As the holiday season draws to a close, the only phrase that has been echoing in my mind since the news of Pete Postlethwaite’s passing is ‘the gift that keeps on giving’. Over the course of a career spanning 40 years, hard-hitting professionalism was as invented as it was redefined. Steven Spielberg called him ‘the greatest actor in the world’, and most would ponder intensely before dismissing that claim.
Born in Lancashire in 1946 to Roman-Catholic parents, Postlethwaite trained as a teacher before briefly teaching drama in Manchester. He proceeded to train as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Fast-forward 40 years and we are able to stand back and admire a true veteran of stage, film and television. A legend in the Royal Shakespeare Company, Academy Award nominee, BAFTA nominee, and all-around interesting character, Postlethwaite’s extensive career was vast enough to leave a lasting impression on just about everyone he worked with. In his final active year, we were lucky enough to experience his on-screen intensity in two of the year’s best films, Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ and Ben Affleck’s ‘The Town’, respectively. Lest we forget just what a massive part of cinema Postlethwaite has been over the last 20 years.
The Last of the Mohicans
In The Name of the Father (his only Oscar nomination)
The Usual Suspects
Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
The Shipping News
The Constant Gardener
The Omen (remake)
Not many actors will ever boast a filmography that conquers so many genres and styles with such swagger and grit. And that’s not even touching on his his televisual credits. On top of his Oscar nomination, Postlethwaite was a 3-time BAFTA nominee for his work on ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, ‘Lost for Words’ and ‘The Sins’.
Between all of these successes, he was also one of Britain’s most respected thespians having undertaken roles in countless productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company (most memorably perhaps as the title role in ‘Macbeth’ in 1997) and a well respected politcal activist who marched against the war in Iraq as well as openly supporting the Make Poverty History campaign. He was awarded an OBE in 2004 for his services to drama.
We have lost a true heavyweight in these early days of 2011, and in closing I would like to leave you with a few words from the man himself.
“At the end of the day, acting is all about telling lies. We are professional imposters and the audience accept that. We’ve made this deal that we tell you a tale and a pack of lies, but there will be a truth in it. You may enjoy it, or it will disturb you.”