Friday, September 23, 2011
The unforgettable face of an unforgettable actor
Posted by JBT
I was introduced to Postlethwaite when he played a good guy in Jim Sheridan’s true-life drama about the Guildford Four, In the Name of the Father. In the film, Postlethwaite plays law-abiding, protective and fiercely loyal father, Guiseppe Conlon, on a doomed mission to save his son who is falsely accused of murder. In the end, both father and son are wrongfully arrested for being Irish Republican Army terrorists, and Postlethwaite’s character becomes the sacrificial figure that dies in prison before his son’s release. Postlethwaite’s role was impressive and powerful and it earned him an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.
In what has become an iconic supporting role, Postlethwaite played a bad guy in Bryan Singer’s mystery thriller The Usual Suspects. In the film, Postlethwaite emerges as Mr. Kobayashi, an enigmatic, sinister figure who works for the mythical, criminal mastermind Keyser Söze. Postlethwaite’s unconventional looks perfectly befit the role of the shady lawyer shrouded in mystery and guile, suspected at times to be Keyser Söze himself.
One of my favourite Postlethwaite roles is his turn as the good friar in Baz Luhrmann’s modern-day version of Romeo and Juliet. Postlethwaite was perfect as Friar Lawrence, the kind, well-intentioned confidante to both Romeo and Juliet who is always ready with a plan. Postlethwaite’s delivery of the famous “two households” monologue to set the scene was masterful (the iambic pentameter just rolled off his tongue), likely something his Shakespearean stage acting helped to perfect.
In another role as the meanest of men, Postlethwaite portrayed the unrepetant, villainous and ferocious lawyer intent on suppressing evidence of illegal slave-trading in Steven Spielberg's period drama Amistad.
Postlethwaite strayed from period pieces and edgy thrillers when he starred in the action-packed, special effects film – The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The film is a needless sequel after the stellar original, but Postlethwaite’s turn as a wild game hunter tasked with hunting and killing the male Tyrannosaurus Rex makes the film worth watching.
In 2010, Postlethwaite returned to his wheelhouse of playing bad men and delivered a superb performance in The Town, proving that he could do more in a small role than some actors do in a lead one. In the film, Postlethwaite plays Fergie the Florist, a Boston crime boss who works out of his flower shop. Postlethwaite commanded the screen in his few scenes in the film, exuding understated terror as he casually trimmed long-stemmed roses while delivering deadly threats and ultimatums to his lackeys.
His name may have been hard to pronounce, but his face and his work, are unforgettable.
What are your favourite Pete Postlethwaite movies? Let us know in the comments section.