Born outside of Dublin, Ireland in the midst of WWII, Mr. Gambon originally apprenticed as a tool maker and trained as a qualified engineering technician. At the age of 24, he wrote to the Irish theatre impresario Micheál Mac Liammóir, concocting a false resume of theatre credits in order to bolster his application, and was accepted to Dublin's Gate Theatre, making his professional stage debut in a production of Othello. One year later, he was scouted by Laurence Olivier for the initial assembly of the National Theatre Company.
Mr. Gambon remained with the National Theatre Company for four years before moving on to work with the Birmingham Repertory Company, where he continued to hone his Shakespearean skills, establishing a reputable mastery at playing powerful yet vulnerable leaders that would continue for the rest of his career. By 1974, Mr. Gambon was a star on the rise, making his West End debut in The Norman Conquests, starring in the premiere of Harold Pinter's Betrayal, and bringing the genius Galileo to the stage in John Dexter's staging of Bertolt Brecht's The Life of Galileo.
Dubbed The Great Gambon by the press, Mr. Gambon netted an impressive 13 Olivier nominations, bringing home the top prize in 1985 for A Chorus of Disapproval, in 1987 for A View From the Bridge, and in 1990 for Man of the Moment. Mr. Gambon made his Broadway debut in Michael Hare's Skylight, receiving a Tony nomination for his efforts. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, Mr. Gambon periodically appeared in a number of films when not on the stage, including The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover with Helen Mirren; the film adaptation of Dancing at Lughnasa; and Károly Makk's The Gambler.
In the 21st century, Mr. Gambon was immortalized for a generation as Professor Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film series, taking over the role beginning with 2004's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban after the death of its original actor, Richard Harris. Mr. Gambon described the process of becoming the politically wise wizard as "a variant of my own personality," with only a beard differentiating between the two.
Toward the end of his life, Mr. Gambon stepped away from the stage to focus on the screen, appearing as King George V in The King's Speech, narrating Hail, Caesar!, and providing voiceover work for the Paddington films. His final screen appearances came in 2019 in the films Judy and Cordelia, playing the British theatre impresario Bernard Delfont and the eccentric Moses, respectively.
Mr. Gambon is survived by his wife, Anne; their son, Fergus; his partner, Phillipa, and their two young children.