One of the great actors of the last 60 years, Sir Michael Gambon, has sadly passed away, with tributes pouring in from those who worked alongside him.
The Dublin-born star died in hospital after a bout of pneumonia. He worked in TV, film, theatre and radio throughout his distinguished six-decade career.
He won a total of four Bafta’s and gained a new legion of fans when playing Professor Albus Dumbledore, in six of the Harry Potter films.
British citizen despite being born in Ireland
Michael John Gambon was born in Dublin on 19 October 1940, and was the son of an engineer and a seamstress. His father moved the family to London when he was five-years-old to work on the reconstruction of the capital after the war.
His made him a British citizen, something that meant his future knighthood would be a substantive rather than an honorary one.
Great theatrical actor
His career took off when he became one of the original members of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre acting company in London. He would go on to win three Olivier awards for performances in National Theatre productions and it was theatre work that was always most important to him.
He did however win acclaim for a series of huge TV and cinema roles during the eighties and nineties.
In Hollywood company
Notable film roles saw him playing opposite some of Hollywood’s biggest names, in big-screen hits such as Toys, Sleepy Hollow, and Gosford Park; as well as an unfamiliar comedy performance as the prime minister in Ali G Indahouse.
Then in 2002 after the death of Richard Harris, Sir Michael accepted the challenge of succeeding him in the role of Dumbledore – headmaster of wizarding school Hogwarts – in the Harry Potter series of films, which introduced him to a younger audience who took to him straight away.
James Bond possibility?
He also played major roles in later years in the big screen adaptation of Dad’s Army and also portrayed King George V, father of the stammering King George VI in the Kings Speech. Unknown to many it also transpired that he once auditioned for the role of James Bond.
Amongst the first to pay tribute to the great man was Harry Potter himself, actor Daniel Radcliffe, who said he was a “brilliant and effortless” actor, who “loved his job but never seemed defined by it”. The continued to speak about how much fun he was to work with, recalling Sir Michael’s habit of “blurring the lines of fact and fiction” when speaking to journalists at press events, adding: “He was silly, irreverent and hilarious. He loved his job, but never seemed defined by it.”
The woman behind the Potter stories, JK Rowling remembered seeing Sir Michael in King Lear, in 1982, and remarked how she if anyone had told her that the brilliant actor would appear in anything she’d written, she would have thought them insane. “Michael was a wonderful man in additional to being an outstanding actor, and I absolutely loved working with him.”
Emma Watson, who played Hermione Grainger in the series of movies, said in a post on Instagram: “You never took it too seriously but somehow delivered the most serious moments with all the gravitas.” Before adding: “Thank you for showing us what it looks like to wear greatness lightly.”
“The greatest thrill of being in the Potter films was that he knew my name and shared his fearless, filthy sense of fun with me,” was the social media post from Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy in the series.
Away from the Potter films, Dame Helen Mirren said he was a “naughty but very, very funny” friend, who kept her “constantly in laughter” during filming. Whilst Dame Joan Collins, who played Sir Michael’s wife in BBC sitcom Mama’s Back in 1993, called him a “great actor and great fun”.
Sir Michael was dubbed as one of the great character actors but typical of the man he dismissed such a claim: “Every part I play is just a variant of my own personality; no real character actor, just me.”
Never used title
Fame meant nothing to Sir Michael, with him always shunning the limelight. Indeed, despite being knighted for services to the entertainment industry in 1998, he chose to never use the title. Several others could learn some humility from him.