The legendary star of stage and screen died with his wife and son by his side in Essex following a bout of pneumonia, it was announced on Thursday (28 September). He was 82.
Born in Dublin, Gambon was one of the original members of the National Theatre, and won three Oliviers, four Baftas, and two SAG Awards in his lengthy career.
Gambon took over the role of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore on the third instalment of the franchise, 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The part was played by the late Richard Harris in the first two films, before his death in 2002.
On the set of the third film, Gambon got to know the young cast members. However, along with the late Alan Rickman, he couldn’t resist pranking Radcliffe.
Recalling the trick in the film’s DVD extras, Radcliffe told his co-stars Rupert Grint and Emma Watson: “There was one time where, in this room actually, Michael Gambon and Alan Rickman, and I think [director Alfonso Cuarón] was co-ordinating it, took the opportunity to play a practical joke on me.”
Watson described the prank as being “really, really funny”, with Radcliffe adding: “For you.”
At the time, the cast were filming a scene where the students were asleep in the great hall, with Cuarón explaining: “It was very good because it was a bunch of sleeping bags and Dan [asked] us to have his sleeping bag next to this particular girl that he fancied.”
A clip is then shown from the shot, with Dumbledore (Gambon) and Snape (Rickman) speaking from the script while the children sleep.
A fart noise is then heard, with both Rickman and Radcliffe stifling laughter as Gambon continues his lines and more noises are made.
“We’d just finished a take, it’s taken ages to get it,” Radcliffe told his fellow actors in indignation. “They had put a fart machine into my sleeping bag, and Michael Gambon had actually been pressing it during the take, I found out.”
“This hall echoed,” Watson said, with the footage from the prank showing the young cast members sitting up and laughing. Gambon and Rickman, meanwhile, laughed the loudest.
Following news of his death, celebrity tributes swiftly poured in for Gambon.
David Baddiel tweeted: “First time I ever went to see any Theatre with a capital T it was Michael Gambon in Brecht’s Life Of Galileo at The National in 1980. It’s still the best stage acting I’ve ever seen. RIP.”
Jeremy Clarkson remembered the actor for his 2002 appearance on Top Gear, writing: “I’m so sad to hear that Michael Gambon has died. He was hugely amusing, and such a tremendous guest, we even named a corner after him.”