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Pete Postlethwaite: Top 5 movie performances [Updated]

January 3, 2011 |  1:49 pm


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.

Comments () | Archives (12)

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Greeting to the farmily and friends of the late brother Pete, may him rest gpeaceful in the name of God we pray.i friend of by the name of Jon told about the death. Am sorry to every one outthere lets take corage.I meat Petey in 1997 wheh when we was shooting the Amistd movie,he is one of the best guy among the crew. We all wish we can say good bye to Pete. Gone but you ar still around from brother FALLA

Watch Tommy Lee Jones in "Fugitive" and then Postlethwaite in "In the Name of the Father" and ask, who deserved the 1994 Oscar for best supporting actor? No offence to Tommy but clearly they weren't going to give it to a Brit that year.

I first noticed how great he was when I saw Lost World: Jurassic Park in theaters and have been a fan ever since (though I think the first time I actually saw him was in Romeo + Juliet). He was just such a superb actor. One of my all time favorite character actors. He will be sorely missed.

those are great pics for Mr. Postlethwaite's best performances. I would agree.
I was saddened to hear of his passing this morning. He will be missed greatly and was taken from us way too early.
Condolences to his family and friends.

and you're right he does put the fear of god into you in The Town.

Have to mention james and the giant peach... mr postlewaite, you will be missed.

The first thing I ever saw PP in was Sharpe's Rifles. He played the mad villain who would take off his hat and talk to a picture of his dead mother pin inside his hat.

I knew then he was "somemat else."

Sad loss, far too soon.

The first thing I ever saw PP in was Sharpe's Rifles. He played the mad villain who would take off his hat and talk to a picture of his dead mother pin inside his hat.

I knew then he was "somemat else."

Sad loss, far too soon.

To me, he will always be Mr. Kobayashi, the steadfast lawyer and intermediary of the criminal mastermind Keyser Söze.

There is a scene in that movie where his character is threatened with a gun, and he refuses to do what he is told, warning the person with the gun that whatever he might do to him, it would pale in comparison to what would be done to him by Keyser Söze, so go ahead and pull the trigger.

Quite a movie, and quite an actor. R.I.P.

The scariest line in movie history: "I work for Keyser Soze."

he was awesome as the crazy priest in the remake of the omen, but that was an easy role. and he was (as someone mentioned) awesome in sharpe's rifles. also a slightly crazy role, but he was still real in it somehow. not over the top.

"The Town" for me...Pete at his acting best...in a film, if you can viscerally hate the villain...everything else falls into place...I think that is the greatest art...to connect with evil...then one can rejoice when evil falls...Think Bob Knepper in the early Prison Break...or some of the "24" evils. Or, Mitchum in Cape Fear...it made everying fit... even Lancaster in Vera Cruz or Palance in Shane...one could not think bad of Ladd in gun whiping Van Hefling when Ladd was going to kill Palance...the list could go on...Ian McShane in Tudors or Deadwood (a contraditocry role but evil) Pete was right there. Roger

The most memorable performance I have seen by Pete Postlethwaite was in the Dickens story Martin Chuzzlewit on PBS (a BBC production).


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