LONDON – British-Irish actor Michael Gambon, best known to worldwide audiences for his role as the wise Professor Albus Dumbledore in the ‘Harry Potter’ film series and whose career was launched by his mentor Laurence Olivier, died on Thursday at the age of 82. dead.
He died peacefully in hospital, PA Media reported citing a family statement.
Gambon began acting on stage in the early 1960s and later moved to television and film. Notable film roles include a psychotic mafia leader in Peter Greenaway’s 1989 ‘The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover’ and the elderly King George V in Tom Hooper’s 2010 ‘The King’s Speech’.
But his best-known role was as Dumbledore in the Harry Potter franchise, a role he took over from the third installment in the eight-film series after replacing the late Richard Harris in 2004. Gambon downplayed the praise for his performance. and said he was simply playing himself “with a stuck beard and a long robe”.
Michael John Gambon was born in Dublin on October 19, 1940 to a seamstress mother and an engineer father. The family moved to Camden Town in London when Gambon was six, as his father sought work in the city’s post-war reconstruction.
Gambon left school at the age of 15 to begin an engineering apprenticeship and by the age of 21 he was fully qualified. However, he was also a member of an amateur theater group and always knew he would act, he told The Herald newspaper in 2004. He was inspired by American actors Marlon Brando and James Dean, who he believed reflected the fears of teenage boys.
In 1962 he auditioned for the great Shakespearean actor Olivier, who made him a founding member of the National Theater at the Old Vic, alongside other young rising greats such as Derek Jacobi and Maggie Smith.
Gambon built his reputation on stage in the following years, most notably making a name for himself with his 1980 portrayal of Galileo in John Dexter’s ‘Life of Galileo’.
The 1980s brought wider attention with the lead role in the 1986 TV show ‘The Singing Detective’, in which he played a writer suffering from a debilitating skin condition whose imagination provided the only escape from his pain. The performance earned him one of his four BAFTAs.
He also won three Olivier Awards and two Screen Actors Guild Awards for the ensemble – for 2001’s ‘Gosford Park’ and ‘The King’s Speech’.
Gambon was appointed Commander of the British Empire in 1992 and knighted in 1998 for services to drama, something he called “a nice gift”, although he did not use the title.
He was a mischievous personality and often made up stories. For years he showed fellow actors an autographed photo of Robert De Niro, which he had signed himself before ever meeting the American actor.
He revealed on an episode of “The Late Late Show” in Ireland that he convinced his mother he was friends with the Pope.
Gambon retired from the stage in 2015 after suffering from long-term memory problems, but continued to act on screen until 2019. In 2002, he told an interviewer that his work made him feel like “the luckiest man in the world.”
Gambon married Anne Miller in 1962 and the couple had one son. Although they never divorced, in later years he also had another partner, set designer Philippa Hart, 25 years his junior, with whom he had two children.