“I’m me and nobody else. Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not because they don’t know a bloody thing about me! God knows what I am.”
These words were uttered by Albert Finney, the Miller’s Crossing actor who got his start during the British “kitchen sink” era of the 1950s and ’60s, in the film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Now, in light of his death at the age of 82, this line stands as a testament to his celebrated and chameleon-esque career.
According to a family statement, provided to The Associated Press, Finney died after “a short illness with those closest to him by his side.” The statement added, “The family request privacy at this sad time.”
Finney was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2007. In 2011, his agent told The Telegraph, “He is better now and is considering several new projects.” The actor then went on to roles in 2012’s The Bourne Legacy and the same year’s James Bond pic Skyfall.
“We are heartbroken at the loss of Albert Finney,” Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said in a statement. “It was a privilege to work with him and an honor to have had him as part of our Bond family.”
Born on May 9, 1936 in Salford, U.K., Finney worked in the industry for a number of years before getting thrust into the global spotlight with his first of five Oscar-nominated roles, the title lead in 1963’s Tom Jones. The four others include performances in Murder on the Orient Express (playing detective Hercule Poirot), The Dresser, Under the Volcano, and opposite Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich.
Yet he wasn’t a fan of actually attending the Oscars. He once said, ”If I know I’m going to win, I’ll go. But if I don’t know, I’m not going to sit there. And [since] I smoke, I’d be in and out every half hour.”
Other milestones include acting with Audrey Hepburn in 1967’s Two for the Road and taking up the director’s chair for 1968’s Charlie Bubbles.
Finney worked with a number of American filmmakers as he worked in both the U.K. and U.S., like another famous role of his as mobster Leo O’Bannon in Miller’s Crossing for the Coen Brothers in 1990. He also played Daddy Warbucks for John Huston in 1982’s Annie, worked with Steven Soderbergh for Traffic and Erin Brockovich, and teamed with Tim Burton for Big Fish and Corpse Bride.
Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange), Edgar Wright (Baby Driver), Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible — Fallout), and other filmmakers remarked on the impact of Finney’s career and “his unique ability to combine power with powerlessness.”
“I remember seeing SHOOT THE MOON with my Aunt Denise when I was about 10 years old. And then seeing ANNIE a few weeks later with my Mom,” Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle in Time) tweeted. “Then putting together that the father in both was the same man and thinking – wow, that’s what acting means. Thank you, Albert Finney.
Finney is survived by wife Pene Delmage and his son from his first marriage to actress Jane Wenham, Simon.