VERY sad news today about the death of actor Pete Postlethwaite.
He died yesterday in hospital near his Shropshire home at the age of 64.
I interviewed Pete several times and learned last year that he was ill with cancer.
Although there was an unspoken agreement within most of the media to respect his privacy and not report on the illness.
The Oscar nominated star never disappointed in interviews.
And went the extra mile to ensure all of your questions were answered.
He was both one of our greatest ever actors and an all round top bloke.
Since his death was announced this morning, I’ve been digging through my TV archives and have found the press packs for three of Pete’s dramas:
Lost For Words (ITV 1999), Butterfly Collectors (ITV 1999) and The Sins (BBC1 2000).
The interview for Butterfly Collectors in March 1999 was the first time I met Pete.
I still have a soft spot for the two-part drama written by a certain Paul Abbott.
Also featuring a young Jamie Draven in his first TV role, plus Alison Newman, Crissy Rock, Rachel Davies, Julie Graham and Peter Kay.
Below is the feature I wrote – published in the Manchester Evening News on Friday April 9 1999.
PETE Postlethwaite sips his beer and remembers the moment he was asked to lie. “I just thought it stank.”
The Warrington-born actor began his career as a teacher. One of his first jobs was House Master at a Lancashire approved school.
“The kids were very difficult to keep in class. Jail fodder, really. The reason why I left was because I realised I couldn’t conform to the system,” he says.
“There was one particular lad, who I’d been nurturing and training – he was the naughtiest lad in my House.
“But I used the approach of giving him responsibility and promoted him to House Captain – and it was working. He stopped being what he was.
“I came back one night and found he’d been in a fight with one of the other teachers…and was asked to keep quiet about it. And I couldn’t do that.
“They said, ‘You must, otherwise it doesn’t look right.’ I said, ‘I can’t do that. I’m going to say what happened.’ So I did, then I left.”
The story tells you a lot about 52-year-old Pete. A more honest – and modest – man it would be hard to find.
He went on to teach at Loreto College, Moss Side – then a Catholic girls’ convent school – with much happier results.
Oscar nominated Postlethwaite may not agree, but he’s fast becoming a national treasure.
The star of Brassed Off and In The Name Of The Father was amazed when he embarked on a stage tour of Macbeth last year.
“People I’d taught from the convent school in Manchester were turning up with their kids – and the children are all 15 or 16 now, which is what their mums were when I taught them. I get many letters from people I taught. I can’t even reply to all of them.”
Anyone who saw Pete alongside Dame Thora Hird in Lost For Words after the New Year will have been reminded of just how marvellous an actor he is.
Now there’s another rather large TV treat in store.
Granada’s two-part psychological thriller Butterfly Collectors (ITV Monday / Tuesday April 19 / 20) is as good as Cracker at its very best. Unmissable award-winning drama of the highest quality. When the first 90 minutes ends, you’ll be desperate to see the second concluding episode.
Postlethwaite plays John McKeown, a policeman on the treadmill, fed up with being a cop.
Dex Lister – an astonishing main role debut by Wythenshawe newcomer Jamie Draven – is a 17-year-old Parks and Gardens worker bringing up his younger brother and sister alone.
Dex is initially arrested on suspicion of murder. Then John discovers his circumstances, and the beautiful garden he keeps at the family’s council house in Hattersley. What follows is truly gripping television.
The twisting drama reunited the Cracker team of writer Paul Abbott, director Jean Stewart and producer Hilary Bevan Jones.
“It’s one of those pieces of work which you read and just say, ‘Right, when do you start?’ The same thing happened with Brassed Off and Lost For Words,” explains Pete.
His next film – Among Giants – is due to open in May. Filmed on location near Rochdale, it takes its name from the electricity pylons which feature in the movie.
Also included will be Pete’s much heralded nude scene in an industrial cooling tower with co-star Rachel Griffiths.
Unusually he plays romantic lead in the unconventional love story by Full Monty writer Simon Beaufoy.
And in the autumn he hopes to be directing and starring in a big screen version of Macbeth.
Other people label Pete a Hollywood star after his roles in The Lost World and The Usual Suspects. He still thinks some of his best work was back in the Seventies at the Liverpool Everyman.
Now living in Shropshire with wife Jacqui and their two children, family man Postlethwaite is more impressed that someone has finally re-surfaced the road outside his house than with any glitzy LA lifestyle.
Always a popular character actor, his recent success in terms of high profile film and TV projects has come at the right time. “I’m glad that whatever happened to me has happened over a slow burn.
“Someone at Granada was telling me about a recipe to cook chicken. You get the Aga hot, then switch it off, then wrap the chicken in a duvet and put that in the oven and you leave it for 24 hours. That cooks the chicken.
“And I think that sums up my career. You can see it now, ‘Pete Postlethwaite’s Aga saga!’”