the urging of his granddaughter) he was determined not to let his battle with Hodgkin's disease get in the way of him playing the role. During post-production on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), producer David Heyman visited Harris in the hospital. By this point Harris' illness had progressed to the point where he had become very gaunt and could speak in barely more than a whisper, yet he begged the producer not to recast the role. Ultimately, however, the role had to be recast, and Harris passed away a few weeks later.
He appeared in four films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: The Guns of Navarone (1961), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), Unforgiven (1992) and Gladiator (2000). The latter two won in the category.
He was replaced by Donald Sutherland as IRA terrorist Liam Devlin in The Eagle Has Landed (1976) after it was discovered that he had attended a fundraiser for the Provisional IRA in the US.
He was a vocal supporter of the Provisional Irish Republican Army from 1973-84. In the late 1980s he was active in persuading Americans of Irish descent not to give money to terrorist groups.
Became a born-again Catholic after his brother Dermot Harris died from alcoholism in 1985.
He had a longtime hatred of Michael Caine. Harris claimed to have turned down the role of Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File (1965).
The first Harry Potter film series cast member to die.
He nearly died from alcoholism in 1981, and a Roman Catholic priest was called to give him the last rites.
As he was born in the Irish Free State he was entitled to a full knighthood. However, it is likely he would never have been offered one due to his vocal support for the IRA in the 1970s and early 1980s.
He said he gave up drugs after almost overdosing on cocaine in 1978.
Not related to Ed Harris.
Founder of Excalibur Productions, a theatrical touring business.
Did not start smoking until he was in his thirties. Thereafter he smoked up to three packs of cigarettes a day for many years.
Has played King Richard the Lionheart in Robin and Marian (1976) and the leader of the republican English Commonwealth, Oliver Cromwell in Cromwell (1970). His son Jared Harris has played King George VI in The Crown (2016) and future U.S President Ulysses S. Grant in Lincoln (2012).
He was considered for Dean Stockwell's role in Sons and Lovers (1960).
He was considered for Robert Shaw's roles in The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964) and A Man for All Seasons (1966).
He turned down Stacy Keach's role in The Squeeze (1977).
He was considered to play Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins (1964).
He was originally cast in the lead role in Flap (1970), but was replaced by Anthony Quinn due to creative differences.
He was the original choice for the role of Deke Thornton in The Wild Bunch (1969) that went to Robert Ryan.
He was considered for David Carradine's role in The Serpent's Egg (1977).
He was considered for Laurence Olivier's role in Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965).
He was originally cast as Ebeneezer Scrooge in Scrooge (1970), but dropped out when after he was forced to take over the direction of The Hero (1971) in Israel. Albert Finney replaced him.
He turned down Peter McEnery's role in Better a Widow (1968).
He was considered for the lead role in Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die (1966).
He was considered for the role of Charlie Vennor in Straw Dogs (1971) that went to Del Henney.
He was originally cast as Roger "Big X" Bartlett in The Great Escape (1963), but when his part was reduced, he dropped out in order to star in This Sporting Life (1963).
He was considered to play the Pilot in The Little Prince (1974). The role went to Richard Kiley.
He was considered for the role of Major Randolph Doryan in Ryan's Daughter (1970) that went to Christopher Jones.
He turned down Michael Caine's roles in The Ipcress File (1965) and Alfie (1966). He turned down the former in favour of Caprice (1967), a film he despised.
He turned down Rod Taylor's role in The Liquidator (1965) as he was in Norway filming The Heroes of Telemark (1965).
He was originally cast in Play Dirty (1969), but he quit after a furious row with producer Harry Saltzman after his role was reduced. Nigel Davenport replaced him.
He was originally cast in Yves Montand's role in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970), but quit due to disagreements with Barbra Streisand.
He was considered for the lead role in Young Cassidy (1965) that went to Rod Taylor.
He turned down Robert Prosky's role in Far and Away (1992).
He was a candidate to play Borusa in Doctor Who (1996) before the character was removed from the script.
He was considered for James Coburn's role in Mr. Patman (1980). The two co-starred in Major Dundee (1965).
On 30 September 2006, Manuel Di Lucia, of Kilkee, County Clare, a longtime friend, organised the placement in Kilkee of a bronze life-size statue of Richard Harris. It shows Harris at the age of eighteen playing squash. The sculptor was Seamus Connolly and the work was unveiled by Russell Crowe. Harris was an accomplished squash player, winning the Tivoli Cup in Kilkee four years in a row from 1948 to 1951, a record unsurpassed to this day.
Harris was a member of the Roman Catholic Knights of Malta, and was also dubbed a knight by the Queen of Denmark in 1985.
He was originally considered for David Niven's role in The Sea Wolves (1980).
In an interview with the Toronto Star in 2001, Harris expressed his concern that his association with the Harry Potter films would outshine the rest of his career. He explained, "Because, you see, I don't just want to be remembered for being in those bloody films, and I'm afraid that's what's going to happen to me.".
His casting as Oliver Cromwell in Cromwell (1970) was deemed odd, as Harris was patriotic Irish hellraiser and Cromwell was a puritan whose military campaign in Ireland was called genocidal or near-genocidal. Harris took the role because the money was too good to pass up. In interviews he said he admired Cromwell for making Britain more democratic.
Harris paid £75,000 for William Burges' Tower House in Holland Park in 1968, after discovering that Liberace had arranged to buy the house but not yet put down a deposit. Harris employed the original decorators, Campbell Smith & Company Ltd. to carry out extensive restoration work on the interior.
He was considered for Lloyd Bridges role in Blown Away (1994).
He was a candidate to play Gandalf in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
He was considered for Sean Connery's role in The Name of the Rose (1986).
Concerning his role as Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, Harris had stated that he did not intend to take the part at first, since he knew that his health was in decline, but he relented and accepted it because his 11-year-old granddaughter threatened never to speak to him again if he did not take it.
He had such a miserable time making Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) that he refused to attend the premiere. He described the shoot as "nightmarish" and called the film "a total fucking disaster".
He was originally cast in Nicol Williamson's role in Spawn (1997), but dropped out.
He was initially considered for the lead role in Barry Lyndon (1975).
An avid fan of American football, his favorite team was the Pittsburgh Steelers.