Michael Gambon

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Michael Gambon : biography

19 October 1940 –

In 2004, he appeared in five films, including Wes Anderson’s quirky comedy The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; the British gangster flick Layer Cake; theatrical drama Being Julia; and CGI action fantasy Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

In 2004, he began playing Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts’s headmaster in the third installment of J. K. Rowling’s franchise, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, taking over the role after the death of Richard Harris. (Harris had also played Maigret on television four years before Gambon took that role.) Gambon reprised the role of Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was released in November 2005 in the United Kingdom and the United States. He returned to the role again in the fifth film, 2007’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and the sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. He appeared in the seventh film; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts I and II, released in two parts in 2010 and 2011. Despite having deliberately misled an interviewer (something Gambon enjoys doing often, to mix things up a bit), he hasn’t read the books, as evidenced in the Prisoner of Azkaban interviews.Michael Gambon. «Guests head to head: Professor Dumbledore and Rubeus Hagrid», 01:38. Similarly, he also misled another interviewer to believe that, when playing Dumbledore, he does not "have to play anyone really. I just stick on a beard and play me, so it’s no great feat. I never ease into a role—every part I play is just a variant of my own personality. I’m not really a character actor at all…’"

Early life and education

Gambon was born in Cabra, Dublin, during World War II. His father, Edward Gambon, was an engineer, and his mother, Mary (née Hoare), was a seamstress. His father decided to seek work in the rebuilding of London, and so the family moved to Mornington Crescent in North London, when Gambon was five. His father had him made a British citizen, a decision that would later allow Gambon to receive an actual, rather than honorary, knighthood and CBE.

  • Although, under the British Nationality Act 1981, anyone born in Ireland before 1949 can still register as a British subject and, after five years’ UK residence, become a British citizen.

Brought up as a strict Roman Catholic, he attended St Aloysius Boys’ School in Somers Town and served at the altar. He then moved to St Aloysius’ College in Hornsey Lane, Highgate, London, whose former pupils include Peter Sellers and Joe Cole. He later attended a school in Kent, before leaving with no qualifications at fifteen. He then gained an apprenticeship with Vickers Armstrong as a toolmaker. By the time he was 21, he was a fully qualified engineer. He kept the job for a further year, acquiring a fascination and passion for collecting antique guns, clocks, watches, and classic cars.

Personal life

Gambon married Anne Miller when he was 22, but has always been secretive about his personal life, responding to one interviewer’s question about her: "What wife?" The couple lived near Gravesend, Kent, where she has a workshop. Gambon was invested by Prince Charles as a Knight Bachelor on 17 July 1998 for "services to drama". (Queen Elizabeth II’s approval for the award was notified in the 1998 New Year Honours List.) Anne Miller thus became Lady Gambon. They have one son, Fergus, a ceramics expert on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.

While filming Gosford Park, Gambon brought Philippa Hart on to the set and introduced her to co-stars as his girlfriend. When the affair was revealed in 2002, he moved out of the marital home and bought a bachelor pad. Hart, who worked with Gambon on the film, Sylvia in 2003, in late 2006 moved into a £500,000 terraced home in Chiswick, west London. In February 2007, it was revealed that Hart was pregnant with Gambon’s child, and gave birth to son, Michael, in May 2007. On 22 June 2009 she gave birth to her second child, a boy named William, who is Gambon’s third child.