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Pete Postlethwaite

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Mark Kermode | 14:59 UK time, Friday, 7 January 2011

Saying goodbye to one of our overlooked national treasures is not the best way to start the year but let's remember him in one of his greatest performances as band conductor Danny in the brilliant and no less undervalued classic British movie, Brassed Off.

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  • Comment number 1.

    brassed off is classic up-north drama, up there with the full monty.
    Mr.Postlethwaite was a fantastic actor and great in this,check it if you have not already

  • Comment number 2.

    I'd always loved Pete Postlethwaite's work, although I've never been sure why. Like many (British) actors he's been in his fair share of good and bad films, and especially by my film awakening he was pretty much breaking even on cameos: for every Inception there was a Clash of the Titans. Perhaps the reason I've enjoyed (and will continue to enjoy) his performances comes from the sense you get from him that he was a real professional actor, full of wit, humour, passion (viz. "The Age of Stupid") and at the end of the day a sensibleness that we're no longer see in an era where blog respondants can get away with using words like 'sensibleness'. In other words, perhaps I loved him because he was so quintessentially British.

    This is a fair and fitting tribute, Dr. K. He will be sadly missed.

  • Comment number 3.

    I re watched Brassed off for the first time since its release the night i heard the news. it really is a fantastic film (partly filmed just down the road from the village I grew up in. what struck me is just how effortless it all feels, utterly realistic while maintaining an ability to be funny, moving and powerful.

    And to top it off, an utterly astounding performance from an incredible actor. he will be greatly missed.

  • Comment number 4.

    A friend described Danny’s (Postlethwaite’s character) speech at the end of Brassed Off as ‘One of the finest speeches in British movie history.’
    It is; it defined a decade – and the end of an era for most of the mining communities at that time; Postlethaite’s performance was quite simply pitch-perfect in conveying the mix of emotions that went with it.

    If you’ve not seen Brassed Off then treat yourself; it’s much better than Full Monty at melding a social issue with both comedy and tragedy.
    Stephen Tompkinson also gave a career best performance as the miner having a breakdown after his wife and children leave him as the debts mount up.

  • Comment number 5.

    No!! There are no French horns in a brass band! Eb tenor horns. I loved Brassed Off despite it being very politicised (and there's no way the band would've played the William Tell overture for the national finals).

  • Comment number 6.


  • Comment number 7.

    I'm surprised at you for not mentioning "Distant Voices, Still Lives", in which Pete Postlethwaite delivers, in my opinion, one of the knockout performances of the twentieth century. However, Brassed Off is of course a wrongly forgotten gem, and both films show his amazing talent at making characters entirely human. A great loss for cinema.

  • Comment number 8.

    It was very sad and surprising to hear of Postlethwaite's passing. Distant Voices, Still Lives has long been a favorite of mine, but even in blockbuster film he was one of those faces that people easily recognized and liked even if they didn't know his name or the overall contributions he made to cinema.

    I've been looking for Brassed Off since you first mentioned it in association with Made in Dagenham, but it's proven to be difficult to find. The movie sounds good.

  • Comment number 9.

    i have heard some inside info from people who went to drama school with postlethwaite that he was a very rude and arrogant man, an acting couple who trained with him years ago approached him after a play to say hi, having not seen him for years, only to be met with hostility and indifference from postlethwaite

    i'm sick of all these glowing stories about actors when they die, we need to balance it out with some harsher truths, the man was an alcoholic, thats pretty well known in the industry, stop worshiping him

  • Comment number 10.


    Mozart was a lush, a womaniser and a gambler.
    Wagner was a vicious anti-semite.
    James Brown was a wife-beater.
    Kurt Cobain was a hopeless junkie.
    Elvis was a drug addict and hugely obese when he died.
    Francis Bacon was, by all accounts, not a very nice person.
    Ollie Reed was a massive alcoholic.

    None of which made their body of work any less. Need I go on?

    (Also, since when was alcoholism anything except a disease? The man's a victim, leave him be...)

  • Comment number 11.

    Any passing is sad and Pete Postlethwaite’s passing I feel is a classic case of you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. He remains a sadly overlooked actor despite his incredible talent. He had amazing screen presence, played his parts incredible well and looked incredibly interesting. All these culminated in one of the best actors Britain has seen. Like many actors the quality of the movies he appeared in were varied but he always remained interesting and gave something worth watching and experiencing. He will be greatly missed but we thankfully have his movies for prosperity.

