LONDON - The British-Irish actor Michael Gambon, best known for playing Albus Dumbledore in six of the eight Harry Potter films, has died in hospital aged 82, his family announced Thursday.
Gambon won four television BAFTAs and an Olivier award during a decades-spanning acting career across television, film, radio and theatre, which was capped by his beloved role as the headmaster of the wizarding school Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series.
"We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon," a statement issued on behalf of his family said. "Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia."
Gambon, born in Ireland, began his illustrious acting career in theatre, making his first appearance on stage in a production of Othello at the Gates Theatre in Dublin in 1962.
He became well known in Britain for playing a French detective in the ITV series Maigret, and for his 1986 role as Philip Marlow in screenwriter Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective.
He put in a memorable performance in the BBC's 2015 adaptation of JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, while his theatre credentials include appearances in Alan Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests, The Life Of Galileo and Nicholas Hytner's National Theatre productions of Henry IV.
Film roles included in period dramas such as The King's Speech and Gosford Park.
But he won global acclaim for his performances as Dumbledore in the wildly popular Harry Potter films, beginning with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1997.
Gambon was knighted for his contribution to the entertainment industry in 1998.
Tributes began to pour in following news of his death.
"I'm so sad to hear that Michael Gambon has died," former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson said on social media, recalling that the actor was such a "tremendous guest" he had a corner named after him on the BBC show's race track.
"He was hugely amusing, and such a tremendous guest, we even named a corner after him."