Obituary: Oscar-nominated actor Pete Postlethwaite
- 3 January 2011
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Oscar-nominated British actor Pete Postlethwaite, who has died at the age of 64, had a successful 40-year career which spanned the screen and stage.
The Warrington-born actor, who was once described by director Steven Spielberg as the "the best actor in the world", shot to fame in the 1993 film In The Name Of The Father.
He had, however, originally planned to be a priest.
The youngest of four children, he then did a short stint as teacher before eventually following his passion for the stage at the age of 24, training at the Bristol Old Vic.
Once trained, he started out by touring pubs in a theatre group with then girlfriend Julie Walters.
His early roles included a spell at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool where he worked with other future stars as Bill Nighy, Alan Bleasdale and Jonathan Pryce.
Later he returned to Bristol, where he became artistic director of The Little Theatre Company and forged a friendship with Daniel Day-Lewis.
In the 1980s, he went on to join the Royal Shakespeare Company, and at one point was introduced to the Queen following a performance of Taming Of The Shrew.
Following that meeting, he remarked: "My mother always thought that acting was a phase, she assumed I'd go back to teaching at some point.
"But when she saw me with the Queen, she finally accepted that I was serious about it."
Postlethwaite's screen work began with bit parts in Coronation Street, Minder and Casualty.
He worked steadily, taking small roles in Last of the Mohicans, Alien 3 and Franco Zefferelli's Hamlet, before landing the career-changing role of Giuseppe Conlon in the 1993 film In The Name Of The Father.
His portrayal of Conlon, whose son Gerry was one of those wrongly convicted of the Guildford Four pub bombings, earned him an Oscar nomination.
A role in The Usual Suspects followed, before he played the priest, Father Laurence, in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet.
Other hits include British classic Brassed Off and Steven Spielberg epic Amistad.
Postlethwaite modestly laughed off Spielberg's famous quote about him, saying "it sounds like an advert for lager and it's only one man's opinion".
In 2003, the actor was made an OBE in the New Year's Honours for his services for drama.
At the time he said it was a "complete shock".
In 2008, Postlethwaite returned to the Everyman to play the lead in King Lear, a role he had always wanted.
The performance was one of the highlights of Liverpool's year as the European Capital of Culture.
More recently, the actor appeared in Clash of the Titans and Inception.
Postlethwaite also made a name for himself as a political activist.
He marched against the war in Iraq, supported the Make Poverty History campaign and starred in the 2009 film about global warming, The Age of Stupid.
He once said he had been politically motivated throughout his career: "When we were back at The Everyman, everything had to relate to the community, it had to say something about people's lives.
"That never changed for me, that's why I said no to a lot of roles. In works like Brassed Off or In The Name Of The Father, we were trying to say something, we were trying to convey a message."
On 3 January 2011, journalist and friend Andrew Richardson announced Postlethwaite had died peacefully in hospital in Shropshire after a lengthy illness.
Postlethwaite had continued to work until recent months despite receiving treatment for cancer, an illness he had first been diagnosed with in the 1990s but had been given the all-clear.
An intensely private man away from the screen, Postlethwaite said the number one passion in his life was his family.
He leaves behind wife Jacqui, son Will and daughter Lily.