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January 3, 2011 2:57 AM   Subscribe

British actor Pete Postlethwaite has died at the age of 64, after a lengthy battle with cancer. A renowned veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company (he held the leading roles in both The Tempest and 2009's King Lear among others), Postlethwaite is perhaps best known worldwide for his roles in The Usual Suspects (trailer), The Constant Gardener and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Steven Spielberg supposedly described him as "the best actor in the world", although Postlethwaite himself often denied this.
posted by fight or flight (136 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by smoke at 3:05 AM on January 3, 2011


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Also notable for In the Name of the Father and especially Brassed Off
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:05 AM on January 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


FFFfffffffuuuuuuuu
posted by Ritchie at 3:07 AM on January 3, 2011


Very sad, 64 is way too young. I remember his excellent performance as Giuseppe Conlon in In the Name of the Father.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:09 AM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ah, yes, of course (on preview), Brassed Off was really great. He was exceptionally good in that.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:10 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Very sad. Always knew when you saw him that HE was going to be fun to watch, even if the movie he was in wasn't the best. Rare thing.
posted by asavage at 3:11 AM on January 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


He was definitely one of those "that guy" actors. I never knew his name, but I never forgot that face. And yeah, Always knew when you saw him that HE was going to be fun to watch, even if the movie he was in wasn't the best.
posted by NoMich at 3:13 AM on January 3, 2011


No way. We only watched him last night in "The Town", which he classed up as usual. He was indeed excellent in everything he did. And .
posted by arcticseal at 3:14 AM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Aw, man. I was just telling my brother earlier today that he was easily the best thing in Romeo + Juliet; that when he spoke, suddenly Shakespeare's language came alive, because Pete Postlethwaite actually understood what he was saying.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 3:14 AM on January 3, 2011 [30 favorites]


Echoing asavage. He made the films he was in so much more than they would have been otherwise.

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posted by Ahab at 3:15 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by iamkimiam at 3:16 AM on January 3, 2011


Oh wow, that was unexpected. He seemed like he'd go on forever.

(Had no idea he had cancer.)
posted by Silentgoldfish at 3:16 AM on January 3, 2011


Terrific conk.
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posted by Wolof at 3:17 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Raunchy 60s Humour at 3:18 AM on January 3, 2011


I didn't recognize him by name but as soon as I saw his face I said, "Aw man, that guy is awesome!"

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posted by XMLicious at 3:18 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Never again will you be able to watch a film and go "Oh hey, Pete Postlethwaite is in this!"

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posted by dudekiller at 3:21 AM on January 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


I just watched "Inception" last night. Boo. I love him.

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posted by the_royal_we at 3:21 AM on January 3, 2011


Aw, no. This is a real shame.

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posted by nevercalm at 3:22 AM on January 3, 2011


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It was always a pleasant surprise to see him in the cast, you knew at least one
part of the movie was going to be enjoyable.
posted by archaic at 3:22 AM on January 3, 2011


He was great as the grasping wannabe editor in The Shipping News.

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posted by bwg at 3:24 AM on January 3, 2011


I'd forgotten his stint as sub-editor of The Gammy Bird. He shone in that too.
posted by arcticseal at 3:29 AM on January 3, 2011


An actor with unbelievable gravitas. He'll be terribly missed. Agreeing with those who say he classed up everything he did: could do more with two lines in films, like, Inception than some could with a whole film.

Too soon.

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posted by monster truck weekend at 3:35 AM on January 3, 2011


Thanks for posting this. Couple of Guardian links (no obit up yet) - Q & A -
What makes you depressed?

That life will come to an end.
Video interview - mostly about climate change.

Also, Practchett said that Postlethwaite was his mental image of Vimes. See illustrations in Where's My Cow?

On preview - Guardian obit up now.
posted by paduasoy at 3:35 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh damn. What a loss.

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posted by octothorpe at 3:49 AM on January 3, 2011


Thanks for that, paduasoy. The BBC have also just put up their obit.

Some internet digging reveals that Postlethwaite was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1990 and had been fighting it quietly ever since. Truly a great man.
posted by fight or flight at 3:50 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by tzikeh at 3:51 AM on January 3, 2011


aw nooooo, ever since I saw "In the name of the father", I've used the Pete Postlethwaite-grading system on films I might not be so keen on. If he's in it, I'll watch it. A superb actor.

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posted by dabitch at 3:51 AM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I remember him in Tales of Sherwood Forest in the late 80s, and then as Hakeswill in the Sharpe series. He was the best part of many movies and TV shows.

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posted by itsjustanalias at 3:53 AM on January 3, 2011


Mother of God.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:54 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


His welsh accent in The Usual Suspects was awesome.
posted by the cuban at 3:55 AM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


"We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep."

