Pugnacious Pete Postlethwaite, 64, died yesterday. He was a bright and thoughtful fellow, and a first-rate character actor. Peppy, those penetrating eyes, a deep snappy voice, working-class manner, wiry frame. Postlethwiate was a smoker and had been dealing with testicular cancer since the ’90s. A too-early departure despite that. Hugs and condolences to his family and friends.
I could never quite lick the pronunciation of his last name, but I think you were supposed to ignore the t’s and the h and say “possulwaite,” or something like that. And I always had trouble remembering if the second syllable was spelled “le” or “el.”
Postlethwaite’s most recent role was as a small-time Boston criminal in Ben Affleck‘s The Town. He always gave good snarl.
For me Postlethwaite peaked in the late ’80s and ’90s. His first big standout performance was in Terence Davies‘ Distant Voices, Still Lives (’88), a scrappy Liverpool family drama. He landed a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as Daniel Day Lewis‘s father in Jim Sheridan‘s In the Name of the Father (’93). Two years later he played “Kobayashi” in Bryan Singer‘s The Usual Suspects.
And yet my most vivid recollection of Postelthwaite comes from Steven Spielberg‘s The Lost World (’97), in which he gave a hammy, straight-paycheck performance that didn’t approach the quality of his work for Davies, Sheridan or Singer. (Why is that, I wonder?) He was also memorable in The Constant Gardener, Baz Luhrman’s Rome+ Juliet, Inception and Clash of the Titans. Okay, forget Clash — nobody really scored in that.
Postlethwaite’s final role, apparently, was in Killing Bono, a working-class comedy about wannabe rock stars. It’s set to open in England in April but no U.S. release date is currently slated.