Harry Potter actor Michael Gambon dies aged 82

Irish actor known for playing Albus Dumbledore died after becoming ill with pneumonia, family statement says.

Actor Michael Gambon arrives for the premiere of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" in New York.
Michael Gambon died peacefully in a hospital, news reports say [File: Jamie Fine/Reuters]

Michael Gambon, who played the wise professor Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movie franchise, has died at age 82.

Gambon began acting on stage in the early 1960s and later moved into TV and film. Notable film roles include a mob leader in Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover in 1989, and the elderly King George V in Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech in 2010.

But his best-known role was as Dumbledore, a character he took over in the third instalment of the eight-movie series after he replaced the late Richard Harris in 2004.

Gambon played down the praise for his performance and said he simply played himself “with a stuck-on beard and a long robe”.

Michael John Gambon was born on October 19, 1940, in Dublin to a seamstress mother and an engineer father. The family moved to Camden Town in London when Gambon was six as his father sought work in the city’s post-war rebuilding.

Gambon left school aged 15 to begin an engineering apprenticeship and by 21 he was fully qualified. However, he was also a member of an amateur theatre group and always knew he would act, he told The Herald newspaper in 2004.

He was inspired by American actors Marlon Brando and James Dean, who he believed reflected the angst of teenage boys.

Gambon built his reputation on the stage during the 1960s. The 1980s brought wider attention with the lead role in 1986 TV show The Singing Detective, in which he played a writer suffering from a debilitating skin condition whose imagination provided the only escape from his pain. The performance won him one of his four BAFTAs.

He also won three Olivier Awards and two ensemble cast Screen Actors Guild Awards for Gosford Park and The King’s Speech.

Gambon was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1992 and knighted for services to drama in 1998, something he called “a nice little present” – although he did not use the title.

A mischievous personality, he often made up stories. For years he showed fellow actors a signed photograph of Robert De Niro that he inscribed himself before ever meeting the American actor.

He revealed in an episode of The Late Late Show in Ireland that he convinced his mother he was friends with the pope.

Gambon retired from the stage in 2015 after suffering long-term memory problems but continued to act on screen until 2019. He told an interviewer in 2002 his work made him feel like “the luckiest man in the world”.

Source: Reuters