Michael Gambon, the prolific Irish-English actor of stage and screen who took over the role of Albus Dumbledore in six “Harry Potter” movies, has died. He was 82.
“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 Thursday in a statement to the Associated Press.
Gambon was cast as the Hogwarts headmaster after the death of Richard Harris in 2002. Harris played the role for two films, while Gambon rounded out the franchise with six.
Gambon was knighted in 1998 for his services to drama, and they were indeed prodigious: Having appeared in more than 150 films and TV shows – on top of his enormous body of work in theater and radio – Gambon was one of Britain’s best-known actors before donning Dumbledore’s cape and cap.
He had never read any of J. K. Rowling’s books, saying in interviews that he thought it better to just follow the script rather than be influenced by the source material. Though he was infamously cranky, uncooperative and inclined toward rakish humor in person, he could turn on the warmth and charm of a character like Dumbledore on a dime, playing both high- and lowbrow characters in films like “Gosford Park,” “The King’s Speech” and “Paddington.”
Gambon was born in Ireland and raised in London, and got his first break in 1963 with a minor role in the National Theatre Company’s opening production of “Hamlet,” which was directed by Laurence Olivier. He would soon become a distinguished stage actor, winning the Laurence Olivier award three times and the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards twice, and would later win four British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards for his TV work.
He is survived by wife Anne Miller and their one son, Fergus; he later had two sons with Philippa Hart, a set designer.