Sir Michael Gambon
(1940 - )


 

Stage-work aside, 2000 brought TV success with Longitude, where he played John Harrison, a carpenter in 1714 who invents a marine chronometer and struggles for 40 years to have his idea accepted (his story being paralleled with that of Jeremy Irons, playing a WW1 veteran who discovers Harrison's original papers and tries to re-make his invention). This film is well worth trying to find it you can.

2001 was another big year. It began with Stephen Poliakoff's acclaimed series Perfect Strangers, where a rich man, selling off some of the family's estates and belongings, calls a reunion of the extended family to give everyone a last chance to share memories and view old photos. Michael would play the black sheep who severed ties years before and who would discover in the old photos a truth he cannot balance with his own memories. Many a secret and dark desire is unveiled as the past brings the present to emotional turmoil. Gambon would win a BAFTA for his efforts, completing a hat-trick after awards for Wives And Daughters and Longitude.

There were high hopes that his next picture, Gillian Armstrong's adaptation of Sebastian Faulks' hit novel Charlotte Gray, would be equally strong. Here Cate Blanchett played a Scottish woman who joins a WW2 Special Operations unit in order to find her RAF boyfriend, lost in France. She's goes undercover as maid to Gambon's Levade, a man torn by his hatred for both the Nazis and the communist beliefs of his son, Billy Crudup, a resistance fighter. As ever, Gambon would steal his scenes but could not save the movie from a weak and sometimes silly script

Next up was Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow, a high budget sci-fi flick that saw the world's greatest scientists going missing and reporter Gwyneth Paltrow joining forces with ace pilot Jude Law to save New York from giant flying robots, Gambon playing Paltrow's editor. As a nice aside also in the movie was Lord Olivier! Some scenes of the now departed veteran actor were used and another man did the voice over. It must have been strange for Michael being reuntied with his old mentor all these years later…

In 2002, was named the successor to the late Richard Harris as Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series. His Potter debut will be in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004).

He also still likes to play. In 2003, BBC2's Top Gear show named a corner of their test track after him when he took it on two wheels. He's also a trained pilot, and a naughty one, too. When fellow actor Terence Rigby admitted to a fear of flying Gambon took him up over Greenwich in a two-seater and pretended to have a heart attack, drooling, lolling and peeking at Rigby from the corner of his eye. Smoking a cigarette and contemplating his fate, the man was cured! And of course there's still the smoking and drinking, for which Gambon remains notorious. In 2004 he was still at it, telling tales of falling over drunk in Venice and breaking two ribs.

Having been awarded a CBE in 1992, then knighted in 1998 (on the Angels In America set he threatened violence against anyone who called him Sir). He was described by the late Sir Ralph Richardson as being "The Great Gambon". He has been nominated for the Laruence Olivier Theatre award 6 times and won it twice.

 

 

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