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Monday, January 3, 2011

Pete Postlethwaite, thanks for my childhood.

Pete Postlethwaite, 1946-2011

British actor, rightly knighted, has passed away. After a long battle with cancer, we're now afforded the chance to look back on his remarkable career.

In the pantheon of remarkable British actors, and the even larger pantheon of remarkable character actors, Pete Postlethwaite has always stood with the best of them. From his early days as Uncle Doug on Horse of     the House, a seemingly forgotten children’s show from the very late 70’s, to the creepy mafia boss in Ben Affleck’s The Town, he has proven himself reliable and forceful with even the softest of turns. A true actor, in every sense of the word, and he will be dearly missed.

I remember seeing him for the first time at a very young age, back in 1996, seeing Dragonheart in theaters. I believe I was nine, at the time. After a rewatch just a couple of weeks ago, I remembered what it was like discovering him. At the time, I was completely floored by the savageness of David Thewlis in that film, seething like nothing I had ever seen. But, Postlethwaite’s scribbling squire kept me laughing from his first scene on, then moving me to tears in his final moments. Then, a couple years later, all of eleven years old, I recognized him when I saw James and the Giant Peach. Pure magic, in every word.

I had loved film from the moment I could talk, my parents tell me. But, it took me a long time to delve into the “classics” and the finer points of it all. One of the first important films I took in was In the Name of the Father. And there he was - that face, whose name I could never remember. But, after watching him go toe-to-toe with Daniel Day-Lewis, and mop the floor with him (the only actor I’ve ever known to do so), I knew I wasn’t ever going to forget his name again. A well-deserved Oscar nomination, in one of the finest performances of that year. Too bad that he went up against Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List. I am, however, happy that Oscar recognized an essentially faceless actor for such a powerhouse performance. They don’t do that enough.

From unearthing rare coolness in The Usual Suspects, to being the only actor to speak in Shakespeare’s intended iambic pentameter in Baz Luhrmann’s update of Romeo and Juliet, starring alongside his Oscar competitor only two years prior, and moving on to tackle Steven Spielberg’s The Lost World without so much as taking a break between projects - he was a committed actor, who always brought his A-game. Never less than the best from him, and I feel incredibly lucky that we get his last film performance later this year in the sure to be hilarious Killing Bono from Nick Hamm.

I only just discovered the Sharpe series today, in which he stars with a fellow strong Brit actor Sean Bean, and I’m pumped that I have something new of his to watch. That, of course, won’t stop me from another viewing of Dragonheart. Nothing does.

Box office success, independent street cred, theatrical praise, and the odd recognition from the general public - he achieved what few character actors could. A flawless career, without compromising his brilliance and what made him “him”.

Rest in peace, Sir Pete. Thank you for all you did.