Sir Michael John Gambon CBE (born 19 October 1940) is an Irish-born English actor who has worked in theatre, television and film. Gambon has played Philip Marlow in the BBC television serial The Singing Detective, Jules Maigret in the 1990s ITV serial Maigret, and Professor Albus Dumbledore in the last six Harry Potter films after the death of actor Richard Harris.
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 a substantive, rather than honorary, knighthood and CBE.
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.
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. They have one son, Fergus, a ceramics expert on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. In the New Year Honours 1998 Gambon was appointed a Knight Bachelor for “services to drama”, and on Friday 17 July 1998 was invested by Prince Charles.
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 £800,000 terraced home in Shepherds Bush, west London. In February 2007, it was revealed that Hart was pregnant with Gambon’s child, and gave birth to a son, Tom, in May 2007. On 22 June 2009 she gave birth to her second child, a boy named Will, who is Gambon’s third child.
Gambon is a qualified private pilot and his love of cars led to his appearance on the BBC’s Top Gear programme in December 2002. Gambon raced the Suzuki Liana and was driving so aggressively that it went round the last corner of his timed lap on two wheels. The final corner of the Top Gear test track has been named “Gambon” in his honour.
He appeared on the programme again on 4 June 2006, and set a time in the Chevrolet Lacetti of 1:50.3, a significant improvement on his previous time of 1:55. He clipped his namesake corner the second time, and when asked why by Jeremy Clarkson, replied, “I dunno — I just don’t like it.