Actor Sir Michael Gambon has died peacefully in hospital aged 82 following a bout of pneumonia, his family revealed today.
The towering figure of the British stage and screen began his 60-year career treading the boards with Sir Laurence Olivier and was much-loved with younger audiences as Albus Dumbledore in eight of the Harry Potter movies.
His rise to one of the world’s most celebrated actors was all the more extraordinary given his humble background, born in Dublin to a working class couple who encouraged him to be an engineer after he left school at 15.
A statement on behalf of his wife Lady Gambon and son Fergus Gambon, issued by publicist Clair Dobbs, said: ‘We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon.
Michael Gambon, pictured as Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies, has died aged 82
Michael Gambon with his wife Lady Gambon, with whom he had a son, Fergus
Michael Gambon and his partner Philippa Hart, with whom he had two young sons
‘Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia. Michael was 82.
‘We ask that you respect our privacy at this painful time and thank you for your messages of support and love.’
He married married retired mathematician Lady Anne in 1962. Their son Fergus is an expert on ceramics and works for auctioneer’s Bonhams. He also appears on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.
Sir Michael was a working-class boy made good. He was born in Dublin, his mother was a seamstress and his father an engineer for whom the notion of a career on the stage was totally alien.
He left school at 15 with no qualifications, then took up an apprenticeship as a toolmaker. By the age of 21 he was a qualified engineer, but only worked as such for a year before deciding to become an actor.
Sir Michael, who has won four TV Baftas, is known for his extensive back catalogue of work across TV, film, radio and theatre over a career spanning decades.
In recent years he played Albus Dumbledore in six of the eight Harry Potter films.
Speaking about it recently he said of playing the wizard that he does not ‘have to play anyone really.’
He said: ‘I just stick on a beard and play me, so it’s no great feat. I never ease into a role—every part I play is just a variant of my own personality. I’m not really a character actor at all…’
Away from acting, it was reported in 2015 that he split his time between the £5million country pile he shared with Lady Gambon near Gravesend in Kent, and a home in West London to his young sons, Tom and Will with set designer Philippa Hart in West London. The boys are believed to be in their early teens.
Sir Michael and Philippa had been in a relationship since 2000, when they worked together on the film Longitude, in which he starred as the 18th-century watchmaker John Harrison.
Within a year of their meeting, he was openly introducing her as his girlfriend to Charles Dance, Dame Maggie Smith and other cast members on his next movie, the Oscar-winning Gosford Park, in which he played a philandering aristocrat.
And while his wife was initially said to be devastated by the news, with Sir Michael moving out of their home, she evidently came to terms with the arrangement, as he subsequently moved back in.
He then split his time between both families, roaring from London to Kent and back in his selection of sports cars including a Ferrari, a Mercedes and a 178mph Audi R8 which were his pride and joy. The actor was always protective when it came to his private life, once replying ‘what wife’ when asked about his marriage.
His love of fast cars was renowned.
Former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson has expressed his condolences after the death of Sir Michael Gambon, recalling the actor was such a ‘tremendous guest’ he had a corner named after him on the BBC show’s race track.
‘I’m so sad to hear that Michael Gambon has died,’ Clarkson tweeted.
‘He was hugely amusing, and such a tremendous guest, we even named a corner after him.’
Harry Potter stars Robbie Coltrane and Michael Gambon in New York in 2011
He is also known for playing French detective Jules Maigret in ITV series Maigret, and for starring in the BBC series, The Singing Detective.
Sir Michael made his first appearance on stage in a production of Othello at the Gates Theatre, Dublin in 1962 and was knighted for his contribution to the entertainment industry in 1998.
He put in a memorable performance in the BBC’s 2015 adaptation of JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy and his illustrious theatre career includes appearances in Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests, The Life Of Galileo and Nicholas Hytner’s National Theatre production of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2.
In 2016 he appeared as Private Godfrey in the big screen adaptation of Dad’s Army, and his other film roles included period dramas such as 2010’s The King’s Speech, 2001’s Gosford Park and 2017’s Victoria & Abdul.
Sir Michael was also recognised by American awards with Emmy nominations for Mr Woodhouse in 2010 for an adaption of Jane Austen’s Emma and as former US president Lyndon B Johnson in Path To War in 2002.
His turn in David Hare play Skylight, about the fallout of an affair, also led to a Tony nod in 1997 and earlier in 1990 he secured an Olivier Award for comedy performance of the year for diplomatic comedy Man Of The Moment at the Globe, now the Gielgud Theatre.
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.”
Comedian David Baddiel is among those paying tribute to Sir Michael Gambon, describing his theatre performance as ‘the best acting I’ve ever seen’.
Posting to X, formerly Twitter, Baddiel said: ‘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.’
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