Michael Gambon, Actor Who Played Dumbledore in ‘Harry Potter’ Series, Dies at Age 82

Michael Gambon, Actor Who Played Dumbledore in ‘Harry Potter’ Series, Dies at Age 82

Michael Gambon, the Irish-born actor who’s best known to American audiences for playing Hogwarts headmaster Albus  Dumbledore in the last six entries of the Harry Potter film series, has died at the age of 82, CNN is reporting. The multi-BAFTA Award-winning performer died yesterday after “a bout of pneumonia,” his publicist, Clair Dobbs, stated.

“We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon. Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside,” his family said in a statement. “We ask that you respect our privacy at this painful time and thank you for your messages of support and love.”

While starring in the Harry Potter franchise raised Gambon’s international profile, he had long been celebrated as one of Britain’s leading actors. He worked on television and radio, and in theater. Over his decades-long career, he also starred in dozens of movies, including Gosford Park, The King’s Speech and Paddington. He recently appeared in the Judy Garland biopic Judy, which was released in 2019.

Gambon was knighted for his contribution as an actor to the entertainment industry in 1998.

The role of the beloved Professor Dumbledore was initially played by another Irish-born actor, Richard Harris, in the series’ first two installments. Upon the actor’s death in 2002, Gambon took over and played the part in the franchise’s remaining sequels, from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban through to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

Gambon once acknowledged that he hadn’t read any of the best-selling books by J. K Rowling that the fantasy films are based on. He stated that as an actor, he felt it was safer to follow the script rather than be too influenced by the books.

The actor’s co-stars often described him as a mischievous, funny man who was self-deprecating about his talent. Actress Helen Mirren fondly remembered his “natural Irish sense of humor — naughty but very, very funny.”

Rupert Grint, who played Ron Weasley in the screen adaptations of the Harry Potter novels, paid tribute to Gambon in a post on Instagram.

“So sad to hear about Michael. He brought so much warmth and mischief to every day on set,” wrote Grint. “He captivated me as a kid and became a personal role model of mine for finding the fun and eccentricities in life.”

James Phelps, who played Ron’s brother Fred Weasley in the Harry Potter film franchise, posted a tribute to Gambon on X, formerly known as Twitter, today.

“Very sorry to hear about the passing of Michael Gambon. He was, on and off the camera, a legend,” the actor wrote.

“He was always very funny and very welcoming to share any knowledge he had,” Phelps added.

Fiona Shaw, who played Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter movies, recalled Gambon telling her how central acting was to his life.

“He did once say to me in a car ‘I know I go on a lot about this and that, but actually, in the end, there is only acting’,” Shaw told the BBC today. “I think he was always pretending that he didn’t take it seriously, but he took it profoundly seriously.”

Irish President Michael D. Higgins paid tribute to Gambon’s “exceptional talent.” The politician also praised the actor as “one of the finest actors of his generation.”

Gambon was was born in Dublin on October 19, 1940 and raised in London. He originally trained as an engineer, like his father. As a result, the actor didn’t have formal drama training. It has been said that he became involved in the entertainment industry after he started work in the theater as a set builder. He made his theater debut in a production of Othello in Dublin.

In 1963 Gambon received his first big break with a minor role in Hamlet, the National Theatre Company’s opening production. The play was directed by the legendary Laurence Olivier.

Gambon soon became a distinguished stage actor. He received critical acclaim for his leading performance in Life of Galileo, which was directed by John Dexter. He won the Laurence Olivier Award three times and the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards twice.

Gambon was became a household name in Britain after his lead role in the 1986 BBC television series The Singing Detective. The actor won the BAFTA for best actor for the role on the show, which is considered a classic of British television drama.

Gambon was also nominated for Emmys for his more recent television work. He was nominated for his portrayal of Mr. Woodhouse in the 2010 adaption of Jane Austen’s Emma, and role as former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson in 2002’s Path to War.

Gambon was versatile in the roles he choose as an actor. But he once told the BBC that he preferred to play villainous characters. He played gangster Eddie Temple in the British crime thriller, Layer Cake, and a Satanic crime boss in Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.

In 2015 Gambon starred in a screen adaptation of another one of Rowling’s writing; he took a leading role in the TV adaptation of her non-Potter book The Casual Vacancy.

“I absolutely loved working with him,” Rowling posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The first time I ever laid eyes on him was in King Lear in 1982, and if you’d told me then that brilliant actor would appear in anything I’d written, I’d have thought you were insane.”

Gambon retired from the theater in 2015, as a result of his struggle to remember his lines in front of an audience due to his advancing age. He once told the Sunday Times Magazine: “It’s a horrible thing to admit, but I can’t do it. It breaks my heart.”

Gambon is survived by his ex-wife, Anne Miller, and their son, Fergus. The actor also had two sons with his partner, set designer Philippa Hart.

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles.

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