Spielberg favourite Pete Postlethwaite dies at 64

Pete Postlethwaite

Oscar-nominated actor and keen environmental campaigner dies of cancer

BY Sophie Taylor LAST UPDATED AT 07:25 ON Tue 4 Jan 2011

Pete Postlethwaite, once described by director Steven Spielberg as "the best actor in the world", has died of cancer in a Shropshire hospital, aged 64. Tributes have flooded in for the Warrington-born Postlethwaite, who was nominated for an Oscar in 1994 for his role in In The Name of the Father, with Bill Nighy describing him as a "rare and remarkable man... I was honoured by his friendship, he is irreplaceable".

Nighy and Postlethwaite, along with Julie Walters, performed together in the theatre during the 1970s. After spells with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Bristol Old Vic Drama School, Postlethwaite graduated to the small screen in the 1980s.

Having appeared in Minder, Coronation Street and Tales of Sherwood Forest, Postlethwaite's big break came in In The Name of the Father, in which he played Giuseppe Conlon, the father of a man wrongly accused of the IRA Guildford pub bombing. After that he appeared in hits such as The Usual Suspects, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Constant Gardner and, most recently, Inception, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard.

One of his most popular roles was Danny the bandleader in the 1996 film Brassed Off, which followed the fortunes of a colliery brass band after the closure of the local pit. John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, has credited Brassed Off for inspiring Labour's regeneration programme for mining communities.

An environmental campaigner, Postlethwaite was made an OBE in 2004 but threatened to return the honour in 2009 in protest at the government's decision to build a coal-fired power station in Kent. He was also a vocal critic of the war in Iraq.

Broadcaster Stephen Fry wrote on Twitter: "The loss of the great Pete Postlethwaite is a very sad way to begin a year." Simon Pegg called him "one of our finest actors".

Spielberg, who worked with Postlethwaite on both The Lost World and Amistad, was just one of millions of fans of the craggy-faced and unassuming actor who never let fame go to his head. Asked what he thought of Spielberg's description of his talents, Postlethwaite replied: "I'm sure what Spielberg actually said was, 'The thing about Pete is that he thinks he's the best actor in the world'." · 

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