Michael Gambon was born in Cabra, Dublin, Ireland on October 19, 1940. He worked as a toolmaker and engineer for a short time before devoting himself to studying classical art. Gambon joined several theatre companies in his youth, and performed on stage for many years before moving on to film and television. He became a household name in 1986 for his role as the lead character in the American public television mini-series The Singing Detective. Gambon's fame reignited when he was cast as Albus Dumbledore in the third installment of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter film series, following the death of Richard Harris, who had played Dumbledore in the first two installments. In addition to the third installment, Gambon played Dumbledore in the four films that followed.
Long before Michael John Gambon became known to the world as Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter), he mostly performed for live theater and television. The Irish actor was born on October 19, 1940, in Cabra, Dublin, Ireland, but moved with his family to London, England, when he was 5. He followed in his father's footsteps and, by age 21, became a fully qualified engineer and toolmaker with a passion for collecting antique guns, clocks and classic cars.
From the ages of 18 to 21, while apprenticing as a toolmaker, Gambon attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he studied classical acting; he eventually received a bachelor's degree in the subject. At 24, Gambon made his professional stage debut, performing in the Gate Theatre Dublin's 1962 production of Othello. After a year of touring with Gate, he caught the attention of Laurence Olivier, who hired him to join the newly formed National Theatre Company. Gambon remained with the company for four years before leaving to join the Birmingham Repertory Company in 1967. With Birmingham, Gambon finally got a chance to perform the title roles in his favorite Shakespeare productions.
Rise to Stardom
Gambon made his film debut in 1965, in Olivier's Othello, and went on to play a lead role in the 1970s BBC TV series The Borderers. As a result of his Borderers performance, James Bond producer Cubby Broccoli asked Gambon to audition for the role in 1970 to replace George Lazenby.
Gambon gained even more recognition in the 1980s, first winning critical acclaim as Galileo in John Dexter's The Life of Galileo production at the National Theatre in 1980, and then becoming a household name playing lead character Phillip Marlow in the 1986 American public television mini-series The Singing Detective.
Following his success in the '80s, Gambon continued to perform on stage and in feature films, including the controversial The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, which also starred Helen Mirren. Prince Charles knighted Gambon in July 1998 and, according to The Associated Press, remarked, "It's not quote dramatic enough, is it?"
But Gambon's most notable performance—one that launched him even further into international fame—was as Hogwarts' headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film series. Gambon scored the role in 2004 in the third installment of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, following the death of Richard Harris, who had played Dumbledore in the first two films. In all, Gambon was cast as Dumbledore for five of the seven Harry Potter films.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts awarded Gambon with four BAFTAs. Additionally, the BBC listed Gambon among its Top 10 list of British character actors in July 2012.
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