Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pete Postlethwaite: The end of an acting legacy

We have barely settled into 2011 and already the film industry is mourning one of Britain’s most finest actors. Pete Postlethwaite died peacefully on Sunday in a Shropshire hospital after a battle with Cancer. The Warrington born actor who in 1994 was nominated for an Oscar for In The Name of the Father had a successful career on stage and screen that spanned over 40 years.

Once described by no lesser director than Steven Spielberg as, “the greatest actor in the world,” it was the Theatre that Postlethwaite kick started his career. He appeared alongside fellow British actors Bill Nighy and Julie Walters (whom they shared a relationship together in the 1970’s) at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre that got him recognition. He was also a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company appearing in countless productions including a powerful turn as King Lear.

He began his screen career in TV shows such as Coronation Street, Minder and Play for Today. But it was a small role in Ridley Scott’s The Duellists that made him the character actor people recognized him for. When reflecting on Postlethwaite’s filmography it was the 1990’s that his stature grew even more with roles in more than 20 feature films. Performances in David Fincher’s Alien 3 and Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans begun grabbing the attention of Hollywood and in 1993 he was recognized for his role as Giuseppe Conlon for In The Name of the Father appearing alongside Daniel-Day Lewis about the IRA’s Guilford pub bombing.

 His career illustrated further versatility after appearances in The Usual Suspects, implementing his Shakespeare training in Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet, and doing two films with movie giant Steven
Spielberg - The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Amistad. In 2003 he was recognized for his services to drama with being appointed an OBE.

More recently he has made appearances in the remake of The Omen, Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans, sci-fi blockbuster Inception and Ben Affleck’s Boston-set crime thriller The Town. His final appearance
will be in April with the release of Killing Bono.

Since his passing friends and colleagues have been pouring in messages expressing their sorrow and reflecting on many of the cherished memories spent with Pete Postlethwaite. Kevin Spacey who appeared alongside Postlethwaite in The Usual Suspects stated, “No-one was like Pete.”

Daniel Day-Lewis described him as, “The one. As students it was him we went to see on stage time and time again.” Former girlfriend Julie Walters praised him as, “The most exciting, exhilarating actor of his generation.” Meanwhile broadcaster Stephen Fry wrote on Twitter, “The loss of the great Pete Postlethwaite is a very sad way to begin a year.”

He leaves behind his wife, Jacqui and two children Will and Lily.

Written by Michael Cunneen