Sleep well.

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posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:57 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by Spatch at 4:01 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by gomichild at 4:01 AM on January 3, 2011


Oh bloody hell.
posted by robself at 4:03 AM on January 3, 2011


That is sad. He had a great "lived in" face.
posted by the noob at 4:07 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by dbiedny at 4:13 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:14 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by longdaysjourney at 4:15 AM on January 3, 2011


Damn. Loved him in everything I saw him do.
posted by converge at 4:20 AM on January 3, 2011


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Awe, he was good.
posted by wolfewarrior at 4:23 AM on January 3, 2011


Well shit. He was one of my favorites :(
posted by tar0tgr1 at 4:23 AM on January 3, 2011


He's been in so good in so many parts, but for some reason I always think of him as the Old Man in James and the Giant Peach.

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posted by lekvar at 4:24 AM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 4:30 AM on January 3, 2011


I always assumed Pete was a scouser, because for the longest time, anything that came out of Liverpool had his face all over it.

Apparently, like so many other great actors, he started his career at the Liverpool Everyman so it's not surprising that he'd so many of the locally based film and TV gigs.

I'm shattered to learn that he's a Dirty Wool by birth though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:36 AM on January 3, 2011


I'm really very sad to hear this. His nose was being discussed on here just the other day in the character actors thread. I first saw him in 'The Name of the Father'. Excellent actor. Great loss.
posted by h00py at 4:38 AM on January 3, 2011


"You sir are no gentleman."
"Is that an insult?"
"I can think of none greater."

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posted by rahnefan at 4:42 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


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and once again
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Like everyone has said, he made everything he was in suddenly just miles better. (His whole-other-level apothecary in "Romeo and Juliet" was like Peter O'Toole's as Priam in "Troy")

And just totally made me shiver in Brassed Off - made that line really ring:
"Truth is, I THOUGHT it mattered. I thought that MUSIC mattered. But does it bollocks? Not compared to how people matter."
posted by runincircles at 4:45 AM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by cerebus19 at 4:46 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by Halloween Jack at 4:50 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by RokkitNite at 4:52 AM on January 3, 2011


He might have rarely gotten top billing, but his name always stood out in so many opening credits for me - no matter how mediocre the project may have been, Mr. Postlethwaite was guaranteed to elevate any scene he was in. I almost wish his name was less distinctive or that I did not recognise it just so his brief appearances in films like The Town would have been pleasant surprises instead of pleasant guarantees. He'll be sorely missed.

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posted by slimepuppy at 4:54 AM on January 3, 2011


Damn, he's one of the actors who's, for me at least, just always been there, always been just about the best thing about whatever movie he's been in. I'll miss his deft, masterful acting, and knowing that, since he's in it, the movie will be worth watching if for nothing else than his scenes.

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posted by Ghidorah at 4:54 AM on January 3, 2011


Aw, man. I was just telling my brother earlier today that he was easily the best thing in Romeo + Juliet; that when he spoke, suddenly Shakespeare's language came alive, because Pete Postlethwaite actually understood what he was saying.

Although it worked entirely the opposite way for the little art series I was projecting for. We got a bad 16-mm crop, so the best performance of the movie ended up delivered by Pete's prodigious ear bobbing at the corner of the frame.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:57 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by crossoverman at 4:59 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by Kinbote at 5:01 AM on January 3, 2011


I'm shattered to learn that he's a Dirty Wool by birth though.

Is that a term for Warringtonians? I grew up there and I've never heard that before.

This is doubly sad for Warrington, because this leaves us with Chris Evans and Kerry Katona. Oh dear.
posted by dudekiller at 5:08 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


He was one of those actors that you made a point to watch the credits to find out "who was that?". I can't remember what it was (Distant Voices, Still Lives?) but I've admired him for quite a while.

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posted by readery at 5:09 AM on January 3, 2011


I'm disappointed that you tried...

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posted by Lord_Pall at 5:10 AM on January 3, 2011


Bummer, I really liked that guy. I didn't even see most of the films he's "famous" for, but what I did see I always enjoyed. He really did do a great job in Romeo + Juliet (pretty much all the actors but the two principals in that movie were brilliant, actually). Sad loss.

