(AP) – British actor Michael Gambon, best known for his portrayal of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in five of seven Harry Potter films, is turning 80 on Monday, Oct. 19.
No matter what role he’s taken on in a career that lasted more than five decades, Gambon has always been instantly recognizable by the deep and drawling tones of his distinctive voice. He was cast as the much-loved Dumbledore after the death of his predecessor, Richard Harris, in 2002.
He once admitted not having read any of J. K. Rowling’s best-selling books, arguing that it was safer to follow the script rather than be too influenced by the books. However this did not prevent him from faultlessly embodying the spirit of Professor Dumbledore, the powerful wizard who fought against evil to protect his students.
With his long white beard, smiling eyes, and words of wisdom, Gambon’s Dumbledore was a man many might have wished for as their own grandfather or worldly mentor.
Although the Potter role raised Gambon’s international profile, he had long been recognized as one of Britain’s leading actors, and he was knighted for services to drama in 1998.
Born in Ireland on Oct. 19, 1940, but raised in London, Gambon originally trained as an engineer, following in the footsteps of his father. He made his theater debut in a production of “Othello” in Dublin. In 1963 he got his first big break with a minor role in “Hamlet,” the National Theatre Company’s opening production, under the directorship of the legendary Laurence Olivier. Gambon soon became a distinguished stage actor and received critical acclaim for his leading performance in “Life of Galileo” directed by John Dexter.
He’s been frequently nominated for awards and won the Laurence Olivier award 3 times and the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards twice. A multi-talented actor, Gambon has been also the recipient of four coveted British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards for his television work. He became a household name in Britain after his lead role in the 1986 BBC series “The Singing Detective,” written by Dennis Potter and considered a classic of British television drama. Gambon won the BAFTA for Best Actor for the role.
He played gangster Eddie Temple in the British crime thriller “Layer Cake,” King George V in the 2010 drama film “The King’s Speech”. In 2015 he returned to the works of J.K. Rowling, taking a leading role in the TV adaptation of her book “The Casual Vacancy.” Gambon retired from the stage in 2015 after struggling to remember his lines in front of an audience due to his advancing age.