4 Jan 2011

Death of UK actor

6:54 am on 4 January 2011

British actor Pete Postlethwaite has died in hospital aged 64. He is survived by his wife and two children.

The actor, who received an OBE in 2004, died peacefully in hospital in Shropshire after a lengthy illness.

In 1994, he was nominated for an Oscar for In The Name of the Father, about the wrongful convictions of the Guildford Four for an IRA bombing.

Ex-girlfriend Julie Walters praised him as "the most exciting, exhilarating actor of his generation".

"He invented edgy," she said.

His 40-year career spanned the screen and stage. However, he originally planned to be a priest.

The youngest of four children, he then did a short stint as teacher before following his passion for the stage at the age of 24, training at the Bristol Old Vic.

Early roles included a spell at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. Later he returned to Bristol, where he became artistic director of The Little Theatre Company.

Postlethwaite's screen work began with bit parts in Coronation Street, Minder and Casualty.

In the 1980s, he went on to join the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He had small roles in Last of the Mohicans, Alien 3, Hamlet and played the priest, Father Laurence, in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet.

Other hits included Brassed Off and Amistad.

Director Steven Spielberg described him as the "the best actor in the world".

He commented in response: "it sounds like an advert for lager."

In 2008, Postlethwaite returned to the Everyman to play the lead in King Lear, a role he had always wanted.

The BBC reports the performance was one of the highlights of Liverpool's year as the European Capital of Culture.

More recently, he appeared in Clash of the Titans and Inception.

Postlethwaite was also known for his political activism.