Actor Albert Finney dies after illness, aged 82

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British film legend Albert Finney has died after a short illness aged 82, a family spokesman has said.

A five-time Oscar nominee, he was known for playing many different characters, with his list of films including Erin Brockovich, Big Fish, Scrooge, Annie and Murder On The Orient Express.

He most recently starred in the James Bond film Skyfall and the Bourne films, in a career spanning more than 60 years.

In a statement, his family said: “Albert Finney, aged 82, passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side. The family request privacy at this sad time.”

Born in a working class area of Salford in 1936, Finney took to the stage at an early age and went on to earn a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

After graduating in 1955, he made his professional stage debut in Julius Caesar in Stratford-upon-Avon – where he also under-studied Laurence Olivier – and went on to make his film debut with a small part in The Entertainer in 1960.

Director Tony Richardson then cast him in the lead roles in more of his films – the kitchen-sink drama Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, and Tom Jones, for which he earned his first Oscar nomination, for best actor.

Along with Tom Courtenay, Finney was part of the wave of working class actors who revolutionised British film and television at the time.

He went on to play the title role in Scrooge and Hercule Poirot in Murder On The Orient Express, which garnered his second Oscar nomination, as well as billionaire Daddy Warbucks in Annie.

Known for his versatility, he played a huge range of characters during his years on screen, from Winston Churchill to Pope John Paul II.

Further Oscar nods came for The Dresser and Under The Volcano in 1984 and 1985, and then again for best supporting actor for playing lawyer Ed Masry in Erin Brockovich in 2001, starring opposite Julia Roberts.

Despite his many nominations, he famously never attended the Academy Awards, saying: “It seems to me a long way to go just to sit in a non-drinking, non-smoking environment on the off-chance your name is called. It’s as if you are entered into a race you don’t particularly want to run in.

“All the hoops you have to jump through on these occasions, it’s not my favourite occupation. Walking around in the spotlight having to be me is not something I’m particularly comfortable with or desire. I’d sooner pretend to be someone else.”

He also reportedly turned down a knighthood.

On the small screen, Finney’s TV works include The Gathering Storm in 2002, for which he won a BAFTA and an Emmy for his portrayal of Churchill, as well as Karaoke, Cold Lazarus, The Green Man and My Uncle Silas.

BAFTA has paid tribute to the star, who was honoured with a BAFTA fellowship in 2001.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Albert Finney,” a statement said. “The recipient of the BAFTA Fellowship in 2001, Finney will be warmly remembered for his powerful performances in Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, Tom Jones, Big Fish and many more.”

The British Film Institute said it was “saddened” to learn of Finney’s death.

The National Theatre tweeted: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Albert Finney.

“He was a huge part of the National Theatre acting company from its early days in Chichester and performed many roles over the years, including Hamlet which opened the Lyttelton Theatre in 1976.”

The Old Vic theatre also paid tribute, saying Finney’s “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”.

Bond producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said they were “heartbroken at the loss” of the star.

A tweet on the official James Bond account quoted them saying: “It was a privilege to work with him and an honour to have had him as part of our Bond family.”

Actor David Morrissey remembered the star, writing on Twitter and Instagram: “One of the true greats. Both on stage and screen. A powerhouse of an actor. A real hero of mine. RIP Albert Finney.”

Comedian Miranda Hart tweeted: “Aaaah goodbye Daddy Warbucks. Thanks to Albert Finney (and Carol Burnett) in Annie my quest to play and sing for a life style began. What an actor he was. Thank you. #albertfinney #annie”.

Finney is survived by his wife, Pene, son Simon and two grandchildren. It is understood his funeral will be held in private.

(c) Sky News 2019: Actor Albert Finney dies after illness, aged 82

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