Sunday, January 16, 2011

Who's that guy?

Guest Post by Cathy of Alex

A few days ago one of the most unique of British actors passed away: Pete Postlethwaite, died at the age of 64. Who? You ask.

Be honest. Would you have recognized the name without the photo (at right)? Oh, THAT guy. And, still, some of you may not recognize him or know his name. It helps to be a fan of British TV or arty, smaller budget films or TV series of the last 20 years.

I first noticed him as the nemesis of Richard Sharpe, Obadiah Hakeswill, in the first Sharpe’s miniseries in the early 90s. Unless you are a fan of local public television in the Twin Cities you may not have ever seen the series which is a crying shame in my humble opinion. Postlethwaite is a study in evil. He’s very Shakespearean in his manners; twitching and clever.

He’s an odd looking man. Very angular and raw. Not quite handsome, not quite ugly, but decidedly noticable. He’s what is usually called “a character actor” which is a term I usually equate with “scene stealer” Put him a scene and the lead actor better be on their game or the entire episode or film will be stolen.

Speaking of Shakespeare, maybe you remember Postlethwaite as the Priest in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet ? Most of us remember Leo, the beach, the fish tank and a lot of buffed young men with guns from that film. But, Postlethwaite was there and, unsurprising, able to make an odd role over in his own image.

Or, maybe you remember him in the second Jurassic Park film?

More than likely you remember him from The Usual Suspects -probably his biggest stateside role.

Besides his role in Sharpe I see him, forever, as the seemingly out of touch conductor of a brass band in a dying mining town in Brassed Off His surprising and impassioned speech at the end could only have been pulled off by Postlethwaite as during the rest of the film he seems completely out of touch with any reality other than music, yet, surprisingly he was paying attention and was well aware the whole time. Suddenly, we realize that music was an escape for him as much as it was for the miners in the band.

If you saw Inception recall that Postlethwaite spent his role on his back in a hospital bed and is shown in only two brief scenes with scarcely any dialogue. A lesser actor would have faded into the sheets-not Postlethwaite.

This post is a shout out to, not only Postlethwaite, but all the actors who give us enjoyment but whose names are not always, or ever, above the marquee. Consider the following names: J.T. Walsh, Terry O’Quinn (who prior to his breakout in “Lost” was largely unknown), Jessica Walter, Lance LeGault, Lance Henriksen, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, Judith Chapman,Christine Belford, Jeff Mackay, Strother Martin, Denholm Elliot. Some of these actors have passed away, and some continue to find work, but no matter they will continue to entertain via Hulu, DVD, Netflix, TCM, AMC or daily reruns on cable or satellite TV.
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