British-Irish actor Michael Gambon, perhaps best known for playing Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, has died at the age of 82, his family said in a statement on Thursday.
Gambon’s publicist issued the statement on the family’s behalf, it said he died following “a bout of pneumonia.”
“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.
Gambon won four television BAFTAs during his career as an actor. He worked in TV, film, radio and theater, before becoming well-known globally for his role as the second actor to play the headmaster of the Hogwarts school in the films based on J.K. Rowling’s books.
Gambon was cast to the role after the death of the original Dumbledore actor, Richard Harris, in 2002.
Irish-born, London-raised, Shakespearian staple
Born in Dublin on October 19, 1940, Gambon was raised in London and originally trained as an engineer, following in his father’s footsteps.
He made his theater debut in a production of “Othello” in Dublin.
He was one of the founder members of the National Theatre Company alongisde Laurence Olivier in 1965, at first playing smaller roles at the Royal National Theatre.
He would move to smaller theaters outside London for a few years where he could seize his first chances to play leading Shakespearian roles such as Othello and Macbeth.
Gambon went on to be nominated for the Olivier Award 13 times, winning the prize named after his mentor on three occasions.
One of his first roles to gain widespread acclaim was in the production of German writer Berthold Brecht’s “The Life of Galileo” at the National Theatre in 1980, the first Brecht production to prove a hit in anglophone theaters.
First time I ever went to see any Theatre with a capital T it was Michael Gambon in Brecht’s Life Of Galileo at The National in 1980. It’s still the best stage acting I’ve ever seen. RIP. pic.twitter.com/ascXcf14m7
— David Baddiel (@Baddiel) September 28, 2023
From ‘The King’s Speech’ to ‘Paddington’, and even ‘Top Gear’
The 1986 television starring role in “The Singing Detective,” for which he won one of his BAFTAs, was arguably the first to make Gambon a household name outside of theater-going circles.
He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 for his services to theater.
Although the Potter role raised Gambon’s international profile in later life and introduced him to a new generation of fans, he had long been seen as one of Britiain’s leading actors.
His work spanned TV, theater and radio, and he starred in an array of successful films including “Gosford Park”, “The King’s Speech” as King George V, and the animated family movie “Paddington”.
His 2009 appearance on the cult British car show “Top Gear” further aided his notoriety. Gambon’s timed lap of the show’s test track ended with him rounding the final corner on two wheels, nearly rolling the car. The show subsequently named the final corner “Gambon” in his honor. Show host Jeremy Clarkson on Thursday described Gambon as “hugely amusing, and such a tremendous guest.”
I’m so sad to hear that Michael Gambon has died. He was hugely amusing, and such a tremendous guest, we even named a corner after him.
— Jeremy Clarkson (@JeremyClarkson) September 28, 2023