JK Rowling and Rupert Grint pay tribute to Sir Michael Gambon

The Harry Potter actor died peacefully in hospital on Wednesday aged 82, his family said.

JK Rowling and Rupert Grint are among those who have hailed Harry Potter star Sir Michael Gambon as a “wonderful man” and an “outstanding actor”.

The Dublin-born star of stage and screen died peacefully in hospital late on Wednesday aged 82, his family said.

Sir Michael found a legion of new fans in recent years after starring in six of the eight Harry Potter films as the beloved Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of the wizarding school Hogwarts.

He took over the role from fellow Irish actor Richard Harris following his death aged 72 in 2002, portraying the character from Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban through to Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter book series on which the films were based, paid tribute to Sir Michael saying she first saw him perform in King Lear in 1982 and if someone had told her the late actor “would appear in anything I’d written, I’d have thought you were insane”.

The author sent her condolences to his family and those who loved him as she recalled her experience of working with him on the Harry Potter films and in the BBC’s 2015 adaptation of her book The Casual Vacancy.

“Michael was a wonderful man in addition to being an outstanding actor, and I absolutely loved working with him, not only on Potter but also The Casual Vacancy”, she said.

Grint, who starred as Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter film franchise, remembered the “warmth and mischief” Sir Michael brought to set as he paid tribute.

“He captivated me as a kid and became a personal role model of mine for finding the fun and eccentricities in life. Sending all my love to his family, Rupert”, he wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of the actor dressed in full Dumbledore regalia.

The son of Harris also described Sir Michael as a “brilliant actor”, adding: “He took over Dumbledore from my father, which was fitting as he over took (Marlon) Brando as my father’s favourite actor.”

Fiona Shaw, who played Petunia Dursley in the film franchise, told BBC Radio 4 that she regarded him as a “magnificent trickster” as he would tell her he could make guns that could “fool the V&A into believing that they were 18th century guns”.

She said of working with him on the Harry Potter films: “He took over from Richard Harris and of course, he began to mimic Richard Harris, who had recently died, and he would do his accent, the slight Irish accent.

“Which of course he always loved having an excuse to do because his family had come from Ireland, and gone to live in Camden. He just loved the precariousness of reality and unreality and, of course, that made him a very great actor.”

Dame Helen Mirren recalled working alongside Sir Michael in 1982’s Antony And Cleopatra, and hailed him as an “extraordinary actor”.

She told BBC News she would smile when she thinks of him, adding: “Because he was incredibly funny. He had this natural Irish sense of humour, naughty but very, very funny. He was enormously self-deprecating, and at the same time an instinctive actor and a wonderful person to be around just in general.

“He kept me constantly in laughter, we had some very funny moments playing Antony and Cleopatra together.”

Dame Helen added that he made an “extraordinary contribution to the British landscape of theatre”, saying: “We will all miss him a lot.”

Julia Roberts also described working with Sir Michael on the 1996 film Mary Reilly as an “honour”, writing on Instagram: “He was always smiling, always kind. RIP Sir Michael Gambon. #legend.”

Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins hailed the late actor as “the loveliest of legends” as she reflected on her time working with him on the Doctor Who Christmas special A Christmas Carol in 2010.

“He couldn’t have been kinder, calmer and more supportive. Today we have lost the loveliest of legends,” Jenkins said in an Instagram post.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar praised Sir Michael as a “great actor” who “gave his all to every performance”.

While Irish President Michael D Higgins regarded him as “one of the finest actors of his generation”.

He added: “Sir Michael Gambon leaves a great body of work that will remain as a compelling legacy, and a reminder to all who appreciated his work, of all that he accomplished.”

Actress Dame Joan Collins, who played Sir Michael’s wife in the pilot for the proposed BBC sitcom Mama’s Back, described him as “a great actor and great fun”.

Dame Eileen Atkins said there was something “very sweet” about the veteran actor as she reflected on starring alongside him in the revival of Samuel Beckett’s All That Fall.

“He was a lot of fun. He was a great actor, but he always pretended he didn’t take it very seriously. Of course, he does really take it seriously,” she told BBC Radio 4.

“But (his) presence on stage was amazing. He just had to walk on stage and he commanded the whole audience immediately. He was very lovely to play with, when he behaved. He behaved with me. Sometimes he really played tricks on stage.

“There was something very sweet about him, this huge man who could look very frightening but there was something incredibly sweet inside Michael.”

Former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson also expressed his condolences, recalling the actor was such a “tremendous guest” he had a corner named after him on the BBC show’s race track.

West End theatres will dim their lights in honour of Sir Michael on Friday evening, the Society Of London Theatre (SOLT) has said.

Co-chief executive of SOLT, Hannah Essex, said: “The theatre world has lost an incredible talent today.

“Through his 60 years on both stage and screen, the impact that Sir Michael Gambon made on the arts is immeasurable.

“Our deepest condolences are with his family and loved ones, and we are proud to be able to honour his talent and career in some small way.”

Sir Michael was also known for playing French detective Jules Maigret in ITV series Maigret in 1992 and 1993, and for his 1986 role as Philip Marlow in Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective.

A statement issued on behalf of Lady Gambon and son Fergus Gambon said: “We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon.

“Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia.”

Sir Michael made his first appearance on stage in a production of Othello at the Gates Theatre, Dublin, in 1962 when he returned to Ireland following his move to the UK.

His illustrious theatre career also includes appearances in Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests, The Life Of Galileo and Nicholas Hytner’s National Theatre production of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2.

In 2016 he appeared as Private Godfrey in the big screen adaptation of Dad’s Army, and his other film roles included period dramas such as 2010’s The King’s Speech, 2001’s Gosford Park and 2017’s Victoria & Abdul.

Sir Michael was also recognised by American awards shows, with Emmy nominations for Mr Woodhouse in 2010 for an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma and as former US president Lyndon B Johnson in Path To War in 2002.

His turn in David Hare play Skylight, about the fallout of an affair, also led to a Tony nod in 1997 and in 1990 he secured an Olivier Award for comedy performance of the year for diplomatic comedy Man Of The Moment at the Globe, now the Gielgud Theatre.

Sir Michael also appeared in psychological drama Cordelia and Judy Garland biopic Judy, both released in 2019, crime drama King Of Thieves alongside Sir Michael Caine and Jim Broadbent in 2018, and action movie Kingsman: The Golden Circle in 2017.

The Bafta gongs were in recognition of his main acting roles for family BBC drama Perfect Strangers in 2002, as a clockmaker hoping to win a prize in Channel 4’s Longitude in 2001, BBC Elizabeth Gaskell adaptation Wives And Daughters in 2000 and The Singing Detective in 1987.

He also had parts in two of director Wes Anderson’s comedy films, 2004’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and 2009’s Fantastic Mr Fox.

He was knighted for his contribution to the entertainment industry in 1998.

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