British actor Pete Postlethwaite, who earned an Oscar nomination for his role in "In the Name of the Father," has died aged 64 following a lengthy illness, a friend announced Monday.
Journalist and friend Andrew Richardson said he died peacefully in hospital in Shropshire, west central England, on Sunday. Postlethwaite had been receiving treatment for cancer.
One of Britain’s top character actors, he starred in films such as "The Usual Suspects," "The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” and was a highly-acclaimed theater and television performer.
Peter William Postlethwaite was born to a working-class Catholic family in the northwest English town of Warrington in February 1946, the youngest of four children.
He trained as a teacher but gave it up by the age of 24 to train as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic theater, taking a job as a sheet metal worker making beer kegs to get by.
Honing his skills on stage with Liverpool’s Everyman Theater, he then joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in the mid-1980s, meeting Queen Elizabeth II after a performance of "Taming of the Shrew."
"My mother always thought that acting was a phase," he said.
"But when she saw me with the Queen, she finally accepted that I was serious about it."
His first film appearance was a minor part in the "The Duellists" (1977), directed by Ridley Scott.
However, his leading role as a terrifying father in the 1988 British movie "Distant Voices, Still Lives" — considered by some an overlooked masterpiece — brought him wider recognition.
He broke into Hollywood, appearing alongside Mel Gibson in "Hamlet" (1990), "Alien 3" (1992) and "The Last of the Mohicans" in the same year.
His performance as quiet, devoted parent Giuseppe Conlon in "In the Name of the Father" (1994) was one of his finest and earned him an Oscar nomination.
The movie was about the wrongful convictions of the so-called Guildford Four for an Irish Republican Army bomb attack.
He went on to appear as the mysterious Kobayashi in "The Usual Suspects" (1995), in the British hit film "Brassed Off" (1996) and director Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" (1996).
Postlethwaite appeared in two 1997 films directed by Steven Spielberg, "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" and "Amistad."
Spielberg described him as "the best actor in the world."
In response, Postlethwaite 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’."
In 2004, Postlethwaite was recognized by his country, being made an OBE — an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his services to drama.
He continued working despite his condition, appearing last year in "Ironclad," "Clash of the Titans," "Inception" and "The Town."
He is survived by his wife, Jacqui, his son Will and daughter, Lily.