Sir Michael Gambon reveals how he almost became a dancer, plus his thoughts on “Potter” films
Sir Michael Gambon, who portrayed Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban onward, has given a new interview to the Guardian in which he discusses acting and his thoughts on the Potter films.
The actor, who last month spoke openly about his memory loss at the HighTide Festival in Suffolk, has long been associated with the Samuel Beckett play Eh Joe. He will appear in a new production of the play next month in Berlin. Talking about the role, Gambon said,
That’s brilliant because I don’t have to speak, just sit on the edge of a bed while a camera records my facial movements as I listen to a pre-recorded female voice. I reckon I could take that anywhere in the world.
Gambon is asked how he manages to cry on cue, to which he replies,
You just do it. That’s what acting is. But I admit I try [to] summon up a powerful image. The one I often think of is that of a little girl in uniform, taken during the Vietnam War, with her clothes and body on fire because of an aerial bomb. I believe she recovered and is now a doctor, which makes me feel I’m not simply exploiting someone else’s tragedy.
As for playwrights, a favorite of Gambon’s is Alan Ayckbourn, about which Gambon says,
I fell in love with Alan Ayckbourn the day I met him and starting with The Norman Conquests, went on to do eight plays with him. He tells you just what you want to know and has a brilliant way of solving problems.
I suppose our most famous partnership was when he directed me as Eddie in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge at the National. Eddie is a violent man, and one day in rehearsal Alan told me to pick up a table and hurl it with full force at my wife and niece. He said, ‘You can’t hurt them because they’re in a corner.’ Anyway, everyone who saw it said the effect was sensational and some time later I asked Alan why he thought of it. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I had to find a way of clearing the table in time for the next scene.’
A surprising revelation from the interview is that Gambon almost became part of the Royal Ballet. He explained,
When I was doing Tales from Hollyood at the National, I was invited to dinner by the choreographer, Kenneth MacMillan. He told me I had the heart of a dancer and asked me if I’d like to come on at the end of Romeo and Juliet as a friar. I said I’d love to, but sadly, MacMillan died shortly after. But a costume was made for me, and I like to think it’s still there, with my name on it, in the Royal Ballet wardrobe.
Off screen, Gambon reveals that he is a passionate collector. He has 400 antique pistols, dating from 1660 to 1820 and occupying five floor-to-ceiling cabinets, as well as a large collection of clocks. He also happens to be a qualified private pilot and to this day, still does what he calls “circuits and bumps.”
Be sure to check out the supplementary video interview here (the Potter discussion starts at 6:04), where Gambon discusses his approach to the role of Albus Dumbledore and what he thinks about the Potter films. He is quoted as saying,
I knew Richard Harris. I had spoken to him around the West End over the years. He was a very friendly, affable man. I learnt the lines for the scene, that very first day, and I just ran up the steps. Someone said to me, ‘He wouldn’t run up the steps.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Richard Harris wouldn’t run up the steps.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m going to run up the steps,’ so I ran up the steps, and nobody ever said anything to me. So it was all right. I just did it. I was delighted to play it.
The interview then asks Gambon if he watches the films, to which he replies,
I don’t watch [them] much. I think [they’re] terrific. Children love [them], don’t they? I get stopped on the street all the time by children.
What do you think of Gambon’s admission of wanting to make the role his own, rather than replicating Richard Harris’s style of performance? Let us know your thoughts!