"With great sadness Damien, Jared and Jamie Harris announce the death of their beloved father Richard Harris. He died peacefully at University College Hospital," the family said.
Harris had been undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease--a form of cancer that affects the lymph glands--after falling ill two months ago and was responding well to treatment. He was set to return for the third installment of the Harry Potter series, The Prisoner of Azkaban.
Harris' career spans four decades. He started off as a stage actor, playing King Arthur in Camelot. He later built a reputation with performances in films such as 1963's This Sporting Life, portraying a rugged rugby player.
But was also known for his hellraising lifestyle and heavy drinking. Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion described Harris' persona both on and off the screen as follows: "Usually cast as a rebel, he tries to match the part in real life."
The Irish screen veteran became known to a new generation of moviegoers with his role as Professor Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the first film based on J.K. Rowling's tales of the young boy wizard.