British-Irish actor Sir Michael Gambon has died at the age of 82. He was best known for his role as Dumbledore in the blockbuster franchise Harry Potter.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Actor Sir Michael Gambon has died at the age of 82. He played Dumbledore in six of the eight films in the blockbuster "Harry Potter" franchise.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE")
MICHAEL GAMBON: (As Dumbledore) Harry, did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire?
DANIEL RADCLIFFE: (As Harry Potter) No, sir.
GAMBON: (As Dumbledore) Did you ask one of the older students to do it for you?
RADCLIFFE: (As Harry Potter) No, sir.
GAMBON: (As Dumbledore) You're absolutely sure?
RADCLIFFE: (As Harry Potter) Yes. Yes, sir.
MARTIN: In a statement released by his family, it said Gambon died after, quote, "a bout of pneumonia with his wife, Anne, and son, Fergus, at his bedside," unquote. Joining me now to talk about the actor's career and legacy is NPR film critic Bob Mondello. Bob, welcome. Thank you for joining us.
BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: No. I wish it were under different circumstances.
MARTIN: We certainly do. So, no, we mostly know him for his role in "Harry Potter." But I'm reading about him, and I'm just realizing that he was known for many, many other performances.
MONDELLO: Oh, yeah. He was a very big deal stage actor before he became a film actor. And he was, I mean, you know, at one point, Sir Ralph Richardson called him The Great Gambon, and that was when he got a part, the lead part in "The Life Of Galileo," which was a part that a lot of actors wanted and that he had to beg four different directors to get. They all said he wasn't starry enough. And then he got the part, and people went nuts. The actors apparently applauded him out in the courtyard as he was finishing the performance. He was really something. And on stage, he was doing Pinter and all kinds of things. And he actually - he'd been doing films at that point, too. So there was - he had a grand and glorious career.
MARTIN: A very wide-ranging career. So I understand that he was born in Ireland, but moved to London with his family when he was 6. How did he get a start performing?
MONDELLO: By lying. He lied his way onto the stage. He basically didn't - he claimed to have experience he didn't have. He said in interviews later that he had never seen a performance of Shakespeare prior to acting in Shakespeare, if you can imagine that. And he actually auditioned for Laurence Olivier for one of his earliest roles. He auditioned with the part of Richard III the year after Laurence Olivier had famously played Richard III, which was kind of gutsy, but he sort of didn't know not to do it.
So anyway, he got his start that way and was known for emoting naturally, that it wasn't difficult for him to call up enormous emotions. And Alan Ayckbourn, a playwright, remembers that one time he was standing in a rehearsal and suddenly erupted into tears and that, you know, that that's not something you usually can do easily. Usually, you have to cover your face or something...
MARTIN: Very briefly, Bob, we know him for Dumbledore. What are you going to remember him for?
MONDELLO: Oh, "Gosford Park" and "The Singing Detective" and the villain in "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" - lots of different things. I mean, he's - and, of course, for those six, you know, engagements as Dumbledore. He was amazing. He unlocked Something, right?
MARTIN: That is NPR film critic Bob Mondello. Bob, thank you so much.
MONDELLO: Good to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.