Remembering Pete Postlethwaite

1 REP Pete Postlethwaite
Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

Director Jim Sheridan recalls working with the star of “In the Name of the Father.”

He looked indestructible. Tough as hell. But you knew he was soft inside. That’s why I cast him, and I think that was the side of him that was most difficult to show in In the Name of the Father because he had always been cast as the other guy. But he was both powerful and vulnerable.

Pete was born in England, so when he did In the Name of the Father — which everybody thought might be an anti-British diatribe — it was a really brave thing for him to do. That character became a transformative character in Ireland: the nonviolent, goodhearted father. And I think Pete epitomized that. His humanity and concern for other people stand out. And he was a great Shakespeare scholar. He named one of his kids Will.

Every day he had the whole crew laughing. He’d have the crew in the bar, and you wouldn’t be able to find him. He lived life to the fullest. He liked to drink — he wasn’t a saint — but he was always really professional. He carried around a big child inside of him. He would say, “I don’t love you, it’s pure lust,” and grab you and shake you.

He was one of our best actors. I think it’s his craggy look. He wasn’t a matinee idol. Pete’s looks were never going to get him roles as the good-looking Hollywood star. So he was a great actor. 

When you play hide and seek with kids, they never want to be lost, they always want to be found. That’s what In the Name of the Father was for Pete: the moment he was found. The breakthrough performance when he jumped out and said, “I’m here.” 

— As told to Matthew Belloni

Sheridan wrote, produced and directed 1993’s In the Name of the Father, which earned Postlethwaite a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. That role led to memorable character-driven performances in The Usual Suspects, Amistad, Inception and The Town. Postlethwaite died Jan. 2 after a long battle with cancer.