Hating Michael Gambon: Fandom’s Favorite Sport?

There is a Hog’s Head Forum page devoted to the subject of the esteemed actor‘s portrayal of Albus Dumbledore (‘Just Say No to Michael Gambon’) and a diverse Fandom seems to share a common disdain for the movie Headmaster post Richard Harris. But Mr. Gambon, CBE and Knight Bachelor, has only fond memories of his life on the set, saying recently, after wrapping up filming of Deathly Gallows:

“I enjoyed it!” he says proudly of his Dumbledore days, though he admits the role may not have stretched him particularly as an actor. “There’s no character really, it’s just me! Me dressed up in a costume! I’m essentially playing myself, that’s all I’m doing.”

Still, he misses the Harry Potter films. “It’s fun laughing all the time, and I know all the other actors, I’ve known them for years. It’s like being with friends.”

Love him or hate him as Dumbledore, do read the whole Irish Times article from which this snippet is the smallest and perhaps the least interesting part. A fascinating man, however unfortunate the decision to cast him as Albus Dumbledore…


  1. Here’s the thing. When I saw him in POA I thought he was OK. After GOF I didn’t like him at all, but as I’ve re-watched that movie, the part I didn’t like was when he confronts Harry about whether or not he put his name in the goblet. Then there is that unfortunate scene where he admits to Harry that he can’t figure things out. In the book, Hagrid tell Harry that bit. So seeing Dumbledore looking weak was the wrong choice, but that wasn’t Gambon’s fault; those two thing fall on the heads of the writer and the director.

    I liked him better in OP and I thought he did well in HBP. (I’m ducking before y’all start throwing tomatoes at me.) But there it is. Yates seemed to pull something out of Gambon that suits the part better. And Gambon, whom I’ve seen in many other things, is a good actor, whether you like his flippant answer or not.

    Would I have liked someone else better? Probably. But maybe not. That part really did belong to Richard Harris. HE was the perfect one for Dumbledore. But we don’t always get what we wish for.

  2. I seemed to have forgotten where the “s” key was on my lap top when I was typing the above. I do know that some of those words should have one. Please, just mentally add them in when you are reading.


  3. I agree with Eeyore – I don’t hate Gambon as Dumbledore. The things that bug me about his Dumbledore I trace to script and directors’ choices, so while I may have liked someone else better to replace Harris, I am not really bothered by him. I think it’s like the problem of casting General Lee in the film Gettysburg – everyone has such a personal understanding of the man that Martin Sheen, who did I think a good job with the character (as in the book and script) has gotten a bunch of flak for it. It’s nearly luck with a character such as that- perhaps if the first director hadn’t been so fortunate to cast Richard Harris, people wouldn’t mind Michael Gambon so much.

    I think what really bothered the hard-core fans was that he doesn’t take HP so seriously as they do. But from the article it seems like he has a rather light-hearted approach to his work in general.

  4. revgeorge says

    No comment.

  5. Elizabeth says

    It’s interesting that you bring up Sheen’s portrayal of Lee, as we’ve made that same comparison around here in Civil-War-meets Harry Potter-land. No Lee ever really measures up. Sheen is really not bad, and much better than Robert Duvall in Gods and Generals (he’s just too darn old; when will movie people look at a picture of Lee in 1861? The white hair and worry lines came from the war.)
    Just so, no Dumbledore could ever really match the one in my head, but I do like Gambon’s energy (which does work better in HBP). Even though Harris was fabulous, he always seemed like a puff of wind could blow him away, and I think of Dumbledore, despite his age, as being remarkably spry ( He always seems to be awake late into the night, have you noticed?)
    I also like the rather puckish tone in Gambon’s voice that hints to a Dumbledore with more secrets than Hogwarts itself.
    I think Robbie Coltrane and Maggie Smith are so perfect, too, that I’ll cut the movie people a little slack.

  6. While Richard Harris always felt more liked the Dumbledore I pictured while reading the books, I have a lot of respect for Michael Gambon’s portrayal as well. I always had a suspicion that when he deviated from the book in major ways, (such as when he got “violent” with Harry in GoF) it was likely due to the director. I liked him well enough in PoA. Mildly disliked him in Goblet of Fire. I felt he did a good job of detaching himself from Harry in OotP, which was true to the book. I think the problem he faced in HBP was a difficult one. He had only a limited time to re-establish enough of a meaningful relationship with Harry before dying. Because in the film we only see a limited amount of his interactions with Harry, I don’t think he totally succeeded, but again I didn’t feel it was his fault. Having him say things to Harry like, “You need a shave, my friend.”, just didn’t do the trick.

  7. Interesting observations, everyone. I disliked GOF intensely as a movie–but I blame that on poor choices from the director/writers. The acting talent was there (David Tennant, among others!); it’s just that the movie didn’t feel ‘Rowling’ to me at all. By the same token, I thoroughly enjoyed POA–and completely believed in Gambon’s Dumbledore in that one. Again, less, I think, to do with the performance than what the director did with it.

    Looking at it as an actor, I frankly admire Gambon’s interpretation of Dumbledore. Harris embodied the character, drawing out the full quirkiness and nuance of the books. The deadly temptation would be simply to continue what Harris had begun. Gambon had the courage to take the character in a completely different direction–a different sort of Dumbledore, less the eccentric, more the curmudgeon.

    And Gambon’s delivery of ‘You saw your parents last night, didn’t you?’ and ‘This place has known magic!’ surely covers a multitude of sins!

  8. Harris was great at giving the end “talks” with Harry. I don’t hate Gambon but he’s not who I imagine when I read the books…he did bring a certain energy to Dumbledore. I think I liked him best in POA and his playfulness with Hermione and Harry at the end. I just hope they don’t muck around with the King’s Cross scene in the last movie. Please, just do it word for word!

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