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Michael Gambon, who played Dumbledore in 'Harry Potter' and LBJ in 'Path to War,' dies at 82

Actor Michael Gambon took over the role of Albus Dumbledore in <em>The Prisoner of Azkaban.</em>
Carl Court
AFP via Getty Images
Actor Michael Gambon took over the role of Albus Dumbledore in The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Actor Michael Gambon, who was best known for playing Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series of movies, has died. He was 82.

"We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon," read a statement from his publicist. "Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of Pneumonia."

Gambon took over the role of Albus Dumbledore following the death of actor Richard Harris. He bought a different tenor to the role – one intentionally disparate from the character's portrayal in the original books. In 2009 he told The LA Times that since he was dealing with the screenwriter's words, he saw "no point in reading the books."

In 2002, Gambon took on the role of Lyndon Baines Johnson in the HBO film Path to War. He played an LBJ exuberant after his landslide victory in the 1964 presidential election and determined to realize his Great Society social programs.

His LBJ was also hesistant but then committed to civil and voting rights for Black Americans, and cautious then despondent over the expansion of the war in Vietnam and its devastating effects on his domestic ambitions.

Gambon starred alongside Alec Baldwin, who played Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and Donald Sutherland, who played Clark Clifford -- Johnson's confidant and then McNamara's successor. Felicity Huffman played Lady Bird Johnson, and Gary Sinise made a cameo as Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

Path to War was director John Frankenheimer's final film before his death.

Gambon was born in 1940, in Ireland. He started his acting career on stage and was hired by Laurence Olivier to join in the National Theatre's first production, Hamlet. He won multiple awards for his stage acting, including 3 Olivier Awards.

He became a big-name actor in Britain after starring in the 1986 BBC series The Singing Detective. That role earned him his first of four BAFTA Awards. Gambon was knighted in 1998.

Besides reprising his role as Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, he was a versatile actor showing up in film and television roles such as Paddington, Hail, Caesar! and the BBC's adaptation of J.K. Rowling's novel The Casual Vacancy.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.