Pete Postlethwaite

Pete Postlethwaite

Postlethwaite at the Make Poverty History March in 2005
Born Peter William Postlethwaite
(1946-02-07)7 February 1946
Warrington, Lancashire, England
Died 2 January 2011(2011-01-02) (aged 64)
Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England
Nationality British
Occupation Actor
Years active 1975–2011 (his death)
Spouse(s) Jacqueline Morrish
(2003–2011; his death)

Peter William "Pete" Postlethwaite OBE (/ˈpɒsəlθwt/; 7 February 1946 – 2 January 2011)[1][2] was an English actor, best known for acting in In The Name of the Father (1993), The Usual Suspects (1995), Romeo + Juliet (1996), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), The Constant Gardener (2005), Inception (2010) and The Town (2010).

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 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.

In television, Postlethwaite played Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill on 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 The Lost World: Jurassic Park.[3] 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 from pancreatic cancer,[4] he was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in Ben Affleck's The Town.

Early life

Postlethwaite was born in Warrington, Lancashire, the fourth and youngest child of William (1913–1988) and Mary Postlethwaite (née Lawless; 1913–2011), working-class Roman Catholics.[5][6]

He had two sisters, Anne and Patricia, and a brother, Michael. He attended St Benedicts 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. He spent an extra year re-sitting some O-levels and then took four A-levels in English, history, geography and French.[7] He trained as a teacher at St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill where his chosen subjects were physical education and drama and then taught drama at Loreto College, Manchester, before training as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Despite portraying Irish characters on multiple occasions, it had been claimed that Postlethwaite was not of Irish descent.[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 "would never be put up in lights outside theatres because they couldn't afford the electricity". Postlethwaite rejected the advice.[9]

He initially trained to be a Catholic priest[10] 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.[11] He was a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company and other acting companies. On 13 January 1981, he took the leading role in a BBC TV black comedy by Alan Bleasdale, The Muscle Market, which was a spin-off from Boys from the Blackstuff; it was part of the Play for Today series.

After other early appearances in small parts for television programmes such as The Professionals, Postlethwaite's first film success came with the film Distant Voices, Still Lives in 1988. He received an Academy Award nomination for his role in In the Name of the Father in 1993. He is well known for his role as mysterious lawyer Mr. Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects. He made appearances in several successful films, including Alien 3, Amistad, Brassed Off, The Shipping News, The Constant Gardener, Inception, and as Friar Lawrence in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet.

In 2003, he was both the physical and vocal actor for the villain Deeth in Zixx: Level One, a Canadian TV series created by IDT Entertainment. Later that same year, 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.[12] 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.[13]

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]

One of his more notable roles was Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill in ITV's Sharpe series. The actor said this was one of his favourite roles and that he and fellow actor Sean Bean played well off each other because of their mutual love and respect. Bernard Cornwell, the author and creator of the Sharpe series, specifically wrote Hakeswill's character in later novels to reflect Postletwaite's performance as the character in the TV series. Postlethwaite co-starred with Bean in When Saturday Comes.

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, he said was impressed by the film wrote in The Sun newspaper that, "The stakes [of climate of 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][19]

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 Fisher, an industrialist who is slowly dying (similarly to how Postlethwaite was). 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.[20][21][22] 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.[23] 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.[24]


Postlethwaite was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2004 New Year Honours list and received an honorary degree from Liverpool University in 2006. He received an Academy Award nomination for his role In the Name of the Father and was posthumously nominated for a BAFTA Award for his performance in The Town.

Personal life

Postlethwaite lived in West Itchenor, West Sussex before moving near Bishop's Castle, Shropshire. He lived with his wife, Jacqueline (Jacqui) Morrish Postlethwaite, a former BBC producer, with whom he began a relationship in 1987 and married in 2003 at St Nicholas' Church, Itchenor. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1990, and had one testicle removed.[25][26] Postlethwaite was a smoker from the age of ten.[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] The proposal to build a new power station at Kingsnorth was shelved by the coalition government in October 2010.

Illness and death

In March 2009, Postlethwaite was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,[32] from which he died at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital on 2 January 2011.[33][34][35][36] He is survived by his two children, William John (born 1989), a drama student at LAMDA, and Lily Kathleen (born 1996), his wife and his mother.[13] 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.[7][37]



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. Nuttol
1985 Cyrano de Bergerac Ragueneau Television film
1987 Coast to Coast Kecks McGuinness Television film
1988 Tumbledown Major at Rehabilitation Centre Television film
1988 The Dressmaker Jack Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1988 Number 27 Becket
1988 To Kill a Priest Josef Credited as Peter Postlethwaite
1988 Distant Voices, Still Lives Father
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 Father 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 Bandyta Sincai
1997 Amistad William S. Holabird
1998 Among Giants Ray
1999 The Divine Ryans Uncle Reg Ryan
1999 Wayward Son Ben Alexander
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 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 Red Mercury Gold Commander
2005 Dark Water Veeck
2005 The Constant Gardener Dr. Lorbeer/ Dr. Brandt
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[38] 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


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 Postman delivering telegram to Nora Batty 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"
19821993 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
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"
19901993 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
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

Selected theatre performances


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  2. "Pete Postlethwaite Biography".
  3. Bradshaw, Peter (4 January 2011). "Pete Postlethwaite: A face we won't forget".
  4. "Pete Postlethwaite leaves just £185,000 in his will despite box office hits".
  5. "Pete Postlethwaite". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. 3 January 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  6. Tim O'Sullivan (Jan 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. 1 2 Postlethwaite, Pete; Richardson, Andy (June 1, 2011). A Spectacle of Dust: The Autobiography (Hardcover ed.). Orion Publishing. ISBN 0297864939.
  8. "Review: Autobiography Pete Postlethwaite: A Spectacle of Dust". Irish Independent. 1 December 2012.
  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. "Australia's soul singer". The Guardian. 20 June 2008.
  11. Wheatley, Jane (27 October 2008). "The Coronation of Pete Postlethwaite". The Times. London.
  12. "ENOUGH ROPE with Andrew Denton – episode 12: Pete Postlethwaite". Australia: ABC. 2 June 2003. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  13. 1 2 Wheatley, Jane (27 October 2008). "The Coronation of Pete Postlethwaite". The Times. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  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". Telegraph Co UK. London, UK. 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. Jackson, Ben (18 February 2009). "The Age of Stupid already happening in real life". The Sun. London, UK. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
  20. Knegt, Peter (24 January 2011). "For Your Consideration: Final 2011 Oscar Predictions".
  21. "Oscar predictions: Final pre-nomination rankings".
  22. "CRAVE Online Predicts the 2011 Oscar Nominations! - CraveOnline". 24 January 2011.
  23. "Killing Bono premier - meg".
  24. "Jim Broadbent takes Pete Postlethwaite part in drama",; accessed 24 January 2014.
  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". London: Telegraph. 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...'". Guardian. UK. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  32. "The measure of a man is what's left when the fame falls away: Pete Postlethwaite's moving memoir". Daily Mail. London.
  33. Lesnik, Tim (17 February 2011). "Daniel Day Lewis Pays Tribute to Pete Postlethwaite". 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. "Pete Postlethwaite's book serialised in the Shropshire Star". Shropshire Star. June 20, 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
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