Sir Michael Gambon remembered as the ‘loveliest of legends’

Sir Michael Gambon remembered as the ‘loveliest of legends’

Sir Michael Gambon has been remembered fondly as a “magnificent trickster” and the “loveliest of legends” following his death aged 82.

The Dublin-born star of the stage and screen, who won four TV Baftas, died peacefully in hospital late on Wednesday, his family said.

In recent years he played Albus Dumbledore in six of the eight Harry Potter films, entering as the headmaster of the wizarding school Hogwarts following the death of fellow Irish actor Richard Harris.

Harris died in 2002 at the age of 72 after starring in the first two films in the franchise and Sir Michael then portrayed the character from Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban through to Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

Harry Potter cast members were among those paying tribute to Sir Michael, with Fiona Shaw, who played Petunia Dursley in the film franchise, telling BBC Radio 4: “I will remember him because he was also a gun maker, he could make guns, he always said he could fool the V&A into believing that they were 18th century guns.

“So I will think of him as a trickster, just brilliant, magnificent trickster, but with text, there was nothing like him, he could do anything.”

She said of working with him on the Harry Potter films: “He took over from Richard Harris and of course, he began to mimic Richard Harris, who had recently died, and he would do his accent, the slight Irish accent.

“Which of course he always loved having an excuse to do because his family had come from Ireland, and gone to live in Camden. He just loved the precariousness of reality and unreality and, of course, that made him a very great actor.”

Shaw added: “He did once say to me in a car ‘I know I go on a lot about this and that, but actually in the end, there is only acting’. I think he was always pretending that he didn’t take it seriously, but he took it profoundly seriously, I think.”

Dame Helen Mirren recalled working alongside Sir Michael in 1982’s Antony And Cleopatra, and hailed him as an “extraordinary actor”.

She told BBC News she would smile when she thinks of him, adding: “Because he was incredibly funny. He had this natural Irish sense of humour, naughty but very, very funny. He was enormously self-deprecating, and at the same time an instinctive actor and a wonderful person to be around just in general.

“He kept me constantly in laughter, we had some very funny moments playing Antony and Cleopatra together.”

Dame Helen added that he was an “extraordinary actor” with an “extraordinary contribution to the British landscape of theatre”, saying: “We will all miss him a lot.”

Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins hailed the late actor as “the loveliest of legends” as she reflected on her time working with him on the Doctor Who Christmas special A Christmas Carol in 2010.


“He couldn’t have been kinder, calmer and more supportive. Today we have lost the loveliest of legends,” Jenkins said in an Instagram post.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar praised Sir Michael as a great actor who “gave his all to every performance”.

Referencing the Irish-born actor’s roles as Albus Dumbledore, on the stage, and in The Singing Detective series, Mr Varadkar wrote: “Rest In Peace. A great actor.

“Whether performing in (Samuel) Beckett, or a Dennis Potter or Harry Potter, he gave his all to every performance.”

Actress Dame Joan Collins, who played Sir Michael’s wife in the pilot for the proposed BBC sitcom Mama’s Back, described him as “a great actor and great fun”.

Dame Eileen Atkins said there was something “very sweet” about the veteran actor as she reflected on starring alongside him in the revival of Samuel Beckett’s All That Fall.

“He was a lot of fun. He was a great actor, but he always pretended he didn’t take it very seriously. Of course, he does really take it seriously,” she told Radio 4.

“But (his) presence on stage was amazing. He just had to walk on stage and he commanded the whole audience immediately. He was very lovely to play with, when he behaved. He behaved with me. Sometimes he really played tricks on stage.

“There was something very sweet about him, this huge man who could look very frightening but there was something incredibly sweet inside Michael.”

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 UK Film Premiere – London
Sir Michael Gambon arriving for the world premiere of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson also expressed his condolences, recalling the actor was such a “tremendous guest” he had a corner named after him on the BBC show’s race track.

Sir Michael was also known for playing French detective Jules Maigret in ITV series Maigret in 1992 and 1993, and for his 1986 role as Philip Marlow in Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective.

A statement issued on behalf of Lady Gambon and son Fergus Gambon said: “We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon.

“Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia.”

Sir Michael made his first appearance on stage in a production of Othello at the Gates Theatre, Dublin, in 1962 when he returned to Ireland following his move to the UK.

He 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 shows, with Emmy nominations for Mr Woodhouse in 2010 for an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma and as former US president Lyndon B Johnson in Path To War in 2002.

King of Thieves World Premiere – London
Sir Michael Gambon (Ian West/PA)

His turn in David Hare play Skylight, about the fallout of an affair, also led to a Tony nod in 1997 and 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.

Sir Michael also appeared in psychological drama Cordelia and Judy Garland biopic Judy, both released in 2019, crime drama King Of Thieves alongside Sir Michael Caine and Jim Broadbent in 2018, and action movie Kingsman: The Golden Circle in 2017.

The Bafta gongs were in recognition of his main acting roles for family BBC drama Perfect Strangers in 2002, as a clockmaker hoping to win a prize in Channel 4’s Longitude in 2001, BBC Elizabeth Gaskell adaptation Wives And Daughters in 2000 and BBC serial The Singing Detective in 1987.

He also had parts in two of director Wes Anderson’s comedy films, 2004’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and 2009’s Fantastic Mr Fox.