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Michael Gambon, actor who played Dumbledore in 'Harry Potter' films, dies at 82

The star of the stage and the screen “died peacefully in hospital” after a bout of pneumonia, his family said in a statement.
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Actor Michael Gambon, known for playing Professor Albus Dumbledore in multiple “Harry Potter” movies has died, his family said in a statement Thursday.

He was 82.

“We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon,” said the statement issued on behalf of his wife, Anne, and son Fergus by publicist Clair Dobbs.

It added that he “died peacefully in hospital” after a bout of pneumonia with the pair at his bedside.

“We ask that you respect our privacy at this painful time and thank you for your messages of support and love,” it said.

Born Oct. 19, 1940, in Dublin to a seamstress mother and an engineer father, Gambon left school at 15 and seven years later qualified as an engineer having completed his apprenticeship.

But the lure of the stage, inspired by a local theater group, proved too strong, and he began to tread the boards professionally in the early 1960s.

Michael Gambon dies
Michael Gambon in 1980.Larry Ellis Collection / Getty Images

In 1962, the legendary Shakespearean actor Laurence Olivier made him one of the founding members of the National Theatre at London's Old Vic, alongside Derek Jacobi, Maggie Smith and other emerging greats.

As Gambon built his reputation onstage, roles on TV and movies followed, including the lead role in 1986's widely acclaimed “The Singing Detective,” in which he played a writer suffering from a debilitating skin condition whose imagination provided the only escape from his pain. It would make him a household name in Britain.

Other notable roles included a psychotic mob leader in “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover” in 1989, the elderly King George V in “The King’s Speech” in 2010 and Lord Salisbury in 2017’s “Victoria & Abdul.”

He also had parts in director Wes Anderson comedy films “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” (2004) and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009).

Frequently nominated for awards, he won the Olivier Award three times and the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award twice. He also won four British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards for his television work.

He also won two ensemble cast Screen Actors Guild Awards — for 2001’s “Gosford Park” and “The King’s Speech.”

Gambon was knighted for his services to drama in 1998.

But he was perhaps best known for his role as Dumbledore in the “Harry Potter” franchise, having taken over the role from the late Richard Harris beginning with the third installment in the eight-movie series.

Although the role raised Gambon’s international profile and introduced him to a new generation of fans, he once acknowledged not having read any of J.K. Rowling’s bestselling books.

Among those to pay tribute was Richard Harris’ son, Jared Harris, who wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Gambon was a “brilliant actor” who lived “unforgettably in my memory.”

Actor James Phelps, who played Fred Weasley in the Harry Potter film series, also paid tribute on X, where he called Gambon “a legend.”

He would retire from the stage in 2015 after he struggled to remember his lines in front of an audience because of his advancing age.

Fiercely protective of his private life, Gambon married Anne Miller, and they had one son, Fergus. He is also survived by two sons he had with set designer Philippa Hart.