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Postlethwaite's Manchester office

Classic Northern actor remembered with affection

Published on January 6th 2011.


Postlethwaite's Manchester office

While acting at the Royal Exchange Pete Postlethwaite would discuss press commitments and performance issues in his ‘office’.

When Steven Spielberg said he was the finest actor in the world, Pete responded by saying that Spielberg had been misquoted, what he’d really said was ‘Postlethwaite thinks he’s the best actor in the world.

The play was Shakespeare’s Tempest, the year 2007 and the ‘office’ was Mr Thomas’s Chophouse (Tom’s).

Sharon Doyle, customer services manager at Tom’s, points out the table where Postlethwaite used to sit.

“When I knew he was coming in I’d put a note on this table saying ‘Reserved for the Duke of Milan’ - his part in the play. Pete loved that and took some of the notes away with him as souvenirs. After the production finished we decided to put the plaque on the table to show where he’d had his ‘office’.”

He would frequently share the table with fellow actors Eamonn Boland and Russell Dixon, sporting a trademark flatcap and nursing a trademark Guinness.

“One time most of the pub staff went to see the Tempest,” continues Doyle, “and we had seats right next to the stage at the Royal Exchange. As Pete came off stage he hissed - so only we could hear - ‘Pint of Guinness, please.’”

Tom’s also held the closing party for the show.

“Pete came in,” says Doyle, “and asked if he could hold the ‘wrap party’ here. It started at 10.30pm and finished at 5am. Pete did a sweet speech, the cast performed a rap for him about the Tempest. It was a lovely night. He was such a gentleman with nothing of ‘I’m a star’ about him.”

Roger Ward, proprietor of Tom’s, had bought Doyle a print of a Jonathan Oakes photo of Postlethwaite for Christmas. It presently hangs over the table with the plaque.By chance there is a review of Tom’s on the board behind the pic which could well have been written for Postlethwaite. It reads: ‘Simply the best traditional British...”

John Goodfellow who looks after the press and marketing at the Royal Exchange emphasises that ‘traditional’ side to the actor’s character.

“He was a very genuine and lovely guy,” says Goodfellow. “He had no airs and graces, he had that traditional Trade Union background of treating everybody the same.

“Looking back, his attitude was exceptional,” continues Goodfellow. “Remember here was an actor of world stature, a man who’d been nominated for an Oscar for ‘In the Name of the Father’. Yet he was very quiet and unassuming, always ready for a chat, and he’d do any press apart from what he called ‘the Tory rags’. Nor did he ever take himself too seriously. When Steven Spielberg said he was the finest actor in the world, Pete responded by saying that Spielberg had been misquoted, what he’d really said was ‘Postlethwaite thinks he’s the best actor in the world.’”

Not that his attitude to his job was anything less than utterly committed, according to Goodfellow.

“While he didn’t take himself seriously, he certainly took his acting seriously. He would inhabit the character. For the Duke of Milan he learnt everything he could about the role and about the play. He liked the magic of the theatre and he knew everything about it. People who worked with him were in no doubt that he demanded the highest levels of professionalism.

“This was reflected in his performances,” says Goodfellow, pausing as he remembers. “On stage you couldn’t keep your eyes off him, he was an astonishing and gripping actor, electric. Special in every sense.”

Pete Postlethwaite was born in Warrington on 7 February 1946 and died on 2 January 2011. After minor television appearances including The Professionals, Postlethwaite had success with the film Distant Voices, Still Lives in 1988. In movies he acted in The Usual Suspects, Alien 3, In the Name of the Father, Amistad, Brassed Off, The Shipping News, The Constant Gardener, Inception, Romeo and Juliet. His deep Manchester connections began as a drama teacher at Loreto College. He then trained as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, before launching his career at Liverpool Everyman Theatre where his colleagues included Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Antony Sher and Julie Walters. Steven Spielberg called Postlethwaite "the best actor in the world" after working with the actor on the The Lost World: Jurassic Park. He was awarded an OBE in the 2004 New Year's Honours List. He leaves a wife, Jacqui, a son, Will, and a daughter, Lily.

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

KaevnJanuary 5th 2011.

Nice story that about the table

PetefanJanuary 5th 2011.

He made every role he did credible. He was a consummate actor and professional

MissedJanuary 5th 2011.

As Petefan says, a great character actor, a trouper in the old style. A great presence on my Tom's visits in 2007.

CEKJanuary 6th 2011.

I am late in adding my condolences to those above but am surprised that so few people have felt the need to mark the death of such a great actor by joining the rant. I loved PP. He had one of the saddest faces I have ever seen and seemed to transfer all that emotion into the many different performances I have seen him act in. A really huge loss.

Tyson ThebeerhoundJanuary 6th 2011.

Simply the best actor of his generation...

postlethwartJanuary 8th 2011.

Prevented from continuing his fine job here.. I liked his surprise low key appearances where you may not have been expecting them, such as in dark water as a cigar smoking janitor and yes, in his flat cap down Cross st. I've always remembered that nonchalant look on his face, as I passed him, most likely on the way to his liquid victuals at the chop house..
RIP PP

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