Pete Postlethwaite

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Pete Postlethwaite

Pete Postlethwaite.JPG
Postlethwaite at the Make Poverty History March in 2005
Peter William Postlethwaite

(1946-02-07)7 February 1946
Died2 January 2011(2011-01-02) (aged 64)
Years active1975–2011
Jacqueline Morrish
(m. 2003)
Children2, including Billy

Peter William Postlethwaite, OBE (7 February 1946 – 2 January 2011)[1][2] was an English character actor.[3]

After minor television appearances, including in The Professionals, his first major success arose through the British autobiographical film Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988). He had a transatlantic breakthrough when he portrayed David in Alien 3 (1992), and his international reputation was further solidified when he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for In the Name of the Father. Following this role, he portrayed the mysterious lawyer Mr. Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects, and went on to appear in a wide variety of films.

On television, Postlethwaite played Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill in Sharpe. He trained as a teacher and taught drama before training as an actor. Director Steven Spielberg called him "the best actor in the world" after working with him on Amistad (1997).[4] He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2004 New Year Honours list. Less than one month after his death, he was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in Ben Affleck's The Town (2010).

Early life[edit]

Postlethwaite was born in Warrington, at that time part of Lancashire, the fourth and youngest child of William Postlethwaite (1913–1988), a cooper, wood machinist, and school caretaker, and Mary Geraldine (née Lawless; 1913–2000), working-class Roman Catholics.[5][6] He had two sisters, Mrs. Patricia Rowland and Mrs. Anne Williams, and a brother, Michael (1944–2006). Despite portraying Irish characters on multiple occasions, Postlethwaite was not of Irish descent.[7]

Postlethwaite attended St Benedict's RC Junior School and a seminary. He then joined the 4th form at West Park Grammar School, St Helens where he enjoyed sport including rugby league . He spent an extra year re-sitting some O-levels and then took four A-levels in English, history, geography, and French.[8]


Early in his career, Postlethwaite was advised to adopt a new surname for his acting work by his first agent and by peers who quipped that his name "would never be put up in lights outside theatres because they couldn't afford the electricity". Postlethwaite rejected the advice.[9]

He was also the first male drama teacher at Loreto College in Hulme, Manchester.

He trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and joined in 1970.[10]

He initially trained to be a Catholic priest[11] but opted for a career in theatre and started his career at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, where his colleagues included Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Antony Sher, Matthew Kelly, and Julie Walters. Postlethwaite and Walters had an intimate relationship during the latter half of the 1970s.[12]

In 2003, he toured Australia and New Zealand in a 90-minute one-man play, Scaramouche Jones, in which he played a clown trying to find out why he is who he is before he dies at midnight, receiving a nomination for the TMA Award for Best Actor and winning the Theatregoers' Choice Award for Best Solo Performance.[13] This was directed by Rupert Goold, who would also direct his Lear in 2008, in which Postlethwaite played every character. As well as Australia, the play toured Canada, New Zealand and the UK to great acclaim.[12]

In The Art of Discworld (2004), Terry Pratchett wrote that he had always imagined Sam Vimes as 'a younger, slightly bulkier version of Pete Postlethwaite'.[14]

Steven Spielberg called Postlethwaite "the best actor in the world" after working with him on The Lost World: Jurassic Park,[15] to which Postlethwaite quipped: "I'm sure what Spielberg actually said was, 'The thing about Pete is that he thinks he's the best actor in the world.'"[16]

Postlethwaite next starred in a Liverpool stage production of King Lear in 2008 at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, and at the Young Vic, London. He appeared in the climate change-themed film The Age of Stupid, which premiered in March 2009. Having recently installed a wind turbine in his garden, so impressed was he by the film, he wrote in The Sun newspaper that, "The stakes [of climate change] are very, very high. They're through the roof. How could we willingly know that we're going into extinction ... and let it happen."[17][18]

