Inside Michael Gambon's Complicated Love Life

When Michael Gambon died at age 82, the countless obituaries chronicling his life had a heavy focus on his long career on the screen and stage, with few details about his personal life. His obituary writers had their work cut out for them. There was much ground to cover, from his time working with Laurence Olivier at the National Theatre Company to his role in an early example of prestige TV, the 1986 BBC mini-series "The Singing Detective," and his work in the "Harry Potter" films alongside some other late acting greats. Based on what Gambon has said in the past, he likely would have been dissatisfied with even the obligatory two or three sentences about his life outside the acting industry included in his obituaries.

Much like his beloved character Albus Dumbledore, Gambon rarely spoke about his personal life. "I've always thought, the less people know about you the better," he said in a 2010 Q&A with The Arts Desk. He did, however, say that his work and his personal life are inextricably intertwined. "Everything else in my life relates to being an actor and if the acting isn't going well or I'm not working then everything else goes into a blur. It's a terrible thing to say, but it's true," he confessed.

As hard as Gambon tried to prevent his interviewers from having anything to print about his personal life, he failed to keep his mischief managed, as we know he had an extramarital affair and two families.

He wanted to have an affair with a co-star

Michael Gambon was 22 years old when he married mathematician Anne Gambon (née Miller) in 1962. That same year, the Dublin-born actor appeared in his first professional stage production, "Othello." Michael told The Arts Desk that he lied and claimed that he had starred in a West End play to get hired by the Gate Theatre in London. The fib paid off handsomely, as he had joined Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company by the time his first son, Fergus Gambon, was born in 1964. Anne became Lady Miller when her husband was knighted in 1998.

While Gambon was notoriously private when it came to his marriage to Miller, he openly admitted that he was not a faithful spouse. He was speaking at the BFI Southbank in 2015 when he revealed that he had pursued an affair with his "The Singing Detective" co-star, Joanne Whalley. At the time, Whalley was 22 and Gambon was 46. "I tried it but no luck," said Gambon, per the Scottish Daily Mail. "I loved Joanne Whalley." He revealed that Dennis Potter, the series creator, was supportive of his lecherous behavior, and his confession became even creepier when he fondly reminisced about filming a scene that required Whalley to rub lotion on him. "The greasing was good. We rehearsed it 10 times," he said. By the time he took this problematic trip down memory lane, he had found someone who was willing to have an affair with him.

He was still married when he started dating Philippa Hart

When asked if he was still married during a 2004 interview with The Guardian, Michael Gambon said, "I don't talk about it." The curiosity about the state of his marriage to Anne Gambon was sparked by whispers that Michael had a girlfriend on the side. According to a 2008 Daily Mail report, he'd fallen deeply in love with a set designer named Philippa Hart while he was shooting the 2000 historical drama "Longitude."

By the time he'd started work on the 2001 dramedy "Gosford Park," he was reportedly making no effort to hide his affair. He and Hart reportedly played the role of a happy couple while mingling with his co-stars. Sources said that Anne was aware of the affair and distraught over her husband's philandering. However, friends revealed that she still considered her marriage intact and apparently had no interest in ending it. "I think Anne finds it strange that people say Michael left her for this other woman," one source shared. One reason given for why Anne accepted this unconventional marital arrangement was that she was a devout Catholic. 

Anne and Michael continued making appearances as devoted spouses, stepping out together on occasion when Michael visited Meopham, Kent, where their marital estate was located. "Anne is a lovely woman, very humble and not at all ostentatious," said one local. "She is very supportive of Michael. They go to quite a few events together in the village."

He became a dad again during his Dumbledore days

According to the 2008 Daily Mail report about Michael Gambon's "bed chamber of secrets," he was so smitten with Philippa Hart that he soon started telling friends that he wanted to have children with her. When he first met Hart circa 2000, he would have been around 60 years old. Had Hart been in the same age range, having a biological child with him would have been a near impossibility. However, Hart was reportedly born a quarter of a century later than the "Harry Potter" actor, placing her in her mid-thirties at the time.

Michael got his wish in 2007 when Hart gave birth to a son, whom they named Tom. Apparently, they'd been trying to have a child for around a year. "Philippa was approaching 40 at the time and was keen to have a baby — and despite his age, Michael saw no reason not to. He can afford to provide for it and wants her to be happy," a source told the Sunday Mirror. Michael was 66 years old when he welcomed his second child. His first, Fergus Gambon, would have already been 43 at the time; that's two years older than Michael's mistress.

Anne Gambon wouldn't give the Sunday Mirror a comment about Hart's pregnancy. However, one of her friends told the Daily Mail, "I think she employs a sort of double-think about his other life. It's as if this other woman and her baby don't exist."

