Oscar-nominated British actor Albert Finney has died at the age of 82. The storied actor's career spanned seven decades and included dozens of films from the 1960s such as Tom Jones and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning to later day classics like Steven Soderbergh's Erin Brockovich and Tim Burton's Big Fish.
Born in Salford in 1936, Finney made his movie debut with a small role in the film adaptation of John Osborne’s The Entertainer. Almost directly after that, he landed the lead in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, as rambunctious factory worker Arthur Seaton. It was that Karel Reisz-directed film, which proved to be a key film in the “angry” cinema of the period, that launched Finney to stardom. He later became the face of British cinema’s international explosion after being cast in the title role of Tom Jones, directed by The Entertainer’s Tony Richardson. Tom Jones went on to win four Oscars (including Best Picture) with Finney receiving his first of four Best Actor nominations. For the next several decades, Finney went on to appear in a myriad of films including two mainstream musicals, Scrooge and Annie, and the star-studded Agatha Christie adaptation, Murder on the Orient Express, in which he played the iconic Hercule Poirot.
The BBC broke the news of the actor's passing after a short illness. A representative of the Finney family released a statement that reads: "Albert Finney, aged 82, passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side." The family is also requesting privacy during this time. Details about the family or their funeral arrangements have not been made immediately available. Finney is not only one of the godfathers of modern British cinema throughout a standout career that spanned six decades, he was also a very humble man. Never succumbing to the allure of fame, Finney sought out parts for their character depth rather than the notoriety or further stardom they may have given him. He was often known for his mastery of accents and often unrecognizable appearance thanks to makeup or costume. Never wanting to appear as himself, Finney could walk the tightrope of flashy movie star and consummate character actor with ease. The prolific British actor turned down official honors to become a CBE in 1980, and a knighthood in 2000. Finney also revealed in 2011 he had overcome cancer after successful treatment.
Though known for a handful of outstanding performances, Finney constantly appeared in films for decades. Other feature credits include Stephen Frears' Gumshoe (1971), Wolfen (1981), Looker (1981), Shoot the Moon (1982), The Browning Version (1994), A Man of No Importance (1994), Breakfast of Champions (1999), Traffic (2000), Ridley Scott's A Good Year (2006) and Sidney Lumet's last film, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007). Another career high point came in the Coen brothers’ Miller’s Crossing, from 1990, where Finney portrayed a volatile but big-hearted crime boss.
In later years, Finney kept his roles few and far apart but always in high-profile films by well-known directors. In 2001, he earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the Steven Soderbergh-directed Erin Brockovich. For a certain generation, Finney may be best known for his role in Tim Burton's sentimental fantasy drama, Big Fish. His final substantial role would prove to be as gamekeeper Kincade in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.
Finney is survived by his wife Pene Delmage and his son Simon (a veteran camera operator), from his first marriage to actor Jane Wenham.
R.I.P. Albert Finney: May 9, 1936 – February 8, 2019