Terminally ill, Postlethwaite made a conspicuous return to Hollywood in three 2010 films, first as Spyros in Clash of the Titans. He next appeared in the blockbuster hit Inception as Maurice Fischer, an industrialist who is slowly dying. Lastly, his performance in The Town as florist/crime boss Fergus "Fergie" Colm was well received by critics, making several publications' lists of Oscar predictions for Best Supporting Actor.[19][20][21] Postlethwaite's last appearance on screen was in Nick Hamm's film Killing Bono, based on the memoir of Neil McCormick. The role was written specially for Postlethwaite to accommodate his illness.[22] The film was released on 1 April 2011. His final role was due to be in the BBC series Exile, written by Danny Brocklehurst and Paul Abbott, but he had to pull out because of ill health. Jim Broadbent replaced him in the role.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Postlethwaite lived in West Itchenor, West Sussex before moving near Bishop's Castle, Shropshire. He began a relationship with Jacqueline "Jacqui" Morrish, a former BBC producer, in 1987; the couple married in 2003 at St Nicholas' Church, Itchenor. They had two children, William John "Billy" (born 1989) and Lily Kathleen (born 1996). Billy is an actor who trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and has most notably appeared in the TV series Holby City, Game of Thrones, and Chernobyl.[12]

Postlethwaite was a lifelong supporter of Liverpool FC.[24]

Postlethwaite was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1990, and had his right testicle removed.[25][26] He was a smoker from the age of ten until his death.[27] In a March 2009 interview with Scotland on Sunday, the actor referred to his smoking habit, stating: "We've got to hope the next generation will do things differently. I'm sure that in 20 years' time the kids will say: 'Can you believe that people actually used to smoke – put these funny little things in their mouths, lit them and sucked all that crap into their lungs?"[28]

Postlethwaite appeared as a taxi driver in one of the Labour Party's political broadcasts during the 1997 general election.[29] He marched in London against the Iraq War in 2003.[30] He was an activist calling for action to prevent climate change. At the UK premiere of The Age of Stupid on 16 November 2009, he told then-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband that he would return his OBE and vote for any party other than Labour if the Kingsnorth coal-fired power station was given the go-ahead by the government.[31]

Illness and death[edit]

Postlethwaite died of pancreatic cancer[32] at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital on 2 January 2011, and was survived by his wife and children.[33][34][35][36] The cancer had been diagnosed in March 2009.[37] Postlethwaite continued acting almost to the end of 2010, showing clear signs of weight loss during his last performances. In his last two years, he worked on his memoir A Spectacle of Dust with Andy Richardson. It was published on 1 June 2011.[8][38]



Year Title Role Notes
1975 The Racer Ecco Short film
1977 The Duellists Man Shaving General Treillard Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1978 Doris and Doreen Mr. Lomax Television film
1983 Fords on Water Winston's Boss Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1984 A Private Function Douglas J. Nuttal
1985 King David Isai
1985 Cyrano de Bergerac Ragueneau Television film
1987 Coast to Coast Kecks McGuinness Television film
1988 Distant Voices, Still Lives Father
1988 Tumbledown Major at Rehabilitation Centre Television film
1988 To Kill a Priest Josef Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1988 The Dressmaker Jack Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1988 Number 27 Becket
1990 Hamlet Player King
1990 Treasure Island George Merry Television film
Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1991 The Grass Arena The Dipper Television film
1991 A Child from the South Harry Television film
1991 They Never Slept Panter Television film
1992 Split Second Paulsen
1992 Alien 3 David
1992 Waterland Henry Crick Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1992 The Last of the Mohicans Captain Beams
1993 Anchoress William Carpenter
1993 In the Name of the Father Giuseppe Conlon Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1994 Suite 16 Glover
1994 Sin Bin Mitch Television film
1994 Sharpe's Company Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill Television film
1994 Sharpe's Enemy Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill Television film
1995 The Usual Suspects Mr. Kobayashi National Board of Review Award for Best Cast
1996 When Saturday Comes Ken Jackson
1996 James and the Giant Peach Magic Man
1996 Dragonheart Brother Gilbert of Glockenspur
1996 Crimetime Sidney
1996 Romeo + Juliet Friar Lawrence
1996 Brassed Off Danny
1997 The Serpent's Kiss Thomas Smithers
1997 The Lost World: Jurassic Park Roland Tembo Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
1997 Bastard Sincai
1997 Amistad William S. Holabird
1998 Among Giants Ray
1999 Lost for Words Deric Longden Television film
Nominated – British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
1999 Alice in Wonderland The Carpenter Television film
1999 Butterfly Collectors John McKeown Television film
1999 Wayward Son Ben Alexander
1999 The Divine Ryans Uncle Reg Ryan
1999 Animal Farm Farmer Jones
Television film
2000 When the Sky Falls Martin Shaughnessy
2000 Rat Hubert Flynn
2001 Cowboy Up Reid Braxton
2001 The Shipping News Tert Card
2002 Triggermen Ben Cutler
2002 Between Strangers John
2003 The Selfish Giant Arthur Short film
2004 The Limit Gale
2004 Strange Bedfellows Russell McKenzie
2005 Dark Water Veeck
2005 The Constant Gardener Dr. Lorbeer / Dr. Brandt
2005 Red Mercury Gold Commander
2005 Æon Flux Keeper
2006 Valley of the Heart's Delight Albion Munson
2006 The Omen Father Brennan
2007 Ghost Son Doc
2007 Closing the Ring Quinlan
2007 Liyarn Ngarn Narrator[39] Documentary
2008 Player Colin Short film
2009 The Age of Stupid The Archivist Documentary
2009 Solomon Kane William Crowthorn
2009 Waving at Trains Douglas Short film
2010 Clash of the Titans Spyros
2010 Inception Maurice Fischer Nominated – Central Ohio Film Critics' Association Award for Best Ensemble
Nominated – Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Nominated – Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble
2010 The Town Fergus "Fergie" Colm National Board of Review Award for Best Cast
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (posthumous)
Nominated – Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
2011 Killing Bono Karl Posthumous release


