Michael Gambon

Active - 1965 - 2019  |   Born - Oct 19, 1940 in Dublin, Ireland  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Children's/Family

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Biography by Hal Erickson

One of Britain's most revered stage performers, Michael Gambon (born October 19th, 1940) was described by the late Sir Ralph Richardson as "The Great Gambon." The fierce-looking Irish actor joined Britain's National Theatre in 1963 after being personally selected by Sir Laurence Olivier. He quickly worked his way up to leading parts and became particularly well known for his work in a number of Alan Ayckbourn plays. Gambon's career received a major boost in 1980, when he took the title role in John Dexter's production of The Life of Galileo; he subsequently became a regular player with both the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. The actor received particular acclaim for his work in A View from the Bridge, for which he won all of the major drama awards in 1987, and Volpone, for which he won the 1995 Evening Standard Award. Gambon made his Broadway debut in 1997 in New York's Royal Theatre production of David Hare's Skylight.

While he was busy racking up an impressive number of plays, Gambon also found time to nurture a film career. Although he made his screen debut in a 1965 adaptation of Othello, the actor appeared only sporadically in films until the late '80s, when he began earning recognition for his work in such films as Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989), which cast him as the sadistic titular thief. He went on to do starring work in a number of diverse films, including A Man of No Importance (1994), The Browning Version (1994), Dancing at Lughnasa (1998), and Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (1999).

Extremely busy during the millennial turnover, Gambon once again caught the attention of audiences in Robert Altman's much-praised comedy Gosford Park before taking over the late Richard Harris's role as Albus Dumbledore in 2004's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, subsequently portraying the character for the remainder of the films. Gambon, who became a familiar face to PBS devotees via his title role in Dennis Potter's quirky TV serial The Singing Detective (1986-1987), was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1992.

The actor would further demonstrate his range by appearing in 2004’s highly stylized sci-fi adventure Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the British crime thriller Layer Cake, and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, an edgy comedy from director Wes Anderson. Gambon continued in his role of Dumbledore until the Harry Potter film franchise came to an end in 2011 with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II.

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  • At 15, dropped out of school to become an apprentice toolmaker at Vickers Armstrong in Crayford, England; he remains interested in mechanical things and collects antique guns.
  • Joined the company of London's National Theatre in 1963, when it was under the direction of Sir Laurence Olivier; appeared in productions that included The Royal Hunt of the Sun, The Crucible and Mother Courage.
  • First major film role came in 1974, with the campy werewolf movie The Beast Must Die, starring horror vet Peter Cushing.
  • Won Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Actor in 1988 for A View from the Bridge and Best Comedy Performance in 1986 for A Chorus of Disapproval and in 1990 for Man of the Moment; has also been nominated numerous times.
  • Was made a Commander of Order of the British Empire in 1992 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997.
  • Won Best Actor BAFTAs for 1986 miniseries The Singing Detective, 1999 miniseries Wives and Daughters, 2000 TV historical drama Longitude and 2001 TV drama Perfect Strangers.
  • Son Fergus is a ceramics expert who has appeared on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow.