On Friday, Richard Harris — who starred as Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and the upcoming sequel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (opening Nov. 15) — died peacefully in a London hospital. The 72-year-old acting vet — an Oscar nominee for 1990's The Field — had recently been undergoing chemotherapy for treatment of Hodgkin's disease.

In an interview conducted just a few days before Harris's passing, Harry Potter director Chris Columbus told TV Guide Online that the feisty Irishman's will to live was strong. "I saw Richard a couple of weeks ago and he didn't look well," Columbus said. "But he said to me, 'If you f---ing think about recasting me [for the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban], I'll f---ing kill you.'"

Apparently, Harris — who won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of King Arthur in 1967's Camelot — was so concerned about being replaced in Prisoner of Azkaban that he kept his illness secret from Columbus for as long as he could. "I didn't know then that he had cancer, to be honest with you," admitted the Home Alone helmer. "He looked like he had lost about 35-40 pounds. He had pneumonia and was battling that. So, I was a little concerned about his health.

"He was talking about coming to the [Chamber of Secrets] premiere," Columbus added, marveling. "He's one of the toughest guys I've ever met..."

Back in the '70s, Harris was as famed for his wild partying — especially with fellow thespian pals Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole — as for his fine acting. He is survived by his three children, Damien, Jared and Jamie Harris.