Albert Finney, who helped change face of British film, dies aged 82

The five-time Oscar nominee, who played the definitive Poirot, died after a short illness

English actor Finney first achieved widespread fame as the lead in Karel Reisz’s raw, energetic Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, in 1960, going on to receive numerous award nominations for his roles.

 

Albert Finney, one of the actors who helped change British theatre and film in the early 1960s, has died after a short illness, at the age of 82.

He first achieved widespread fame as the lead in Karel Reisz’s raw, energetic Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, in 1960. He turned down the lead in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia and went on to prosper in further acclaimed films such as Tom Jones, The Dresser and Murder on the Orient Express. His turn as Hercule Poirot in that last film still stands as the definitive interpretation of Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective. He received an Oscar nomination for the performance – one of five unsuccessful nods at the Academy Awards.

Finney was born and raised in Salford, in Greater Manchester, as the son of a bookmaker. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at a point when, after the social changes triggered by the arrival of plays such as John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, the institution was turning away from received pronunciation towards less snooty accents from northern England and the working-class south. Finney, Tom Courtenay and Michael Caine were all raised by the same boat.

Albert Finney and Jeremy Lloyd in Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Albert Finney and Jeremy Lloyd in Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Albert Finney: the actor in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, from 1960. Photograph: Silver Screen/Getty
Albert Finney: the actor in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, from 1960. Photograph: Silver Screen/Getty

Finney survived the ups and downs of fashion to excel in roles of all sizes throughout his career. He was excellent as an Irish-American mobster in the Coen brothers’ Miller’s Crossing and as Dr Albert Hirsch in the Jason Bourne films. Unlike many his contemporaries, he resisted becoming part of the establishment and refused a knighthood as long ago as 2000.

Albert Finney was married three times, including to the French actor Anouk Aimeé, and is survived by his last wife, Pene Delmage.

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