Sir Michael Gambon, the second actor to bring to life Headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies, has died at the age of 82. He passed away in a hospital in Essex, due to complications from pneumonia. Like most adult cast members of the Harry Potter franchise, Sir Michael was a Shakespearean trained actor, especially noted for his Othello. Sir Michael was the 26th cast member of Harry Potter to have died thus far.
Richard Harris (1930-2002) the role of Professor Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies. After Harris died, Sir Michael took over the role in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) and continued in the part for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Harry Potter and and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts I (2010) and II 92011). Jude Law played the younger Dumbledore in the Fantastic Beasts movies.
Like many of his Harry Potter colleagues (Miriam Gargoyles, Warwick Davis, David Tennent, Mark Williams,etc.) he also appeared in Dr. Who. Sir Michael Gambon played Kazran in the 2010 holiday special “A Christmas Carol.” (That’s the one with the sky sharks.)
Michael John Gambon was born in Dublin, Ireland October 19, 1940. He died September 28, 2023, in Witham, Essex, England. He is survived by his wife, the former Anne Miller, his special friend Philippa Hart, and three children. Sir Michael and Lady Gambon separated in 2002, but never officially divorced. They had one son, Fergus. He and set designer Philippa Hart kept company for over two decades. They had two children together, Thomas and William.
He began his theatrical career 61 years ago , playing a supporting role in Shakespeare’s Othello. In 1962 he became the friend and protege of Sir Laurence Olivier. Olivier recruited Gambon for his National Theatre Company. In 1965, Sir Michael made his film debut in Othello, directed by and starring Sir Laurence Olivier. Gambon played a senator, a soldier, and a Cypriot. Dame Maggie Smith, whom would years later co-star with Sir Michael in the Harry Potter movies, played fair Desdemona. From 1962 to 2015, Sir Michael performed upon the stage to great acclaim in a variety of roles, including the title roles of Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear. He retired from the stage in 2015, when he found he was having trouble memorizing his lines, and for the rest of his career limited himself to movies and television.
Movie Roles (Mundane)
After Othello in 1965, Sir Michael went on to many other movie roles. He played the thief in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover (1989). He played the Hon. Charles James Fox in the award-winning biopic of William Wilberforce, Amazing Grace (3006), which starred Ioan Gruffudd (Mr. Fantastic in The Fantastic Four) as famed abolitionist William Wilberforce. Gambon starred as Sir William McCordale in Gosford Park (2001). Many fans thought one of his most memorable roles was as the villain Denton Baxter in the western Open Range (2003). In The King’s Speech (2010), Sir Michael played King George V.. In Victoria & Abdul (2017), starring Dame Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, Sir Michael played her Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury. His final film role was as Moses in Cordelia (2019).
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror Roles
While Sir Michael’s most famous role was as Albus Patrick Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, he also appeared in the Dr. Who holiday special “A Christmas Carol” as Kazran. He appeared in the horror films Nothing but the Night (1973) and The Beast Must Die (1974). He played Katrina Van Tassel’s wealthy father in Sleepy Hollow (1999). He voiced Farmer Frank Bean in The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). Sir Michael played Oseary Drakoulias in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004). He portrayed Egbert Elvesham in The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells. In the steampunkish adventure film, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) Sir Michael was Editor Paley. He narrated the UK version of Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire; Christopher Parnell was the narrator for the US version.
Not surprisingly, Sir Michael Gambon made his television debut in a BBC adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy, Much Ado About Nothing in 1967. His most famous TV role was starring in the 1986 cult classic The Singing Detective. He appeared in the popular Cranford mini-series with Harry Potter co-star Imelda Staunton. He starred as Inspector Jules Maigret an ITV mystery series. Handling comedy as easily as he did drama, Sir Michael starred as Raymond Symon in Perfect Strangers (broadcast in the USA as Almost Strangers to distinguish it from the identically named, but very different show with Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot). In the TV mini-series Emma, based on the Jane Austen novel, he played Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse. Sir Michael portrayed President Lyndon B. Johnson in the made-for-TV movie Path to War (2002). The Washington Post complimented him ” “Gambon is entirely up to the task of making a larger-than-life icon seem painfully – and in the end, helplessly – human. It is a performance of fire and brimstone” He starred as Sir Winston Churchill in Churchill’s Secret, for which he was nominated for an OFTA Television Award.
Awards and Honors
Sir Michael Gambon was nominated for all major theatrical awards. He was knighted in 1998 for services to drama. From 1979 to 2009 he was nominated thirteen times for the Olivier Award. He won three times. He was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award twice, once for Path to War and again for Emma. Between 1987 and 2002, Sir Michael won four BAFTA Awards.
Although he spent most of his life in England, his native Ireland has not forgotten him. He was nominated for three IFTA (Irish Film and Television Awards) and won the I/FTA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. Between 2002 and 2017, he was four times nominated by the Online Film & Television Association: he won in 2012 for Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series for Luck. In 2019 he received two nominations for the National Film Award from International Film Awards, UK. He had two nominations for Satellite Awards. He made his Broadway debut in1997. He earned a Tony nomination for his first and only Broadway performance. Although he was never nominated for an Oscar, several movies he was in were Oscar winners. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, and won two Screen Actors Guild Awards.
He leaves a rich theatrical legacy behind, and will be remembered through the years to come … and not just for Albus Dumbledore. Our condolences to his family.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.