Michael Gambon: From a Ruthless Gangster to a Beloved Wizard

Michael Gambon, the acclaimed actor who played Professor Albus Dumbledore in six of the eight Harry Potter films, has passed away at the age of 82. His family confirmed that he died peacefully in hospital with relatives by his side, following a bout of pneumonia.

Gambon was a versatile and prolific actor who worked in film, television, theatre and radio over his six-decade career. He was nominated for four BAFTA awards, three Emmy awards and two Golden Globe awards. He also won three Olivier awards for his performances in National Theatre productions.

A Star of the Stage

Gambon was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1940. He moved to London with his family when he was five years old. He left school at 15 and worked as an apprentice toolmaker for a while. He then joined the Royal Air Force as an engineer before pursuing his passion for acting.

Michael Gambon: From a Ruthless Gangster to a Beloved Wizard
Michael Gambon: From a Ruthless Gangster to a Beloved Wizard

He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and made his stage debut in 1962. He became one of the original members of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre company in 1963 and worked with some of the most renowned directors and playwrights of his time, such as Peter Hall, Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard.

He played a wide range of roles, from Shakespearean heroes and villains to contemporary characters and historical figures. Some of his most memorable stage performances include King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Volpone, Galileo, Uncle Vanya and Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art.

He was known for his powerful voice, expressive face and charismatic presence on stage. He could also switch from drama to comedy with ease and charm. He once said that he preferred playing “villainous characters” because they were more fun.

A Legend of the Screen

Gambon made his film debut in 1965 in Othello, starring Laurence Olivier. He went on to appear in more than 70 films, working with some of the finest filmmakers and actors of his generation. He showed his versatility and range as an actor by taking on different genres and styles, from historical dramas and crime thrillers to fantasy adventures and musical comedies.

He played French detective Jules Maigret in ITV series Maigret and was also known for his role as Philip Marlow in Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective on the BBC. His other TV work includes Wives and Daughters, Emma, The Casual Vacancy and Churchill’s Secret.

His film work includes The King’s Speech, Gosford Park, Sleepy Hollow, The Book of Eli, Quartet and Dad’s Army. He also voiced characters in animated films such as Fantastic Mr Fox, Paddington 2 and The Wind in the Willows.

However, he is perhaps best known for his role as Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter franchise. He took over the role from Richard Harris, who died after playing Dumbledore in the first two films. Gambon played the wise and mysterious headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from 2004 to 2011, appearing in six films.

He brought a sense of warmth, humour and authority to the character, while also capturing his darker and more complex aspects. He became a beloved figure for millions of fans around the world who grew up with the Harry Potter books and films.

A Tribute to a Great Actor

Gambon’s death has been met with sadness and admiration by his colleagues and admirers. Many have paid tribute to his talent, legacy and personality on social media.

Fiona Shaw, who starred as Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter films, said that Gambon was a “magnificent trickster” who could do anything with text. She also recalled that he was a “gun maker” who always said he could fool the V&A museum into believing that they were 18th century guns.

James Phelps, who played Fred Weasley in the Harry Potter films, said that Gambon was “a legend on and off camera”. He also shared a memory of working with him on set, where Gambon would make everyone laugh with his jokes.

David Baddiel, presenter and writer, said that Gambon was responsible for “the best stage acting I have ever seen”. He praised his performance as Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge at the National Theatre in 1987.

Michael Gambon was a remarkable actor who left an indelible mark on the world of theatre and cinema. He will be remembered for his brilliant performances, his distinctive voice and his infectious laughter. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and fans.

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