Michael Gambon split his time between three homes

Michael Gambon's living situation was as complicated as his love life. It seems he wanted to divide his time between being a husband, boyfriend, and bachelor. According to the Sunday Mirror, Michael kept living with Anne Gambon in Kent until his affair with Philippa Hart became public knowledge in 2002. He then moved into his own place in London, but he didn't invite Philippa Hart to join him there. Instead, Hart got her own place in Chiswick. "He's no intention of giving up his freedom. He likes to fly his plane at weekends," a friend said of why Gambon didn't put down roots with Hart, even after their first son was born. 

He had a few hobbies that took up a great deal of his time as well. "I belong to quite a lot of learned societies. We collect firearms and discuss them at dinners and clubs and things," he told The Guardian. There was also his car collection, which was certainly suitable for a well-to-do gent playing bachelor. It included a Ferrari, BMW, and an Audi R8 he christened "Teutonic Viagra," per the Daily Mail.

In 2008, Michael reportedly purchased a pair of matching Mercedes for himself and Anne Gambon as a peace offering of sorts, and he began spending more time visiting his wife. "When he is at home, which he often is, he and Anne are like any other husband and wife I know," a friend said.

Michael Gambon welcomed his third child in 2009

While Michael Gambon kept up appearances with Anne Gambon in Kent, Philippa Hart was the woman on his arm when he socialized in London. According to the Daily Mail, one of Michael's pals that the pair often spent time with was "Top Gear" host Jeremy Clarkson. It was in London where Hart gave birth to her second child with Michael in 2009, a son named Will. Gambon was 68 at the time, and Hart was 43. "Michael is open with his wife and she accepts the second relationship, though there have been rows in the past," a source told The Sun after sharing that Hart's delivery was complication-free.

As he did with his love life, Gambon remained tight-lipped when the topic of his sons came up during interviews. In 2013, he was asked by The Telegraph whether the boys knew that he was Albus Dumbledore. "Ooooh no, no! Keep them apart," he replied. However, when the Daily Mail talked to an actor who worked with him on another adaptation of a J.K. Rowling book, his "The Casual Vacancy" co-star Hetty Baynes, she shared a few details about what Michael was like as a dad. "Michael was never happier than when his boys were on the set," she said. "They were so sweet and you can see he absolutely adores them. But I'm sure they run him ragged. Having a child in later life can be an exhausting thing, but it brings so much joy."

His oldest son is an Antiques Roadshow appraiser

According to the Daily Mail, Fergus Gambon was, understandably, not happy when his father began stepping out on his mother with a woman around his age. Whenever Michael Gambon's second life prevented him from attending events with Anne Gambon, Fergus would show up to keep his mother company (and, possibly, make his dad's absence by her side seem a little less conspicuous). Like his father, Fergus became fascinated with antiques. But whereas Michael enjoyed collecting old firearms, Fergus gravitated toward antiques of a more delicate variety. "He's brilliant about Welsh porcelain," Michael boasted to The Guardian. "He's the only male member of the dolls' house society. He's one of those lucky people that found the job of his life. Wonderful, isn't it?"

Fergus is the Director of British Ceramics and Glass for the Bonhams auction house, and he has appeared on "Antiques Roadshow" as an appraiser in over a dozen episodes spanning from 2008 to 2018. In an episode of "Priceless Antiques Roadshow," Fergus reveals that he began collecting 18th-century porcelain figurines when he was a young boy. "Well, I'm afraid I was a bit of a weird child," he says. In lieu of Christmas and birthday gifts one year, he got permission from his mother to attend an auction and bid on a figure that he desperately wanted. He ended up paying triple its estimated value, and Anne wasn't pleased. "Basically, she didn't speak to me for a month," said Fergus. 

His wife and oldest son were with him when he died

When the world learned the sad news that Michael Gambon had died of pneumonia, the statement his family released read, "We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon. Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside." No mention was made of Phillipa Hart or the two sons Michael shared with her.

We know that Michael was still an active father at age 70, courtesy of some rare photos of Michael, Hart, and their son Tom that the Daily Mail published in 2017. They were snapped when the trio attended the 80th birthday bash of playwright Tom Stoppard. In 2015, Hetty Baynes told the Daily Mail that, while Michael was a doting dad, he was unable to split parenting duties with Hart 50-50. "Philippa is amazing. She does an awful lot of the work and she's absolutely delightful," she said.

While it seems that Anne Gambon was willing to forgive Michael for starting a new family with another woman to some extent, perhaps the actor never wanted her forgiveness. Recalling an argument he had about this very topic, he told The Arts Desk in 2010, "Richard Eyre said to me one day, he thinks that all men want is forgiveness for their misbehavior with women. And so did David Hare say that to me. I said, 'I don't ... Why should all men want f***ing forgiveness for their behavior?'"