Pete Postlethwaite was born on 7 February 1945 in Warrington, Cheshire, son of Bill and Mary Postlethwaite and died of pancreatic cancer on 2 January 2011.
His father didn’t really have a career – he was a barrel-maker, a batman in the army, and later, a school caretaker. He was just a working man. (According to Postlethwaite, his father died in the middle of a crossword puzzle, having just completed the clue 'Fade' (3,4) - answer, 'Die away' – the story may even be true).
Pete studied drama and physical education at college and taught for a year or two at a convent school before moving into acting, studying at the Bristol Old Vic.
For many years he was part of the Everyman company at Liverpool and he was also contracted to the RSC for 5 years.
While he was a much respected theatre actor, it took many years for him to garner any kind of reputation in films. He was nearly forty when he got his first notable role – the butcher in A Private Function, a comedy with Michael Palin about war, rationing and a pig. He followed this with an outstanding performance as the brutal father in Distant Voices, Still Lives in 1988 and this led to a number of solid roles, including Alien 3 and The Last of the Mohicans . It wasn’t until 1994 he really registered on the consciousness of the American market however, when he gave a powerful supporting performance as Guiseppe Conlon, father of Gerry Conlon – both wrongly imprisoned on charges relating to terrorism – in the film based on Gerry Conlon’s autobiography: In the Name of The Father.
He never really looked back after that. He played villains like the twitching, scripture-quoting Obidiah Hakeswill in the Richard Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell, and off-beat heroes like the conductor in the delightful British comedy Brassed Off . He was charismatic as Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects and dignified as Friar Laurence in Romeo + Juliet .
Postlethwaite smoked like a chimney, and reputedly enjoyed a pint and a game of pool in the local pub near his home in rural Shropshire (Two workman’s cottages knocked together, on a hill, where he lives with his longtime partner Jacqui and their children, Lily and Will). He had a testicle removed as a result of cancer in the early 1990’s, but remained healthy for another 15 years or so, before developing pancreatic cancer.
He had one of the most readily identifiable faces in cinema. His high, angular cheekbones made it seem carved from granite, and it could be anything from downright ugly to fascinatingly attractive – or maybe that was just his talent. Stephen Spielberg described him as “probably the best actor in the world.” Whether or not that was true, he is always worth watching, and his performances are always worth the time you spend with them.