Monday, January 03, 2011

RIP, Pete Postlethwaite

When we were kids we used to hear the newscaster say some so-and-so had died and our parents would all be like "no way" and we'd sort of wonder why anyone cared so much about some old wrinkly dude.

Now, of course, as we age, those deaths become more meaningful. Every now and then some well known somebody will still die and I'll have no idea who they are, but not today.

Pete Postlethwaite is dead.

For a while he was "that guy" when I saw him. He was Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects. He was Captain Beams in Last of the Mohicans. He was Gilbert of Glockenwhatever in Dragonheart. He's easy to recognize with that big old face full of character.

Lately, of course, he played a small but memorable turn as the dying old man in Inception and the evil crime boss in The Town. Hell, even in Aeon Flux he managed to be the most interesting thing in a terrible film. He was just great. Every time I saw him pop up I'd get a little jolt of joy.

But the role that I'll always remember him first for is as Father Lawrence in Romeo + Juliet.  I've taught Romeo and Juliet more times than I can count and Friar Lawrence always seemed kind of dull and stupid compared to everybody else in that play. He wants her to fake her death because it will make the families come together? Is he retarded? There are like a million ways this can go wrong. And let's not get started about the fact that he secretly marries two teenage kids whose parents hate each other without seriously exploring other options. He was supposed to be the adult in this situation. The Nurse just does what Juliet tells her, but Friar Lawrence should know better.

But Pete Postlethwaite's Father Lawrence seemed passionately devoted to this crazy idea that he could use these two kids to make peace.  That was always in the play, but it seemed more like a flawed theory from some dimwitted idiot than a mission from a man who wanted to save a community. Pete Postlethwhaite was like a rock star priest, a guy who realized he got in over his head too late to stop the disaster that unfolded in front of him. Granted, some of that is Baz Lurhman's great direction and bold choices, but one of the best choices for that film was the casting. You can never go wrong casting Pete Postlethwaite..

I'll miss seeing that big mug pop up on screen. He was great.

1 comment:

  1. Agree he was a great actor. You mentioned the "Usual Suspects". I'll always remember how quietly menacing and frightening he was in that movie without using physical violence.


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