Albert Finney obituary – Tom Jones and Murder on the Orient Express actor dies aged 82

Albert Finney, hailed as one of Britain’s greatest actors, has died at the age of 82.

A publicist revealed that the five-time Oscar-nominated performer had died on Thursday of a chest infection at the Royal Marsden hospital just outside London.

Born in Salford, Finney’s acting career began in the theatre before tackling roles in productions related to his northern background. His big-screen debut came in 1960 when he made a small appearance in the showbusiness drama The Entertainer which co-starred the great Laurence Olivier.

That same year also saw him play boisterous factory worker Arthur Seaton in the British drama Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. The film was a big hit with critics and audiences and was also a key film of the ‘angry cinema’ period. Finney’s acclaimed performance would see him win the BAFTA for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles.

Finney’s next major role came in 1963 when he played randy bastard Tom Jones in the historical dramedy Tom Jones (1963). The film was an even bigger hit and went on to land four Oscars including Best Picture. Finney himself landed a first Oscar nomination as well as another BAFTA nod though he did share the Golden Globe for Most Promising (Male) Newcomer with Stathis Giallelis and Robert Walker Jr.

After appearing in the likes of Night Must Fall (1964) and Two for the Road (1967), he then made his directional debut with the drama Charlie Bubbles (1968) for which he also played the lead role.

Finney then achieved more plaudits for his portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in the festive musical Scrooge (1970), a role which won him the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical.

After a BAFTA-nominated part in Charlie Gumshoe (1971), the Manchurian actor then took on the iconic role of renowned detective Hercule Poirot in Sidney Lumet’s big-screen adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel Murder on the Orient Express (1973). The performance earned him a second Oscar nomination in a film which featured a stunning ensemble cast including Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave, Ingrid Bergman and John Gielgud.

Aside from appearing in The Duellists (1977), Finney had a relatively quiet end to the 1970s before achieving more success in the following decade.

In 1982, he had key roles in two very opposite films with the first being as George Dunlap, a man whose fifteen year marriage to his wife (played by Diane Keaton) falls apart in the family drama Shoot the Moon. That same year also saw him play kind-hearted millionaire Daddy Warbucks in the hit musical Annie.

Finney then landed back-to-back Oscar nominations in 1983 and 1984 with his performances as stage actor ‘Sir’ in the drama The Dresser and as alcoholic ex-diplomat Geoffrey Fermin in John Huston’s Under the Volcano. However he missed out on both occasions to Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies) and F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus) respectively.

Finney then achieved decent success before the end of the 20th Century with film roles in Miller’s Crossing (1990) and The Browning Version (1994) as well as landing BAFTA nominations for his television work in The Green Man (1990), Karaoke (1996), Cold Lazarus (1996) and A Rather English Marriage (1998).

He enjoyed a great comeback in 2000 when he starred in the Academy Award-winning dramas Traffic and Erin Brockovich. The latter film saw him receive a fifth (and final) Oscar nomination for his role as veteran lawyer Ed Masry for which he starred alongside Best Actress winner Julia Roberts.

After being awarded the BAFTA Fellowship in 2001, Finney then achieved more awards success with his portrayal of British prime minister Winston Churchill in the acclaimed mini-series The Gathering Storm (2002). The performance landed him a number of Best Actor accolades including a third Golden Globe and BAFTA plus an Emmy.

In his later years, Finney appeared in a number of renowned films including Tim Burton’s Big Fish (which earned him his final Globe and BAFTA nominations) plus A Good Year (2006), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007).

Fittingly, his final film role came in 2012 when he played veteran gamekeeper Kincade in the hit James Bond blockbuster Skyfall.

Finney twice turned down official honours which were a CBE in 1980 and a knighthood in 2000.

He is survived by his third wife Pene Delmage and his son Simon.

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