Year Title Role Notes
1975 Second City Firsts Episode: "Thwum"
Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1976 Plays for Britain Soldier Episode: "The Paradise Run"
Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1978 Last of the Summer Wine Customer in Sid's Cafe Episode: "A Merry Heatwave"
Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1978 Going Straight Thomas Clifford Crowther Episode: "Going Going Gone"
Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1979 Afternoon Off Gallery Attendant
1979 Horse in the House Uncle Doug 6 episodes
1981 Play for Today Danny Duggan Episode: "The Muscle Market"
Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1981 Coronation Street Detective Sergeant Cross Episode 2061
1981 Crown Court Episode: "The Merry Widow: Part 1"
1982–1993 Minder Jack "Oily" Wragg
Eric "Logie" Lawson
2 episodes
Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1984 Mitch Jack Frost Episode: "Squealer"
Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1985 Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV Barry Episode 1.6
Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1985 Summer Season Episode: "A Crack in the Ice"
Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1987–1994 Screen Two
1989 Tales of Sherwood Forest Eric 7 episodes
1990 Screenplay Paula's Father Episode: "Needle"
1990 Debut on Two Tony
2 episodes
1990 Boon Steve McLaughlin Episode: "Undercover"
1990 Zorro Episode: "The Marked Man"
1990–1993 Casualty Ralph Peters
2 episodes
1992 El C.I.D. Vince Episode 3.1: "Making Amends"
1992 Between the Lines Chief Superintendent Jameson Episode: "Out of the Game"
1992 Shakespeare: The Animated Tales Quince Episode: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1992 The Bill Ray Goller Episode: "Principled Negotiation"
1993 Lovejoy Terence Sullivan Episode: "Goose Bumps"
1994 Pie in the Sky Kevin Tasker Episode 1.8: "A Matter of Taste"
1994 Martin Chuzzlewit Montague Tigg/Tigg Montague 5 episodes
Nominated – British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
2000 The Sins Len Green Miniseries
Nominated – British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
2003 Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion Charles Burchell Miniseries
2008 Criminal Justice Hooch Miniseries


