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Pete Postlethwaite: Top 5 movie performances [Updated]

January 3, 2011 |  1:49 pm

Pete 

Pete Postlethwaite, who died Sunday in Shropshire, England, at age 64, was one of those character actors who seemed incapable of giving a bad performance.

In fact, Steven Spielberg, who directed him in  1997's "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" and "Amistad," once described him as "the best actor in the world."

A former drama instructor who taught in a Catholic girls school before becoming a full-time actor, Postlethwaite trod the boards in his native England, working at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and the Royal Shakespeare Company. In the 1980s, he began to make his mark on film and television, receiving acclaim as a wife abuser in the 1988 film "Distant Voices, Still Lives."

And he never stopped working. Last year alone, he played a ruthless Boston crime boss and flower-shop owner in Ben Affleck's "The Town" and Cillian Murphy's dying father in "Inception." He also appeared in the 2010 remake of "Clash of the Titans."

[Updated, 1:45 p.m.: Affleck said in a statement Monday: "Pete was a wonderful actor and an extraordinary man. I will miss him as will the countless others whose lives he touched either personally or through his work. This is a great loss of a wonderful man. My prayers go out to his family."]


 Here's a look at five of his best performances:

"In the Name of the Father": Postlethwaite earned a supporting actor Oscar nomination for Jim Sheridan's 1993 film about Irishman Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) who, along with three other men, was accused of being an Irish Republican Army terrorist by British authorities in 1974. Postlethwaite played the role of Conlon's father, a hard-working man who ended up sharing a cell with his wayward son. It's hard to steal any scenes from Day-Lewis, but Postlethwaite managed to do just that.

"The Usual Suspects": In Bryan Singer's dazzling 1995 mystery thriller, Postlethwaite got one of his best bad-guy roles as Kobayashi, a sleazy attorney who works for mob boss Keyser Soze and blackmails the group of thieves played by Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Pollak, Benicio Del Toro and Kevin Spacey into boarding a ship at San Pedro harbor that is supposedly carrying nearly $100 million worth of drugs. 

"Romeo + Juliet": Though he usually played menacing characters, Postlethwaite did manage to break out of those roles, as he did in Baz Luhrmann's 1996 re-envisioning of the William Shakespeare tragedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Postlethwaite gave a lovely performance as Father Laurence, the compassionate priest who agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet and later persuades Juliet not to commit suicide but to fake her death with a special potion so she will awaken in the family vault 24 hours later.

"Brassed Off": Postlethwaite was the linchpin of this 1996 British comedy-drama about a colliery brass band that attempts to continue even after the mining pit closes. Postlethwaite plays Danny, the sympathetic band conductor, who runs into difficulty keeping the ensemble together when word comes down that the pit may close. But in the end, the group wins the national brass band competition. Danny refuses the trophy, telling the audience that the "government has systematically destroyed an entire industry, our  industry."

"The Town": Though he didn't have a lot of screen time in Affleck's acclaimed 2010 action-thriller, Postlethwaite put the fear of god into audiences with his chilling turn as Fergie Colm, a Boston crime boss who works out of his flower shop and commands lackeys, including bank robbers Affleck and Jeremy Renner, with an iron fist.

-- Susan King

 Photo: Pete Postlethwaite in "The Town." Credit: Warner Bros.

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