2011 has barely begun and already we have lost one of the best-loved British actors to grace the screen. Oscar nominated thesp Pete Postlethwaite has died in hospital at the age of 64 after a long struggle with cancer.
Once described by no lesser director than Steven Spielberg as “the best actor in the world,” Postlethwaite was born in Cheshire and originally thought he might become a priest, then a PE teacher. But drama ended up being his first love, which resulted in him teaching the art at Loreto College in Manchester before brushing up on his own skills at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He launched his stage career properly at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre, working alongside the likes of Bill Nighy and Julie Walters. He’s also a long-standing veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, having performed many of the Bard’s most challenging works, including an acclaimed turn as King Lear.
Postlethwaite’s screen career kicked off in traditional fashion with guest roles on shows such as Minder, Play for Today and Coronation Street. His first film role was a small part in Ridley Scott’s The Duellists, but it was in the likes of A Private Function and Distant Voices, Still Lives that he really began to shine as a character actor.
Roles in David Fincher’s Alien 3 and Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans helped bring him to Hollywood’s awareness and he scored an Oscar nomination for his performance as Giuseppe Conlon in In The Name of the Father. After appearing in The Usual Suspects, he brought his Shakespeare training to Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet as Father Laurence in 1996. He returned to the UK for Brassed Off and worked twice with Spielberg, on The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Amistad. Postlethwaite was recognized for his services to drama with an OBE in 2003.
More recently, he’s been seen in Solomon Kane, Clash of the Titans, Inception and The Town. His final appearance will be in this year’s Killing Bono, scheduled for release on April 1.