Pete Postlethwaite, brilliant character actor of 'Usual Suspects,' 'Name of the Father'

Pete Postlethwaite
Pete Postlethwaite (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 3, 2011; 9:07 PM

Pete Postlethwaite, a classically trained British actor who had a prolific career on-screen, including an Oscar-nominated supporting role in the 1993 film "In the Name of the Father," died Jan. 2 at a hospital in Shropshire, England.

Mr. Postlethwaite, who was reported to be 64, died of cancer.

A critically acclaimed character actor, he was noted for his range but often was tapped to play misdirected, working-class men who were prone to violence.

He had the distinctive look of a menacing felon. With a face scarred and swollen from boyhood rugby matches, Mr. Postlethwaite had reportedly broken his nose three times in pub brawls.

Writing in London's Guardian newspaper, one film critic described Mr. Postlethwaite's protuberant cheekbones as "bursting out of his head like swollen knuckles."

In the 1995 mystery "The Usual Suspects," Mr. Postlethwaite played Kobayashi, the lawyer and enforcer for enigmatic criminal mastermind Keyser Soze, and in 1997 he portrayed the rifle-toting philosopher-hunter Roland Tembo in Steven Spielberg's "The Lost World: Jurassic Park."

He was widely praised for his role as Giuseppe Conlon in "In the Name of the Father," a drama based on the true story of the Guildford Four, who were wrongly imprisoned for the Irish Republican Army bombings of English pubs.

Mr. Postlethwaite played a kindhearted man who was unjustly implicated in the bombings. His character was the father of Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four, played by Daniel Day-Lewis.

To prepare for the part, Mr. Postlethwaite read letters that Giuseppe Conlon had sent to his wife from prison. Giuseppe Conlon died while he was incarcerated.

Writing in The Washington Post, critic Desson Howe lauded Mr. Postlethwaite's performance: "As Day-Lewis's savior, and as a man too old, proud and uncompromising to accept the cell-bound horrors of undeserved shame, he gives credence to something larger than wrongful imprisonment: In his anguished face, you can see the whole 'troubles' of Ireland."

Mr. Postlethwaite's convincing portrayal of innocence earned him an Academy Award nomination and more freedom to choose his roles.

Last year, Mr. Postlethwaite's screen appearances included roles as an ailing energy tycoon in "Inception"; as a fisherman who adopts Perseus, a Greek warrior, in "Clash of the Titans"; and as a crime boss disguised as a local florist in "The Town."

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