Obituary: Pete Postlethwaite
Obituary by Jack Foley
OSCAR-nominated British actor Pete Postlethwaite has died at the age of 64, a spokesman has confirmed.
The popular star, who was made an OBE in 2004, died peacefully in hospital in Shropshire at the turn of the year [January 3, 2011] after a lengthy illness, according to journalist and friend Andrew Richardson.
Best known for his big screen work in films such as In The Name of The Father – for which he received his Oscar nomination – Brassed Off and The Usual Suspects, Postlethwaite was also a regular on the stage and small screen.
Born on February 7, 1946, in Warrington, Postlethwaite was the youngest of four children.
He intially planned on becoming a priest and then did a short stint as a teacher before eventually starting to follow his passion for the stage at the age of 24, training at Bristol’s Old Vic.
He would subsequently enjoy a career spanning 40 years, during which time the director Steven Spielberg as the “the best actor in the world”.
Once trained as an actor, Postlethwaite started out by touring pubs in a theatre group with then girlfriend Julie Walters, before landing early roles at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool alongside the likes of Bill Nighy, Alan Bleasdale and Jonathan Pryce.
He later returned to Bristol, where he became artistic director of The Little Theatre Company, and forged a friendship with Daniel Day-Lewis – who would later star alongside him as his son in one of his greatest roles in In The Name of The Father.
In the 1980s, Postlethwaite joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, during which time he was introduced to The Queen following a performance of The Taming Of The Shrew – the moment, he later recalled, upon which his mother finally realised he was an actor and wouldn’t be returning to teaching.
Thereafter, Postlethwaite expanded his range onto the screen, beginning with small TV parts in Coronation Street, The Professionals Minder and Casualty, before venturing onto the big screen – again in smaller roles to begin with – in Last of the Mohicans (alongside his friend, Day Lewis), Alien 3 and Franco Zefferelli’s Hamlet.
But in 1993, he landed the career-changing role of Giuseppe Conlon in real life drama, In The Name Of The Father, for which he was catapulted into the Hollywood limelight following his Oscar nod.
Critics raved about Postlethwaite’s moving portrayal of Conlon, whose son Gerry was one of those wrongly convicted of the Guildford Four pub bombings.
And Hollywood also paid attention, casting him in The Usual Suspects, in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet [ironically, as a priest] and in two Steven Spielberg epics, Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Amistad.
Other hits included the British classic Brassed Off and The Constant Gardener, while in the past year alone  he provided notable support for blockbuster hits Inception and Clash of the Titans, as well as Oscar contender The Town for director Ben Affleck.
In 2004, the actor was made an OBE in the New Year’s Honours for his services for drama, describing it as the time as a “complete shock”.
He also never lost his passion for theatre, returning in 2008 to the Everyman to play the lead in King Lear, a role he had always wanted.
The performance was described by many observers and critics as one of the highlights of Liverpool’s year as the European Capital of Culture.
Away from the screen, Postlethwaite also made a name for himself as a political activist, marchinh against the war in Iraq, supporting the Make Poverty History campaign and starring in the 2009 documentary about global warming, The Age of Stupid.
He also 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.
Despite being a private man who liked to live his personal wife away from the glare of the press, Postlethwaite said the number one passion in his life was his family.
He leaves behind wife, Jacqui, son, Will, and daughter, Lily.
Among the first to pay tribute was fellow actor Bill Nighy, who performed with Postlethwaite at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre during the ’70s. Describing him as “a rare and remarkable man”, he added: “I was honoured by his friendship – he is irreplaceable.”
Broadcaster Stephen Fry wrote on Twitter: “The loss of the great Pete Postlethwaite is a very sad way to begin a year.”
While former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott, also writing on Twitter, said the actor’s films Brassed Off and Age of Stupid “had a real effect on me and our [Labour] government”.