Date of Birth : Oct 19th 1940
Acclaimed Irish-British actor who has worked in theatre, television and film, his rise to stardom began in 1974 when Eric Thompson cast him as the melancholy vet in Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests at Greenwich. A speedy transfer to the West End established him as a brilliant comic actor, squatting at a crowded dining table on a tiny chair and sublimely agonising over a choice between black or white coffee.
Back at the National, now on the South Bank, his next turning point was Peter Hall’s premiere staging of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, an unexpectedly subtle performance — a production photograph shows him embracing Penelope Wilton with sensitive hands and long slim fingers (the touch of a master clock-maker). He is also one of the few actors to have mastered the harsh demands of the vast Olivier Theatre. As Simon Callow once said: “Gambon’s ‘iron lungs and overwhelming charisma are able to command a sort of operatic full-throatedness which triumphs over hard walls and long distances.”
In 2001 he played what he described as “a physically repulsive’’ Davies in Patrick Marber’s revival of Pinter’s The Caretaker, but he found the rehearsal period an unhappy experience, and felt that he had let down the author. A year later, playing opposite Daniel Craig, he portrayed the father of a series of cloned sons in Caryl Churchill’s A Number at the Royal Court, notable for a recumbent moment when he smoked a cigarette, the brightly lit spiral of smoke rising against a black backdrop, an effect which he dreamed up during rehearsals.
Gambon married Anne Miller when he was 22, but has always been secretive about his personal life, responding to one interviewer’s question about her: “What wife?” The couple lived together in a country house near Gravesend in Kent, where potter Anne has her workshop. Gambon was invested by Prince Charles as a Knight Bachelor on 17 July 1998 for services to drama (Queen Elizabeth II’s approval for the award was notified in New Years Day 1998 Honours List) and his wife thus became Lady Gambon. The couple have a son, Fergus, who appears as an expert on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.