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A class act

04/01/2011

As most of your are probably aware yesterday brought the sad news that one of Britain’s greatest actors, Pete Postlethwaite, passed away at the alarmingly young age of 64. I don’t feel worthy to provide an obituary for him and I’m sure many other people have already done so far more eloquently than I could muster. His acting credits are numerous and varied. I liked him best as Keyser Soze’s mysterious fixer Kobayashi in Bryan Singer’s tremendous The Usual Suspects. He is also eminently watchable in the greatly (wrongly) disparaged Alien 3. He was eminently watchable in everything he was in. An actor of presence and gravitas who, especially given the reaction to his untimely death, seems to have been an immensely likeable human being and generally good guy. Quite often, despite his tendency to be cast in supporting character roles, he would steal the show from the leads with his commanding screen presence. He will be missed.

I’ve been thinking about this today and it has reminded me of the loss last May of another of cinema’s treasures, Dennis Hopper. A full ten years older than Postlethwaite, 74 still seems far too soon. I am a huge fan of Hopper’s work. Easy Rider and Blue Velvet stand among some of my favourite films of all time. Even his minor roles were awesome performances, the one that springs to mind as a standout being his interrogation at the hands of Christopher Walken in Tony Scott’s True Romance. Like Postlethwaite, Hopper had an undeniable presence about him that commanded attention when he was on screen. I remember he died on a Saturday so the next day at work I played the Easy Rider soundtrack in its entirety when we opened. The local paper printed a sidebar editorial a couple of days later berating us for our “slick marketing” and “being ready to cash in the day after his death” because we were playing Born To Be Wild. If they had bothered to check they would have realised that we didn’t even have a copy of the Easy Rider soundtrack in stock. I didn’t care about selling the record, I just wanted to pay tribute to one of my heroes of cinema. I never bothered to challenge the article, let them believe what they want. Cynical bastards.

I think to suggest I was unduly upset by either man’s death would be to overstate the case a little. In the end I have never met either of them, I didn’t know them personally. I am saddened by their passing though. It’s always sad when the world is deprived of any of its riches, whether its a famous actor or someone off the street. At least both these men have left us lasting legacies, like any artist, that will stand as monuments to them as long as there are enough of us alive who care enough to pay attention.

So, here’s to Pete and to Dennis, may they rest in peace and may their performances live on through the generations as is befitting of such giants of cinema. If I wasn’t off the drink I’d raise a glass to you gentlemen, as it stands it’ll have to be a cup of tea. Altogether a rather inauspicious beginning to the year methinks.

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