Harry Potter star Sir Michael Gambon dies

He is best known for playing Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies.
He is best known for playing Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies. Photo credit: Getty Images

Actor Michael Gambon, best known for playing Albus Dumbledore in most of the "Harry Potter" movies, has died at 82 following a "bout of pneumonia," a statement issued on behalf of his family said on Thursday, PA Media news agency reported.

"We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon," the statement issued by his publicist Clair Dobbs said, according to PA.

"Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia. Michael was 82."

"We ask that you respect our privacy at this painful time and thank you for your messages of support and love."

Gambon was known for his extensive catalog of work across TV, film and radio, with another of his biggest roles as the psoriasis-ridden sleuth in the 1980s hit series "The Singing Detective."

One of the leading thespians of his generation, Gambon was born in Cabra, Dublin, but moved to London as a child. He grew up in an Irish immigrant community in Camden and his first job was as an apprentice toolmaker.  He developed a passion for antique guns, clocks and classic cars that lasted a lifetime.

"I've always been an obsessive collector of things," he told a Guardian interviewer in 2004. "Richard Briers collects stamps. I collect cars and guns, which are much more expensive, and much more difficult to store."

While apprenticing as a toolmaker, Gambon studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, making his professional stage debut in Dublin's the Gate Theatre production of "Othello" (1962).

He caught the attention of actor Laurence Olivier, who hired him to join the newly-formed National Theatre Company. Four years later, Gambon joined the Birmingham Repertory Company, finally playing title roles in his favorite Shakespearean plays.

It wasn't until the 1980s that Gambon became a household name playing lead character Philip Marlow in the 1986 Anglo-American public television mini-series "The Singing Detective."

In 1990 he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Eight years later he was made a Knight Bachelor for his services to drama.

But it was as Hogwarts' headmaster Dumbledore in the "Harry Potter" film series that Gambon will perhaps be best remembered, a role he took up following the death of Richard Harris in 2002. In all, Gambon was cast as Dumbledore for six of the eight "Harry Potter" films.

Tributes for 'legend'

Rupert Grint, who played Ron Weasley in the series, paid tribute to Gambon in a post on Instagram.

"So sad to hear about Michael. He brought so much warmth and mischief to every day on set," wrote Grint. "He captivated me as a kid and became a personal role model of mine for finding the fun and eccentricities in life."

James Phelps, who played Ron's brother Fred Weasley in the "Harry Potter" film franchise, posted a tribute to Gambon on X, formerly known as Twitter, Thursday.

"Very sorry to hear about the passing of Michael Gambon. He was, on and off the camera, a legend," wrote Phelps.

"He was always very funny and very welcoming to share any knowledge he had," Phelps added, detailing a fond memory he had working with the veteran actor between takes on the sixth "Harry Potter" movie.

And Fiona Shaw, who played Potter's aunt Petunia Dursley in the movies, told the BBC that Gambon "varied his career remarkably."

Shaw also said Gambon was a "gun maker" who always said "he could fool the V&A [museum] into believing that they were 18th century guns."

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

Helen Mirren also paid tribute to Gambon in an interview with the BBC, recalling his sense of humor.

"Naughty but very, very funny," she said. "He kept me constantly in laughter."

Mirren also called Gambon an "instinctive actor" who made an "extraordinary contribution to the British landscape of theater."

Over the course of his career, Gambon won multiple Best Actor awards at the British Academy Television Awards (BAFTAs) and was nominated for two Emmy awards.