He wasn't a household name but he earned the respect and admiration of actors, directors and film critics alike. On Sunday, actor Pete Postlethwaite died of cancer at the age of 64. Known for his roles in Amistad, The Usual Suspects, the Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World and other films, critics are eulogizing his unique talents. Postlethwaite earned an Oscar nod for his supporting role in the 1993 biographical film In the Name of the Father. He also kept busy until the end, with memorable performances in Clash of the Titans, Inception and The Town. Here's what critics are saying about him:
- An Underrated Actor "By dint of physiognomy -- that gaunt frame; the adam's apple like a raw fist; big, sad eyes that had seen things you were glad you hadn't -- Pete Postlethwaite was a valued character actor," writes Ty Burr at Boston.com. "And like all the greats of his tribe, from Peter Lorre to Steve Buscemi, you could argue that he was ill-served by the film industry. He was too funny-looking for lead roles yet possessed of a squirrely, unpredictable energy that the movies know they need if the leads are to be taken at all seriously. He was the reality principle and, in his most striking appearances, he was threat personnified."
- A Classically-Trained Dynamo "Postlethwaite was a former drama teacher and member of the Royal Shakespearean Company (among other esteemed British acting companies) who first broke out playing an abusive working-class patriarch in 1988’s Distant Voices, Still Lives," writes Sean O'Neal at the AV Club. "Postlethwaite’s intense, roughhewn features and jutting cheekbones often lent themselves to playing such menacing or crooked characters over the years, but it was his quiet, sympathetic performance as a wrongly imprisoned man in Jim Sheridan’s In The Name Of The Father that earned him his earliest acclaim, as well as an Oscar nomination for his role opposite Daniel Day-Lewis."
- A Versatile Performer "Although his tough, etched features and raspy line-readings (he was a life-long cigarette smoker) gave casting directors an easy reason to pin him as tricksters and criminals, Mr. Postlethwaite had a gentler side and a glint of humor in his eyes that gave depth and nuance to even the most menacing of turns," writes Steven Rea at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- "Probably the Best Actor in the World Today," said director Steven Spielberg after his performance in the Jurassic Park sequel, The Lost World. "Hyperbole? Maybe," reflects Michael Phillips at The Chicago Tribune. "But you can see why Spielberg was crazy for him. Here was a hard-working, distinctive, forceful presence, as far from Hollywood generica as an actor can be."