  • Comment number 12.

    #9: In fact, Peter Davies, you are absolutely right. He may have been a sterling actor and may have made some superb films but (Hark and heaven forbid) he was once perhaps mildly dismissive of two acquaintances from his past. My mind is changed irrevocably. To the flames, "Brassed Off" and "Usual Suspects"! Begone from my sights, "In the name of the Father"! Get thee behind me, "Distant Voices, Still Lives"! If there's one thing I cannot stand for in actors, it's slightly awkward social faux pas!

  • Comment number 13.

    Pete Postlethwaite could always be depended on to make good movies great and to make dull films more enjoyable.

    I first saw him in Alien 3 many years ago but first became fully aware of him in The Usual Suspects.

    He'll be much missed and I'm sad I never got to see him as King Lear.

  • Comment number 14.

    2.40 - Get it on video(???)

  • Comment number 15.

    "the man was an alcoholic, that's pretty well known in the industry, stop worshiping him" #9

    Pete P' liked a drink? Perhaps? (At times in their life many people have, few of us in the UK are teetotal.) Could he get up and perform well the next day? Yes, certainly.

    Looking at PP's eyes (I work daily with the public, there are tell tale signs) PP didn't seem to have any major bags under his eyes. Compare them with, say, the bags under the eyes of Tommy Lee Jones.
    Hard-drinkers tend to have hard-drinker eyes (and the folds under the eyes betray that).

    As for other 'national treasures'. If you went to an art house cinema in the `70's you'd have a very different view of Dame Helen Mirrem to that which is held now. Uninhibited, shall we say. (But back then, in the late 60's & early 70's, male and female full frontal nudity in British films became almost the norm.)

    Mother Theresa has her critics. Even J. Christ had one or two I hear...
    I judge Postlethwaite (and other actors/directors etc) on their work; not on hearsay or judgements on their personal lives; we're all human.
    I'm sure many pass judgements on your life; but you don't hear about them.

    I've made enemies; I've not liked everyone I've met or interacted with in life; some with good reason. But I still do a good job at work & my friends & partner seem to like me enough to put up with me.

    PS. I take it you're perfect? No critics? No social faux pas, ever? Friends to everyone, all of the time? Not many manage that ~ ever. (Such a person could also be criticised for being conformist, needy, insecure etc.)

    Pete Postlethwaite. Damn fine actor.
    I expect he had some experiences of life; what else makes a good actor, writer, director ~ or human being?

  • Comment number 16.

    You're 100% right; brassed off is one of those films that draws my family 'round the telly whenever it's on and just reduces us all to tears by the end. It's a really wonderful piece of work.
    Just want to take this opportunity say four words- 'distant voices, still lives' which is even better!

  • Comment number 17.

    I'll remember him mainly for playing the odious Obediah Hakeswill in the Sharpe TV dramas. He really made that character loathsome and evil... and I mean that as a compliment.

  • Comment number 18.

    Looking back on his filmography you can conclude he wasn't always given great roles or in great films, but he was always great to watch in any of them. As left handed compliments go, it's a tribute to him that his reputation rose above the number of clunkers he was in.

    Brassed Off is certainly one of his best films, and his best role. It's also a film that might have turned out mawkish if not for the credibility of his performance.

  • Comment number 19.

    'Brassed Off' may have had its heart in the right place, but it was just another in a long line of faceless 'gritty-slice-of-life' potboilers that stink up our cinemas fro time-to-time (this means you 'Billy Elliot' & 'Full Monty').
    I'll reserve judgement until ive seen it, but 'Made in Dagenham' looks like more of the same.

  • Comment number 20.

    P.S. Also, the climax of BO is utter baloney. In reality all the bands in competition would play the same piece of music to determine the quality of their interpretration. So much for realism eh?

  • Comment number 21.

    P.P.S. And what's going with those Freemason blazer badges???

  • Comment number 22.

