Name: Michael Gambon
Born: 19 October 1940 (Age: 70)
Where: Dublin, Ireland
Height: 6' 2"
Awards: Won 4 BAFTAs, 1 Golden Globe nomination
"Albus Dumbledore was never proud or vain; he could find something to value in anyone, however apparently insignificant or wretched, and I believe that his early losses endowed him with great humanity and sympathy. I shall miss his friendship more than I can say, but my loss is as nothing compared to the wizarding world's. That he was the most inspiring and the best loved of all Hogwarts headmasters cannot be in question. He died as he lived: working always for the greater good, and to his last hour, as willing to stretch out a hand to a small boy with dragon pox as he was on the day that I met him."
Had you told any member of the mid-Seventies general public that Michael Gambon would become one of Britain's greatest thespians and a film star to boot, you'd have been deafened by their howls of laughter. After all, he was known at the time simply as "the other bloke" in Richard Briers' unsuccessful follow-up to The Good Life. A few might recall him as the dashing hero of the period adventure series The Borderers. A few more might have spotted his bit-part in dodgy Amicus thriller The Beast Must Die. But theatre god? Film star? No one would ever have suspected that this big, unfortunately moustachioed galoot would rise so high.
What we didn't recognise then was the extraordinary talent the man possessed. We didn't know the years of work he'd already put in. We didn't realise that Laurence Olivier had hand-picked him for the original National Theatre Company as far back as 1963. We didn't understand that he'd then risen through the rep companies to successfully headline in Shakespeare's tragedies. We thought of him as a bumbling sidekick when, in fact, he was just a couple of years from becoming a fully-fledged West End behemoth. The film stardom would take much longer, but still it was an inevitable progression. So, belated apologies to Michael Gambon. Our ignorance cannot have been bliss for him.
He was born in Dublin during WW2, on the 19th of October, 1940, to be precise. Dark days, indeed, but still fun for an infant surrounded by a large extended family. Come the end of the war, when Michael was 5, it made sense that his father, an engineer, should cross the Irish Sea and find work amidst the rebuilding of London. Thus the family, including Michael and his seamstress mother, took up residence near Mornington Crescent, north London. Unbeknownst to Michael, his father would take out official papers for him, making him an English citizen - a fact that would later allow him to be awarded a CBE and a knighthood.
Growing up in a mostly struggling Irish community, Michael was raised a strict Roman Catholic. He attended the Jesuit St Aloysius Boys' School in Somers Town and served on the altar during the large-scale Latin masses of the time (he's said this was perhaps his first experience of performing). He'd move on to St Aloysius' College in Hornsey Lane, Highgate, one former pupil being Peter Sellers and one peer Bryan Manning, later to become a renowned Savile Row tailor. School was not a good time, Gambon later saying "My only memories of school are of being beaten, of being hit in the playground, of masters poking their fingers in my chest all day". It was no surprise when, after a brief stint at a school in Kent, he left at 15, with no qualifications whatsoever.