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Top Five: Pete Postlethwaite (1946 – 2011)

by on 2011/01/03

In acknowledgment of the recent death of English character actor, Pete Postlethwaite, here are five of my favourite films featuring him, in chronological order.

Enjoy your night out on the town, Mr. Postlethwaite.



Alien 3 (1992)

Pete Postlethwaite’s character shared the first name of his director, David Fincher, in 1992’s criminally interfered-with science fiction tone poem, Alien 3.  Though critics and audiences abhorred the film upon release, its lack of success was in no way a function of the acting talent on display.

Postlethwaite, along with Charles Dance and Charles Dutton, portrayed one of the few good men in an extra-terrestrial penal colony.  Though Fincher continues to refuse any official acknowledgement of this piece, it has since enjoyed a critical reevaluation and is freely available on video in both a theatrical and assembly cut, which approximates the director’s original vision.

The Usual Suspects (1995)

As Mr. Kobayashi, Postlethwaite was the right hand man of the elusive Keyser Soze.  Lawyer, runner, ruthless criminal, he put a chilling public face on an otherwise easily dismissed myth.

Directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men), I like to believe his character was named for The Wrath of Khan’s impossible training simulation, the Kobayashi Maru.  An unwinnable scenario seems the perfect inspiration for this conundrum of a film.

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

It’s been said that Postlethwaite was one of the few participants in this adaptation familiar with the source material, and comfortable in delivering it. True or not, he’s certainly one of the stronger parts in this already-strong pseudo-musical.

His Father Lawrence makes possible the union of Romeo and Juliet, serves as a point of safe communication and, tragically, missed messaging.  Without his role, the audience would be denied some of the play’s greatest highs and lows.

The Lost World / Jurassic Park (1997)

The most memorable part of The Lost World is, without a doubt, Roland Trembo.  So much so that I (incorrectly) imagined he was part of Jurassic Park’s original cast.

Bringing conviction, leadership, and a dramatic spirit of adventure, his big game hunter is exactly what we need in a dinosaur serial.  Part Hatari, part Valley of Gwangi, his character stands out in an admirable cast including Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, and Vince Vaughn.

Inception (2010)

Reuniting him with Romeo + Juliet’s Leonardo DiCaprio, Postlethwaite’s appearance in Inception was brief but critical.  Already ailing personally, he played a similarly ailing role in what was arguably last summer’s biggest success.

As the overseer of a family fortune, his Maurice Fischer was the shadow-casting father to Cillian Murphy’s Robert Michael.  Even in absentia, his presence was felt in the neuroses of his son’s apparent inadequacy.  Without Maurice, Dom Cobb would lose his emotional toehold into the labyrinthine stairwells of Robert’s mind.

Honourable Mention:

Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” (album version) (1997)

Pete Postlethwaite’s introductory speech sampled from Brassed Off (1996)

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