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posted by Gator at 5:11 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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Fuck cigarettes.
posted by crunchland at 5:24 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by condour75 at 5:28 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by GrammarMoses at 5:44 AM on January 3, 2011


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Stupid cancer. He could have saved so many more mediocre movies. He will be missed.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:53 AM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by Runes at 6:01 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by jquinby at 6:03 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by candyland at 6:17 AM on January 3, 2011


Oh THAT guy! Very recognizable. RIP.
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:21 AM on January 3, 2011


I always brightened when he showed up in something.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:27 AM on January 3, 2011


::puts away "In Memorian 2010" retrospective, starts making the 2011 list::

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posted by briank at 6:31 AM on January 3, 2011


Had no idea about The Age of Stupid, the climate-change documentary where he plays an archivist in a devasted 2055 looking back. It's on Netflix instant.
posted by mediareport at 6:40 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by PsychoTherapist at 6:40 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by litleozy at 6:47 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by dchase at 6:53 AM on January 3, 2011


Never again will you be able to watch a film and go "Oh hey, Pete Postlethwaite is in this!"

Well, there's still Killing Bono, coming out April 01.

The last two movies I watched this past week were Inception and The Town. Postlethwaite had the rare combination of being immediately identifiable onscreen while never taking away from the movie he was in (in fact, reliably adding to it).
posted by mazola at 6:53 AM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


He always made a film better by his presence, which is just about all you could ask of an actor. He had a face rivalled perhaps only by Geoffrey Rush for memorable cragginess. He will be sorely missed.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 6:57 AM on January 3, 2011


He was in one of my all-time favorite movies - Rat, starring opposite Imelda Staunton. It's the little bit of cinema where Kafka meets the working-class Irish and Doris Day. And if you still aren't interested, then there's nothing I can do to help you.
posted by jph at 7:04 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


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dudekiller: "Is that a term for Warringtonians? I grew up there and I've never heard that before."

Yeah, people from the Warrington/Runcorn/St Helens triangle are Woolybacks

posted by the latin mouse at 7:05 AM on January 3, 2011


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his performance in IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER was just truly amazing. when i saw INCEPTION i didnt he was in it and literally squealed when i saw him on the screen. he was just a delight to watch.
posted by liza at 7:20 AM on January 3, 2011


No! One of my favorite actors!

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posted by brundlefly at 7:34 AM on January 3, 2011



posted by anigbrowl at 7:36 AM on January 3, 2011


Damn.

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posted by Madamina at 7:39 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:40 AM on January 3, 2011


:(
posted by biscotti at 7:43 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by Acey at 7:49 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by h0p3y at 7:52 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by lalochezia at 7:53 AM on January 3, 2011


"Truth is, I THOUGHT it mattered. I thought that MUSIC mattered. But does it bollocks? Not compared to how people matter." My all time favorite scene, from any movie.

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posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 8:04 AM on January 3, 2011


No matter. Kill away, Mr. McManus.
posted by Ickster at 8:17 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sad.
Great actor.
posted by Ratio at 8:28 AM on January 3, 2011


No way. We only watched him last night in "The Town", which he classed up as usual.

We just watched him in The Town a day ago as well. Sad news.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:36 AM on January 3, 2011


Trivia: Terry Pratchett always envisioned Sam Vimes as a younger, slightly bulkier Pete Postlethwaite.

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posted by curious nu at 8:45 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by Xoebe at 8:57 AM on January 3, 2011


Loved him. Both his comic roles (like Brassed Off) and his serious roles (In the Name of the Father). Not many actors had so much versatility. He will be missed.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:57 AM on January 3, 2011


I suspect people would have thought him a better actor if he had been a worse actor.

By which I mean he did a surprisingly good job hiding himself in his roles to the extent that lots of people only realised they were watching Pete Postlethwaite when the credits came up.

A loss to one of acting's unsung stars.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:02 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


During the 2004 Presidential campaign in the U.S., when media weasels were endlessly flogging that poll that asked voters whether they would rather have a beer with Bush or Kerry, I remember thinking, "Can't I just have a beer with Pete Postlethwaite instead?"

Everyone above me has already said it better than I can. He was singular and delightful, and I wish he were still here.

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posted by bakerina at 9:09 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


WHAT?! Ah crap, I didn't even know he was sick ... always appreciated his work ...
posted by Relay at 9:16 AM on January 3, 2011


jph:- Rat, starring opposite Imelda Staunton. It's the little bit of cinema where Kafka meets the working-class Irish and Doris Day.

Um. OK. Now I'm going to be annoyed for the rest of the day that I can't just stop working, find this and watch it. Because, even if it sucked, it would be worth seeing somebody try to make it work.
posted by lodurr at 9:17 AM on January 3, 2011


The film where I first became aware of him was Alien 3 (a film I have a soft spot for, despite its bad rep) and throughout high school I thought of him as "that guy from Alien 3". A relatively small role, but fun to watch.
posted by brundlefly at 9:18 AM on January 3, 2011


A very talented actor with a tremendously interesting face, whom I often used in imaginary perfect casts for movie adaptations of my favourite books. I will certainly miss him :(


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posted by helion at 9:21 AM on January 3, 2011


I wonder if he found it amusing that his character in Inception was dying. (Big spirited people often find things like that amusing, and he looked like a man with a big spirit.)

