The Tragic Reason Harry Potter's Dumbledore Has To Give Up Stage Acting

Old age is a spectacular bitch who eats away at every single one of us, no matter what we try to do to avoid her icy grip. And when we hear about old age chipping away at some of our industry’s vintage talents, we can’t help but feel bad that they no longer can be at the top of their game because of failing health and diminishing abilities.

Such is the case of Michael Gambon, the award-winning actor best known for playing Professor Dumbledore in the last six Harry Potter films. As reported in The Sunday Times Magazine, Gambon has had to retire from stage acting, effective immediately, due to a "frightening" level of memory loss. The 74-year-old Irish actor said in a statement:

It's a horrible thing to admit, but I can't do it. It breaks my heart. It's when the script's in front of me, and it takes forever to learn. It's frightening.

Michael Gambon reveals that he recently tried to reply on an ear piece that he’d wear during performances so that someone off stage could read him his the lines that he couldn’t retain. But he quickly realized that the process of having to wait for someone to deliver these lines removes most of the fearlessness and spontaneity that comes with acting out in a live-theater setting. Gambon revealed:

After about an hour, I thought, 'This can't work.' You can't be in theater, free on stage shouting and screaming and running around, with someone reading you your lines.

The actor has been on the decline from some time. The Times notes two instances from 2009 where Gambon had to be brought to the hospital while rehearsing at the National Theatre because of memory-loss issues. I’m so thankful that we will always have stage performances like Endgame preserved on the Web to enjoy, even as Gambon has brought his stage career to a halt.

This doesn’t mean that Michael Gambon will retire for good, thankfully. He’s already scheduled to be part of The Casual Vacancy, a mini-series coming to HBO that’s based on JK Rowling’s latest novel. He’ll be seen in the big-screen remake of Dad’s Army. But don’t look for him in the eventual adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as Dumbledore was a much-younger man during the time frame in which that story takes place.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.