Peter William "Pete" Postlethwaite was born Feb. 7, 1946, in Warrington, England, with a roughly hewn face that few would predict would find success on the stage. But those wide, prominent cheekbones, ponderous ears, and Durante-worthy proboscis—combined with sharp glistening eyes and a sinewy, breathy voice—helped him become one of the most recognizable and popular English screen actors of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
He won an Oscar nomination for his work in the 1993 Daniel Day-Lewis film "In the Name of the Father," was Friar Lawrence in Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet," and played the critical, enigmatic role of Kobayashi in "The Usual Suspects." Steven Spielberg, who called him "probably the best actor in the world," used him in "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" and "Amistad." More recently, he had a significant cameo in "Inception."
Other films inclued "Brassed Off," "The Last of the Mohicans," "The Town," "Clash of the Titans," and his breakthrough film, 1988's "Distant Voices, Still Lives." His characters were often devious or untrustworthy, but they crackled with humanity and life, his prominent features seemingly bringing his creations' emotions and thoughts to the fore.
"At the end of the day, acting is all about telling lies," he once said. "We are professional imposters and the audience accept that. We've made this deal that we tell you a tale and a pack of lies, but there will be a truth in it. You may enjoy it, or it will disturb you."
In 2008, he played King Lear at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. It was at the Everyman—a fitting name for a theatre where the very-of-the-Earth Mr. Postlethwaite would be welcome—that he got his start, acting with the likes of Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Antony Sher and Julie Walters. He went on to become a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company and other acting companies. In 2003, he went to Australia, touring a 90-minute one-man play called Scaramouche Jones, where he played a clown trying to find out why he is who he is before he dies. It was directed by Rupert Goold, who would also direct his Lear in 2008. The play also toured Canada, New Zealand and Britain.
Television included the dual roles of Montague Tigg and Tigg Montague in a 1994 adaptation of "Martin Chuzzlewit," for which he was nominated for a British Academy Television Award as Best Actor. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2004.
He is survived by his wife Jacqueline (Jackie) Morrish Postlethwaite, a former BBC producer whom he married in 2003, and their two children, William John and Lily Kathleen.