Michael started his career with the Edwards / MacLiammoir Gate Theatre, Dublin. In 1963, he was one of the original members of the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic under Laurence Olivier, and appeared there in many plays before leaving to join Birmingham Rep where he played Othello. Also in repertory, he played the title roles in Macbeth, Coriolanus, and Othello again, this time at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
In the West End, he played leads in Simon Gray's Otherwise Engaged, in the London premieres of three plays by Alan Ayckbourn, The Norman Conquests, Just Between Ourselves and Man of the Moment; Alice’s Boys (with Ralph Richardson); Harold Pinter's Old Times; the title role in Uncle Vanya; and Veterans Day with Jack Lemmon. With the Royal National Theatre, he played leading roles in the premieres of Harold Pinter's Betrayal and Mountain Lanuage, Simon Gray's Close Of Play, Christopher Hampton's Tales from Hollywood, three more plays by Alan Ayckbourn: Sisterly Feelings, A Chorus of Disaproval (for which he won an Olivier Award), and A Small Family Business, as well as Hare’s Skylight.
He also appeared there in Richard III, Othello, Tons Of Money, A View From The Bridge (which transferred to the Aldwych, and for which he won all the major drama awards in 1987), and as the name parts in The Life of Galileo and Volpone (winning the 1995 Evening Standard Best Actor Award). SKYLIGHT transferred to West End and subsequently Broadway. He also transferred Yasmina Reza’s Unexpected Man to the West End from the Barbican. He lead Nicholas Hytner’s production of Creddida at the Almeida and Patrick Marber’s production of The Caretaker in the West End and, Stephen Daldry’s A Number at The Royal Court.
More recently Michael starred in Endgame with Lee Evans, directed by Matthew Warchus and Henry IV Parts I and II at the National Theatre. Gambon recently starred in the Gate Theatre’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Eh Joe, as part of the Beckett Centenary Festival, which then transferred to the Duke of York’s Theatre. This summer he will play ‘Hirst’ in Pinter’s No Man’s Land at the Gate Theatre in Dublin which will then transfer to the Duke of York’s Theatre.
His extensive work on TV includes the title role in Dennis Potter series The Singing Detective for which he won awards from BAFTA, the Broadcasting Press Guild, and the Royal Television Society. His award-winning televison performance in BBC’s Wives and Daughters, was followed by Charles Sturridges acclaimed Longitude, Stephen Poliakoff’s The Lost Prince and Joe’s Palace, followed by Cranford and Emma for the BBC.
Michael’s many film credits include Peter Greenaway's THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER, as well as THE GAMBLER, DANCING AT LUGHNASA, PLUNKET AND MACLENE, THE LAST SEPTEMBER, Tim Burton’s SLEEPY HOLLOW, THE INSIDER, HIGH HEELS, CHARLOTTE GRAY, Robert Altman’s GOSFORD PARK, John Frankenheimer’s PATH TO WAR, Conor McPherson’s THE ACTORS, Mike Nichol’s ANGELS IN AMERICA, Kevin Costner’s OPEN RANGE, SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW and SYLVIA, Wes Anderson’s THE LIFE AQUATIC, Robert De Niro’s THE GOOD SHEPHERD, AMAZING GRACE, directed by Michael Apted, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, directed by Julian Jarrold and THE KING'S SPEECH, directed by Tom Hooper. David Hare’s PAGE EIGHT, tv movie, also staring Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz.
Further to HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, and HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, and the sixth installment, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE.