Actor Pete Postlethwaite dies age 64

Oscar-nominated actor Pete Postlethwaite has died after a long fight with cancer.

Journalist and friend Andrew Richardson said Mr Postlethwaite passed away peacefully in hospital in Shropshire yesterday. He was 64.

Julie Walters led tributes to a man equally at home on a British stage or the set of a Hollywood blockbuster.

Ms Walters, who worked with him at Liverpool's Everyman Theatre in the 1970s, told the Press Association: "He was quite simply the most exciting, exhilarating actor of his generation.

"He invented 'edgy'. He was an exhilarating person and actor.

"Spielberg was right when he said he was the best actor in the world."

Mr Postlethwaite, who was made an OBE in 2004, was once described by director Steven Spielberg as "probably the best actor in the world today".

In response, Mr Postlethwaite, who worked with him on The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Amistad, joked: "I'm sure what Spielberg actually said was, 'the thing about Pete is that he thinks he's the best actor in the world'."

Mr Postlethwaite's films included Brassed Off, The Usual Suspects, The Shipping News, Inception and Romeo & Juliet.

He received his Oscar nomination for his performance as Guiseppe Conlon in the 1993 film In The Name Of The Father, about the wrongful convictions of the Guildford Four for an IRA bomb attack.

Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four, praised the actor's portrayal of his dying father.

"There were times when he turned and these quirky mannerisms that he performed, it was like looking at my dad," Mr Conlon told RTE Radio.

"I think In the Name of the Father and the part he played in it opened so many doors for him in his versatility."

Jim Sheridan, who directed the film, said: "He was a great warrior. He looked indestructible, that was the thing about him."

It is understood Mr Postlethwaite was first diagnosed with cancer around the time of filming In the Name of the Father.

Mr Sheridan said the IRA's 1993 bomb attack on the actor's home town of Warrington had a big impact on him.

He had originally planned to be a priest then became a teacher before following his passion for the stage.

At the Everyman, he rubbed shoulders with such future stars as Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce and Antony Sher.

Mr Nighy described him "a rare and remarkable man".

He told the BBC: "I was honoured by his friendship. He is irreplaceable."

Mr Postlethwaite was also a political activist who marched against the war in Iraq, supported the Make Poverty History campaign and starred in the 2009 film about global warming, The Age of Stupid.

Writing on Twitter, former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott said: "So sad to hear of Pete Postlethwaite's death. Brassed Off & Age of Stupid had a real effect on me and our Government."

He is survived by his wife, Jacqui, his son Will, 21, and daughter, Lily, 14.

Miriam Margolyes, who starred alongside Postlethwaite in director Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, told BBC Radio 4's PM: "He was a dazzling actor, and he was dangerous and edgy, so that you raised your game to be with him.

"I thought he was wonderful as Friar Laurence and so did Leonardo DiCaprio and Baz Luhrmann. Everyone deferred to him on set because we know that he was the business - he was the man who knew the text and he wasn't fazed by the text, he loved it.

"I think he loved life wildly, but his focus on his work was minute and particular and very special and that's what made him so great. He had all that wildness in him but when it came down to it and he had to be serious, he really was."

Ms Margolyes recalled: "He drank too much and he ate too much and he laughed a lot and he loved people and he loved the craic. He had a great heart and he loved the theatre and he was contemptuous of rubbish and people who didn't tell the truth.

"He was political, fervent, angry and loving and I send my deepest condolences to Jacqui, his wife who he adored. He loved his family - he was so proud of them. He was an all-round brilliant, special person."

Kevin Spacey, who starred with Postlethwaite in The Usual Suspects, said there was "no-one like Pete".

He said: "He was a great man of the theatre as well and carved a unique life for himself in film. He probably wasn't appreciated as much as he should have been, but I suspect that the country will come to regard him as a national treasure.

"For the rest of the world he was a guy we could all understand, empathise with and be frightened by. We will all treasure his performances and remember him with fondness and enormous admiration."

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