  1. ^ Weber, Bruce (3 January 2011). "Pete Postlethwaite, British Actor, Dies at 64". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Pete Postlethwaite Biography".
  3. ^ Shapiro, T. Rees (4 January 2011). "Pete Postlethwaite, brilliant character actor of 'Usual Suspects,' 'Name of the Father'". The Washington Post.
  4. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (4 January 2011). "Pete Postlethwaite: A face we won't forget". The Guardian.
  5. ^ "Pete Postlethwaite". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. 3 January 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  6. ^ Tim O'Sullivan (January 2015). "Postlethwaite, Peter William [Pete] (1946–2011)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/103537. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ "Review: Autobiography Pete Postlethwaite: A Spectacle of Dust". Irish Independent. 1 December 2012.
  8. ^ a b Postlethwaite, Pete; Richardson, Andy (1 June 2011). A Spectacle of Dust: The Autobiography (Hardcover ed.). Orion Publishing. ISBN 978-0297864936.
  9. ^ McLellan, Dennis (4 January 2011). "Pete Postlethwaite dies at 64; actor was nominated for an Oscar for 'In the Name of the Father'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  10. ^ "Famous alumni from Bristol's Old Vic Theatre School". ITV. 7 January 2016. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Australia's soul singer". The Guardian. 20 June 2008.
  12. ^ a b c Wheatley, Jane (27 October 2008). "The Coronation of Pete Postlethwaite". The Times. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  13. ^ "ENOUGH ROPE with Andrew Denton – episode 12: Pete Postlethwaite". Australia: ABC. 2 June 2003. Archived from the original on 7 January 2011. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  14. ^ Pratchett, Terry and Kidby, Paul. The Art of Discworld, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 2004; ISBN 0-575-07511-2
  15. ^ "Pete's progress". The Observer. London. 1 October 2000. Retrieved 25 April 2007.
  16. ^ Cavendish, Dominic (25 April 2007). "The poet in Pete's soul". The Telegraph. London, UK. Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 25 April 2007.
  17. ^ "Reactions: Spanner Films". Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  18. ^ "Press: Stupid on Channel 4 News". 16 February 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  19. ^ Knegt, Peter (24 January 2011). "For Your Consideration: Final 2011 Oscar Predictions".
  20. ^ "Oscar predictions: Final pre-nomination rankings". Entertainment Weekly.
  21. ^ "CRAVE Online Predicts the 2011 Oscar Nominations! – CraveOnline". 24 January 2011. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015.
  22. ^ "Killing Bono premier – meg".
  23. ^ "Jim Broadbent takes Pete Postlethwaite part in drama",; accessed 24 January 2014.
  24. ^ Lusher, Tim (3 January 2011). "Pete Postlethwaite remembered". The Guardian.
  25. ^ "Sean Martella's Testicular Cancer Update Blog: Cancer Survivors Part 1 – Pete Postlethwaite". 17 January 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  26. ^ "Pete's progress". The Observer. London. 1 October 2000. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  27. ^ "Pete Postlethwaite". The Telegraph. London. 16 February 1945. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  28. ^ Smith, Aidan (8 March 2009). "Pete Postlethwaite interview: For the love of Pete". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 26 December 2010.
  29. ^ Walker, Michael (3 January 2011). "Country Standard: Pete Postlethwaite – 1997 PPB Taxicab Angel". Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  30. ^ Weaver, Matthew (3 January 2011). "Actor Pete Postlethwaite dies". The Guardian. London.
  31. ^ Siegle, Lucy (16 March 2009). "The night Miliband said 'I'm with Stupid, but...'". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  32. ^ "Five years on: Celebrating Pete Postlethwaite's legacy". 7 January 2017. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  33. ^ Lesnik, Tim (17 February 2011). "Daniel Day Lewis Pays Tribute to Pete Postlethwaite". Archived from the original on 4 March 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  34. ^ "Oscar-nominated actor Pete Postlethwaite dies aged 64". BBC. 3 January 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  35. ^ Actor Pete Postlethwaite dies age 64 The Independent (London) 3 January 2011
  36. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (1 January 2011). "Pete Postlethwaite: A face we won't forget". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  37. ^ "Film of the Day: 2 January – the Usual Suspects (1995)".
  38. ^ "Pete Postlethwaite's book serialised in the Shropshire Star". Shropshire Star. 20 June 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  39. ^ "Bryan Dawe Presents Liyarn Ngarn". Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2012.

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