Michael Gambon, Passes Away at 82, Renowned as Dumbledore in ‘Harry Potter’ Series

Michael Gambon, Passes Away at 82, Renowned as Dumbledore in ‘Harry Potter’ Series

He portrayed historical figures such as King Edward VII in “The Lost Prince” (2003), King George V in “The King’s Speech” (2010), and Winston Churchill in his later years in the 2015 ITV/PBS “Masterpiece” production “Churchill’s Secret.” Additionally, he took on the role of U.S. President Lyndon Johnson in John Frankenheimer’s 2002 HBO telepic “Path to War,” earning an Emmy nomination. In the same year, he also portrayed a fictional British prime minister in “Ali G Indahouse.” His iconic portrayal of Hogwarts headmaster in the “Harry Potter” film series made him a household name. In 2016, he lent his voice as the narrator in the Coen brothers’ homage to golden-age Hollywood, “Hail! Caesar.”

Gambon was equally adept at playing gangster roles. He featured prominently in David Milch’s HBO horse-racing drama “Luck” (2011-12), where he played a formidable adversary to Dustin Hoffman’s mobster Ace Bernstein. However, it was his unforgettable and thunderous performance as the titular thief in Peter Greenaway’s 1999 “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover” that truly catapulted him into the cinematic limelight. Roger Ebert described his character as a loud, large, and reprehensible criminal, leaving audiences in awe of his portrayal.

In Matthew Vaughn’s 2005 British crime film “Layer Cake,” Gambon delivered another memorable gangster role, complete with witty lines, such as “England. Typical. Even drug dealers don’t work weekends.” Ebert praised his character, Eddie Temple, as a man whose soul bore the scars of a tumultuous life.

Gambon was equally versatile, seamlessly transitioning to upper-class roles, evident in Robert Altman’s 2001 film “Gosford Park” and the 2008 adaptation of “Brideshead Revisited.” He also demonstrated his skill as a villain in Michael Mann’s whistleblower film “The Insider,” portraying the head of a tobacco company.

Following the passing of Richard Harris, Gambon took over the iconic role of Albus Dumbledore in the “Harry Potter” series, despite not having read the books or seen the previous films. He found immense enjoyment in working on the series, which also brought substantial financial rewards.

In 2015, Gambon was part of the ensemble cast in the BBC/HBO miniseries adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s novel “The Casual Vacancy.” His illustrious career earned him accolades, including four BAFTA TV Awards for Best Actor, recognizing his outstanding contributions to television and film.

Michael Gambon

In 2002, Michael Gambon earned an Emmy nomination for his outstanding lead actor role in the miniseries “Path to War.” Notably, he received another Emmy nomination, this time for supporting actor, for his portrayal of Mr. Woodhouse in the 2009 adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma,” starring Romola Garai in the titular role.

Gambon’s remarkable television career was further highlighted by his four BAFTA TV Awards for Best Actor. His first win came in 1986 for his career-altering performance in “The Singing Detective,” followed by victories for “Wives and Daughters” in 1999, the exquisite telepic “Longitude” in 2000, and “Perfect Strangers” the following year.

His television repertoire also included playing the legendary French police inspector in the Granada Television series “Maigret,” which aired on PBS in the early 1990s. In 2015, he featured prominently in the Scandinavian series “Fortitude,” which reached U.S. audiences through Pivot.

While Gambon’s later appearance may give the impression of a seasoned actor, he once portrayed romantic leads in both film and TV. For instance, in the early 1970s, he swashbuckled his way as Gavin Ker in the BBC series “The Borderers.” Surprisingly, in 1970, he even auditioned for the role of James Bond, a testament to his versatility.

Gambon’s introduction to American audiences came in 1985 when he played a zookeeper in the delightful and eccentric romance film “Turtle Diary,” alongside Ben Kingsley and Glenda Jackson. His breakthrough in British television arrived with Dennis Potter’s extraordinary 1986 musical mystery miniseries “The Singing Detective,” which not only secured him a BAFTA TV Award but also earned a Peabody Award after airing on PBS.

Throughout his illustrious stage career, Gambon’s association extended beyond Shakespeare to include the works of Alan Ayckbourn, including the “Norman Conquests” trilogy, and Harold Pinter.

In 2004, Gambon shared the screen with Annette Bening in Istvan Szabo’s “Being Julia,” portraying a theater impresario who played a pivotal role in Bening’s character’s development. His stage prowess was equally lauded, as evidenced by his three Laurence Olivier Awards, the highest accolades in British theater. These honors included recognition for his best comedy performance in Ayckbourn’s “A Chorus of Disapproval” in 1986, the best actor award for Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge” in 1988, and another comedy performance award for Ayckbourn’s “Man of the Moment” in 1990. Remarkably, he received nominations for best actor on ten additional occasions.


While enjoying a distinguished career on the British stage, Michael Gambon’s Broadway appearance was a singular event. In 1996, he took the lead role in David Hare’s play “Skylight,” which earned him a Tony nomination for best actor.

Born in Cabra, Dublin, Ireland, Michael John Gambon’s journey into the world of acting began at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he honed his skills from the ages of 18 to 21. Remarkably, he simultaneously apprenticed as a toolmaker, fostering a lifelong fascination with machines of all sizes. He amassed collections of antique guns, clocks, watches, and classic cars.

Gambon embarked on his professional stage career in 1962 when he made his debut at the Gate Theatre Dublin in a production of “Othello” at the age of 24. Subsequently, he toured with the Gate and caught the attention of the legendary Laurence Olivier, who invited him to join the newly established National Theatre Company. In 1967, Gambon ventured to the Birmingham Repertory Company, where he assumed prominent roles in the Shakespearean canon, including his favorite, the title role in “Othello,” along with portrayals of “Macbeth” and “Coriolanus.” In his early 40s, he garnered acclaim for his rendition of the title role in “King Lear” at Stratford.

Ralph Richardson bestowed the moniker “the Great Gambon” upon the young actor, a name that would endure for decades. In July 2012, the BBC recognized Gambon as one of the top 10 British character actors.

In 2004, Gambon realized a lifelong dream by portraying Sir John Falstaff in Nicholas Hytner’s National Theatre production of “Henry IV,” Parts 1 and 2.

Gambon’s illustrious career featured not only three Olivier Awards but also 10 additional nominations, all in the best actor category. These nominations spanned a diverse range of productions, from Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” in 1979 to Bertolt Brecht’s “The Life of Galileo” in 1980, Christopher Hampton’s “Tales From Hollywood” in 1983, David Hare’s “Skylight” in 1997, Stephen Churchett’s historical drama “Tom and Clem” in 1998, Yasmina Reza’s “The Unexpected Man” in 1999, Pinter’s “The Caretaker” in 2001, Caryl Churchill’s “A Number” in 2003, Beckett’s “Endgame” in 2005, and Pinter’s “No Man’s Land” in 2009.

In February 2015, at the age of 74, Gambon announced his retirement from stage acting due to memory loss, which had increasingly made it challenging for him to recall his lines. He had relied on an earpiece for several years to receive line prompts and had previously experienced panic attacks triggered by memory lapses.

Gambon was a private individual, keeping details of his personal life under wraps. He married Anne Miller in 1962, and they had a son named Fergus in 1964. Fergus, who received part of his education from his father, later appeared as an expert on the BBC version of “Antiques Roadshow.”

In 2002, Gambon relocated from his residence in Kent, which he had shared with his wife, and subsequently introduced Philippa Hart as his girlfriend. In addition to his son Fergus, he is survived by Hart and their two young sons, Michael, born in 2007, and William, born in 2009.


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