It's always sad to hear that someone you respect & admire has died. But you know what? He has a hell of a portfolio. He will be well remembered.

(He blew me away in In the Name of the Father, and I've been happy to see him in everything I've seen him in since.)
posted by lodurr at 9:21 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pete Postalthwaite wasn't allowed to die till he played Vimes. Sadness.

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posted by Pope Guilty at 9:29 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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As so many have said, he added something to every film he was in. This thread is absolutely going to bulk up my Netflix queue.
posted by immlass at 9:35 AM on January 3, 2011


Bloody Hakeswill.

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posted by adamdschneider at 9:38 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dammit.


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posted by Decimask at 9:42 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by gallois at 9:44 AM on January 3, 2011


Yeah, people from the Warrington/Runcorn/St Helens triangle are Woolybacks

Ah. In Warrington that's reserved for people from Runcorn, who obviously have the wooliest of all the backs.

posted by dudekiller at 9:54 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by clavdivs at 9:59 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by sandraregina at 10:01 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by Tacodog at 10:12 AM on January 3, 2011


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Second fearfulsymmetry's shout-out to Brassed Off. He was magnificent in a magnificent movie. Even with that mug, he could be lovable, rascally, or evil incarnate with equal facility.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:15 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


How can this thread have gone on so long without mentioning one of the greatest villains Pete every played? Be warned. When Obadiah's up, he's up like an animal!
posted by snottydick at 10:19 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by cookie-k at 10:21 AM on January 3, 2011


Postlethwaite had the rare combination of being immediately identifiable onscreen while never taking away from the movie he was in (in fact, reliably adding to it).

Yeah, it's a rare talent. Most actors who become as well-known end up playing themselves in anything they do; it says a lot about his ability that he's both easy to pick out and still sinks so completely into his roles.
posted by rodgerd at 10:31 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by WalkingAround at 10:40 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by killy willy at 10:41 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by Lutoslawski at 10:50 AM on January 3, 2011


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posted by Gelatin at 10:58 AM on January 3, 2011


Actor.
posted by Decani at 11:19 AM on January 3, 2011


Another shout-out for his speech in Brassed Off. I remember going to see it because of my crush on Ewan McGregor, and walking out of it surprised to realize that I now had a crush on Pete Postlethwaite.

Terrible loss; I always looked forward to seeing one of his performances.

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posted by scody at 12:42 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


i hate it when truly talented actors and musicians die. it's as if i can hear the whooshing sound of their light being snuffed and silenced. you know, that light that makes living in this world a wee bit easier.

sigh.

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posted by flyingsquirrel at 12:59 PM on January 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


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Kobayashi.
posted by exlotuseater at 1:35 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by Phssthpok at 1:40 PM on January 3, 2011


LOVED him in "The Shipping News", which I think is a very under-rated movie with an absolutely incredible cast.
posted by spock at 2:12 PM on January 3, 2011


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posted by New England Cultist at 2:15 PM on January 3, 2011


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posted by kjs4 at 2:38 PM on January 3, 2011


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posted by Iridic at 2:58 PM on January 3, 2011


I was shocked to see the news this morning. Very sad. He was good in a lot of bad movies, and never bad - in fact brilliant - in some very good movies. I only saw him in the flesh once, but he was captivating most of all on the stage, I think.

Way too young.

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posted by Sk4n at 3:32 PM on January 3, 2011


(mornfully hums a few bars of Concerto de OrangeJuice)
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posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 4:30 PM on January 3, 2011


Aww. I liked him, enjoyed his acting. May he rest in peace.
posted by nickyskye at 5:55 PM on January 3, 2011


Oh, aye, they can knock out a bloody good tune...but what the fuck does that matter?
posted by rhythim at 7:23 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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His understated talent onscreen....he was tremendous in The Constant Gardener.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:36 PM on January 3, 2011


OUCH! Ficking Fack! He was Sergeant Obidiah Hakeswill, talking into his mother's goddamn hat in the Sharpe's television series!
posted by ovvl at 8:03 PM on January 3, 2011


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Terrific actor with a great face; I was always surprised he wasn't used more. Also ditto what everyone says about him elevating movies he was in. (Observe the dignity he's able to impart to his absurd character in Aeon Flux.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:44 PM on January 3, 2011


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posted by goshling at 11:04 AM on January 4, 2011


I was surprised and sad to hear he had died. One of my favourite faces in the movies, someone I always looked forward to seeing because I knew he was always good, whatever he was in.

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:32 PM on January 4, 2011


Mark Kermode pays tribute
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:38 AM on January 7, 2011


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