London, United Kingdom – September 28, 2023
Michael Gambon, the renowned British-Irish actor, renowned worldwide for his portrayal of the beloved character Professor Albus Dumbledore in the iconic “Harry Potter” movie franchise, passed away on Thursday at the age of 82. The actor peacefully departed in a hospital, according to a family statement reported by PA Media.
Gambon commenced his illustrious acting career on the theatrical stage in the early 1960s and later transitioned into the realms of television and cinema. Among his notable film roles, he notably played a psychotic mob leader in Peter Greenaway’s “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover” in 1989 and portrayed the elderly King George V in Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” in 2010.
However, it was his iconic portrayal of Dumbledore in the “Harry Potter” franchise that etched his name into the annals of cinematic history. Gambon took over the role from the third installment of the eight-film series after the passing of Richard Harris in 2004. Despite the acclaim for his performance, Gambon humbly stated that he merely played himself “with a stuck-on beard and a long robe.”
Michael John Gambon’s birth took place on October 19, 1940, in Dublin, where his mother worked as a seamstress and his father pursued a career as an engineer. When he was six years old, the family relocated to Camden Town in London as his father sought employment in the city’s post-war reconstruction efforts.
Gambon’s educational journey led him to leave school at the age of 15 to embark on an engineering apprenticeship, earning full qualifications by the age of 21. Nevertheless, his passion for acting remained unrelenting. He was profoundly inspired by American actors Marlon Brando and James Dean, who, in his view, epitomized the turmoil of teenage boys.
In 1962, he auditioned for the renowned Shakespearean actor Laurence Olivier, who subsequently invited him to become one of the founding members of the National Theatre at the Old Vic. This esteemed group included other emerging talents like Derek Jacobi and Maggie Smith.
Over the ensuing years, Gambon solidified his reputation as a theatrical performer, particularly with his portrayal of Galileo in John Dexter’s “Life of Galileo” in 1980.
The 1980s brought him broader recognition, with a standout lead role in the 1986 TV series “The Singing Detective.” Here, he portrayed a writer grappling with a debilitating skin condition, for whom imagination became the sole refuge from pain. This performance earned him one of his four BAFTA awards.
Throughout his career, Gambon also clinched three Olivier Awards and two Screen Actors Guild Awards as part of ensemble casts, notably for his roles in “Gosford Park” (2001) and “The King’s Speech.”
In acknowledgment of his significant contributions to the world of theater, Gambon received the title of Commander of the British Empire in 1992, and he was subsequently knighted in 1998. Despite these accolades, he modestly refrained from using his title.
Gambon was known for his playful and mischievous personality. He often shared fabricated stories, including showing fellow actors a signed photograph of Robert De Niro, which he had inscribed himself before ever meeting the American actor. In one humorous anecdote, he revealed that he once convinced his mother that he was friends with the Pope.
In 2015, Gambon retired from the stage due to long-term memory issues but continued his on-screen acting career until 2019. In a 2002 interview, he expressed feeling like “the luckiest man in the world” due to his work.
Michael Gambon married Anne Miller in 1962, and the couple had a son. Though they never divorced, in later years, he also had another partner, set designer Philippa Hart, who was 25 years his junior, with whom he had two children.
The passing of Michael Gambon marks the end of a remarkable career that left an indelible mark on both the world of cinema and theater. His legacy as a versatile actor and his memorable portrayal of Dumbledore will be cherished by fans and remembered for generations to come.