Sir Michael Gambon



  • (1940 - ) Burly British actor. Gambon was born in Dublin,the son of an engineer, but moved to London with his family while still young.Having left school without qualifications, he served a seven-year apprenticeshipwith the engineering company Armstrong Vickers; he is still a skilled metalengraver with a hobby of restoring antique clocks and watches.

    During this period he also formed a passionate interest in the theaterand began to take amateur roles. Despite his lack of experience, Gambon managed to bluff himself into a position at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, and gave his firstprofessional performance in 1962. A year later he was hired by Laurence Olivierto play minor roles in the first National Theatre Company; Gambon would latersay that he learned most of his acting from the four years he spent watchingOlivier at work. From the late 1960s Gambon appeared regularly in the theaterand on television but his career seemed to lack direction. Despite his craggylooks - he has been described as having a head like a large cabbage - he was often cast as the romantic lead and in 1970 was even considered for therole of cinema's James Bond. His breakthrough came in a comic role - thatof the slow-witted vet in Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests (1975). Anydoubts as to his range were then dispelled by a truly formidable performanceas Brecht's Galileo at the National (1980), followed by powerful readings ofLear and Antony at the RSC (1982 - 83). Household-name status finallyarrived with his performance as the stricken central character in Dennis Potter'sTV serial The Singing Detective (1986). Subsequent triumphs in the theaterhave included Miller's A View from the Bridge (1987), Jonson's Volpone (1995), Pinter's The Caretaker (2000), and Beckett's Eh Joe (2006),in which the central character does not speak. Cinema work has includedThe Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover (1989) and the laterinstalments of the Harry Potter series, in which he took over the role ofDumbledore.

    Writing about Gambon can be a perilous business, owing to the actor'spenchant for making entirely false statements to journalists (chiefly, he hassaid, from boredom). These include the claims - all of which have madeit into print - that he began his career at the Royal Ballet, that heused to be gay, and that he is a close friend of Robert de Niro. Gambon isalso known for his love of fast cars: a corner of the Dunsfold Park racingtrack is now named Gambon Corner after a spectacular incident (2002) inwhich he clipped it in a Suzuki Liana during time trials for the BBC'sTop Gear programme.