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Michael Gambon, Dumbledore in Harry Potter films, dead at 82

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Veteran actor Michael Gambon, who was known to many for his portrayal of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in six of the eight Harry Potter films, has died, his publicist said Thursday. He was 82.

A statement by his family, issued by his publicist, 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.

No matter what role he took on in a career that lasted more than five decades, Gambon was always instantly recognizable by the deep and drawling tones of his voice. He was cast as the much-loved Dumbledore after the death of his predecessor, Richard Harris, in 2002.

Stars of the Harry Potter films, left to right, Daniel Radcliffe, Gary Oldman, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon and Rupert Grint, pose for photographers in London in May 2004. (Peter Macdiarmid/Reuters)

Gambon once acknowledged not having read any of J.K. Rowling’s best-selling books, arguing it was safer to follow the script rather than be too influenced by the books. This didn’t prevent him from embodying the spirit of Professor Dumbledore, the powerful wizard who fought against evil to protect his students.

Fiona Shaw, who played Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter series, 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 on Thursday. “I think he was always pretending that he didn’t take it seriously, but he took it profoundly seriously.”

Long career

Although the Potter role raised Gambon’s international profile and introduced him to a new generation of fans, he had long been recognized as one of Britain’s leading actors.

His work spanned TV, theatre and radio, and he starred in dozens of films, from Gosford Park to The King’s Speech to the animated family movie Paddington. Gambon was knighted for services to drama in 1998.

Born in Ireland on Oct. 19, 1940, Gambon was raised in London and originally trained as an engineer, following in the footsteps of his father. He made his theatre debut in a production of Othello in Dublin.

In 1963, he got his first big break with a minor role in Hamlet, the National Theatre Company’s opening production, under the directorship of the legendary Laurence Olivier.

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

A wizard and a boy hold wands in a scene from a film.
Gambon, left, plays Professor Albus Dumbledore in this scene from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth film in the series. (Warner Bros. Pictures )

Multi-award winner

A multi-talented actor, Gambon was also the recipient of four coveted British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards for his television work.

He became a household name in Britain after his lead role in the 1986 BBC series The Singing Detective, written by Dennis Potter and considered a classic of British television drama. Gambon won the BAFTA for best actor for the role.

Gambon was versatile as an actor, but once told the BBC of his preference for playing “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, he returned to the works of J.K. Rowling, taking a leading role in the TV adaptation of her book The Casual Vacancy.

Gambon retired from the stage in 2015 after struggling 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.”

The actor was always protective when it came to his private life. He married Anne Miller and they had one son, Fergus. He later had two sons with set designer Philippa Hart.


Veteran actor Michael Gambon, who was known to many for his portrayal of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in six of the eight Harry Potter films, has died, his publicist said Thursday. He was 82.

A statement by his family, issued by his publicist, 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.

No matter what role he took on in a career that lasted more than five decades, Gambon was always instantly recognizable by the deep and drawling tones of his voice. He was cast as the much-loved Dumbledore after the death of his predecessor, Richard Harris, in 2002.

Five actors from the Harry Potter films posed for a photo
Stars of the Harry Potter films, left to right, Daniel Radcliffe, Gary Oldman, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon and Rupert Grint, pose for photographers in London in May 2004. (Peter Macdiarmid/Reuters)

Gambon once acknowledged not having read any of J.K. Rowling’s best-selling books, arguing it was safer to follow the script rather than be too influenced by the books. This didn’t prevent him from embodying the spirit of Professor Dumbledore, the powerful wizard who fought against evil to protect his students.

Fiona Shaw, who played Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter series, 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 on Thursday. “I think he was always pretending that he didn’t take it seriously, but he took it profoundly seriously.”

Long career

Although the Potter role raised Gambon’s international profile and introduced him to a new generation of fans, he had long been recognized as one of Britain’s leading actors.

His work spanned TV, theatre and radio, and he starred in dozens of films, from Gosford Park to The King’s Speech to the animated family movie Paddington. Gambon was knighted for services to drama in 1998.

Born in Ireland on Oct. 19, 1940, Gambon was raised in London and originally trained as an engineer, following in the footsteps of his father. He made his theatre debut in a production of Othello in Dublin.

In 1963, he got his first big break with a minor role in Hamlet, the National Theatre Company’s opening production, under the directorship of the legendary Laurence Olivier.

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

A wizard and a boy hold wands in a scene from a film.
Gambon, left, plays Professor Albus Dumbledore in this scene from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth film in the series. (Warner Bros. Pictures )

Multi-award winner

A multi-talented actor, Gambon was also the recipient of four coveted British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards for his television work.

He became a household name in Britain after his lead role in the 1986 BBC series The Singing Detective, written by Dennis Potter and considered a classic of British television drama. Gambon won the BAFTA for best actor for the role.

Gambon was versatile as an actor, but once told the BBC of his preference for playing “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, he returned to the works of J.K. Rowling, taking a leading role in the TV adaptation of her book The Casual Vacancy.

Gambon retired from the stage in 2015 after struggling 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.”

The actor was always protective when it came to his private life. He married Anne Miller and they had one son, Fergus. He later had two sons with set designer Philippa Hart.

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