    #20: The fact that you concentrate on this utterly minor aspect of the film suggests:

    a) you haven't seen the film, or
    b) you didn't understand it's intended message (hint: it's not about a brass band winning a competition)

  • Comment number 23.

    a) I have seen it, and
    b) like I said, its heart's in the right place, but I dont think its any good (apart from the acting).
    You like it, I dont.

  • Comment number 24.

    It saddens me to read some unflattering comments about Mr P especially as he is no longer around to defend himself. I didn't know him personally so can't comment on his life away from the camera's. However what I do know is how much I enjoyed watching him on screen, and his wonderful performance in Brassed Off was only enhanced by his obvious passion for the subject matter.The last film I saw him in was The Town, a cameo part with just a few short scenes, but as in every movie he was in,he made his presence felt by his natural ability and undoubted screen charisma.His premature departure is a real shame.

  • Comment number 25.

    100% agreed Dr.K

    Brassed Off is a truly brilliant film. The performances are top notch and the final speech by Pete Posthlewaite is one of the finest in cinema history for my liking, emotionally heart-wrenching and a perfect criticism of the awful politics implemented by government in taking away not only a very British industry, but an entire communal way of life. Portrays what the media often isnt keen on showing us- the British working-class at their most courageous, artistic, honourable and resilient in the face of desolation.
    And that's without mentioning the music, which carries along the narrative superbly.

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    Pete Postlethwaite's speech as Danny in the final ten minutes of "Brassed Off" must surely be one of the most moving and powerful performances in cinema history. It's sadly all too rare, I feel, to see a relatively mainstream film which sticks to its political guns as this film does with such guts and such heart-rending passion, and it is through the outstanding performances of its lead actors - especially that of Postlethwaite - that it renders its political message both thoroughly accessible and intimately, painfully relevant.

    I also think it a great shame that so few of the recent tributes to his work have lingered on or even alluded at all to "Brassed Off", not only because it showcases so brilliantly Postlethwaite's exceptional talent, but because, without veering too dangerously into the current and the potentially controversial, it is a film whose message, it seems to me, remains as utterly essential viewing in 2010 as it was in the mid-90s.

  • Comment number 28.

    great film.. love when they play orange juice!! RIP

  • Comment number 29.

    I have always loved 'Brassed Off'. One of those great British movies that uplifts you. There's humour, pathos, reconciliation and the classic underdogs overcoming obstacles. Along with Brassed Off, Among Giants and In The Name of the Father are a couple more of my favourite Pete Postlethwaite roles.

    A true son of Warrington will be missed.

  • Comment number 30.

    Although Brassed Off was a great film and Pete Postlethwaite was a great actor he did appear to be a hypocrite over the coal industry. After the film was made and wearing his left wing heart on his sleeve he made a great deal about the Thatcher years, the miner's strike, the pit closures etc. In contrast and under a new found environmental concern he recently threatened to hand back his OBE if consent was passed for construction of a new coal fired power station. It does not take an Einstein to realise that you can't support both attitudes without tying yourself in moral knots. Maybe this is an example of why actors should stay out of politics and stick to acting - at which he was superb.

  • Comment number 31.

    @Peter Davies

    You are a symptom of the canker growing around the edges of our society. You cannot resist adding your negative voice to a ream of kind and well deserved tributes to a great actor (on a forum dedicated to film, not human nature) The fact that you judge a man on a bit of second-hand hearsay from some friends who found him a bit indifferent is tragic.

    Pete Postlethwaite was a great actor. His humanity shone through in every performance. He is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of films like The Lost World or Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet and he is a sad loss for the British film industry.

  • Comment number 32.

    RIP to one of our best and undervalued actors.

  • Comment number 33.

    DavidH. Perhaps blog respondents wont have to put up with words like 'respondants', never mind 'sensibleness'.
    Nevertheless Postlethwaite was a fine actor.

  • Comment number 34.

    Pete Postlethwaite was one of my favourite actors. He always demonstrated his exceptional talent in the roles that he played, and was a very convincing performer. I only judge artists by their skills, and not their personal lives. For me, Pete Postlethwaite was always a pleasure to watch, and I will miss him.

  • Comment number 35.


    The point is that we were abandoned by the Government when we lost our jobs and communities died. Any new coal fired powerstation would as now use imported coal, not reignite the UK coal industry.

    RIP Mr Postlethwaite by your talents you made people stop and think, thank you.


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