Veteran actor Albert Finney, who found fame as one of Britain’s “Angry Young Men” of the 1950s and 60s and went on to star in films including “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Erin Brockovich”, has died at the age of 82, a family spokesman said Friday.
Finney, who received four best actor Oscar nominations and won three Golden Globes, “passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side”, the spokesman said.
A Shakespearean actor, he mixed his movie career with television roles and acclaimed stage performances.
He made his name in the gritty kitchen-sink drama “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” in 1960, becoming part of the wave of working-class actors and writers who revolutionised British film and television at the time known as the “Angry Young Men”.
He gave memorable portrayals of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, British prime minister Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens’ miser Ebenezer Scrooge and pope John Paul II.
Finney’s more recent films included “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007), “The Bourne Legacy” (2012), and the James Bond film “Skyfall”, out the same year.
His four best actor Academy Award nominations were for “Tom Jones” (1963), as Poirot in “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974), “The Dresser” (1983) and “Under the Volcano” (1984).
He was also Oscar-nominated for best supporting actor for his performance as a gruff lawyer in “Erin Brockovich” (2000).
Staple of stage and screen
Born in 1936, Finney, a bookmaker’s son, grew up in Manchester, northwest England and graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1955.
He started out in Shakespeare plays before portraying the titular hero in the Oscar-winning adventure-comedy “Tom Jones”, which made him a major film star.
Shortly before his “Tom Jones” breakthrough, he turned down the title role in the epic “Lawrence of Arabia”, which went to Peter O’Toole.
Finney appeared and sang in “Scrooge” (1970) and “Annie” (1982), in which he played tycoon Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks.
He was a regular at London’s Old Vic theatre, which said Friday: “His performances in plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov and other iconic playwrights throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s stand apart as some of the greatest in our 200-year history.”
He was honoured by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts with the BAFTA Fellowship lifetime achievement award in 2001.
Finney racked up 13 BAFTA nominations — nine for film and four for television.
He won two: most promising newcomer for “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” in 1960, and in 2002 for his portrayal of Churchill in “The Gathering Storm”.
BAFTA said it was “deeply saddened” to hear of his passing.
His Golden Globes were awarded for “Tom Jones”, “Scrooge” and “The Gathering Storm”, which also earned him an Emmy Award.
At the London stage Olivier Awards, he won the best actor gong in 1986 for “Orphans”.
In “Skyfall”, Finney played the Bond family’s gamekeeper Kincade.
Daniel Craig, who played Bond, said: “The world has lost a giant.
“Wherever Albert is now, I hope there are horses and good company,” he added, referencing the film.
The movie’s director Sam Mendes added: “He really was one of the greats: a brilliant, beautiful, big-hearted, life loving delight of a man. He will be terribly missed.“
Bond producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli added that were “heartbroken“.
A tweet on the official James Bond account quoted them as saying: “We are heartbroken at the loss of Albert Finney. It was a privilege to work with him and an honour to have had him as part of our Bond family.”
Finney had a son, Simon, with his first wife, actress Jane Wenham. His second wife in the 1970s was the French actress Anouk Aimee.
His son and his third wife Pene Delmage were at his bedside in London’s Royal Marsden Hospital, where he had been for the past month.
Finney’s funeral will be held in private.