Oscar nominated British actor Albert Finney – best known for his roles in Annie, Murder on the Orient Express and Scrooge – has died following a short illness at the age of 82, his family has announced.
He had been in the Royal Marsden hospital, just outside London, for the past month and died from a chest infection on Thursday (7 February) afternoon.
A statement from his family reads: “Albert Finney, aged 82, passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side. The family request privacy at this sad time.”
Finney had previously revealed in 2011 that he had been diagnosed with kidney cancer.
Finney, who was born in Salford in 1936, was one of Britain’s premiere Shakespearean actors and was nominated for five Oscars across almost four decades – for Tom Jones (1963), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Dresser (1983), Under the Volcano (1984) and Erin Brockovich (2000).
Actor David Morrissey paid tribute on social media, writing: “One of the true great. Both on stage and screen. A powerhouse of an actor. A real hero of mine. RIP Albert Finney.”
Rufus Sewell also took to Twitter: “Very sad to hear about Albert Finney. I had the enormous privilege of working with him early on. Apart from being effortlessly great he was also a great all round example of how to behave.”
David Walliams posted a black and white photograph of Finney on Twitter, writing alongside it: “The beautiful Albert Finney.” Meanwhile, The Old Vic theatre account wrote: “We are very sad to hear of the loss of Albert Finney. His performances in plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov and other iconic playwrights throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s stand apart as some of the greatest in our 200-year history.”
Finney’s first major stage role came in 1956, playing the eponymous Trojan prince in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. He later joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and once replaced Laurence Olivier as Coriolanus in 1959.
His later made his film debut with a small part in The Entertainer in 1960. Tony Richardson then offered him a role in Karel Reisz’s kitchen sink drama Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in 1960.
Following the film’s success, David Lean attempted to hire Finney for the leading role in Lawrence of Arabia, the pair shooting an extensive screen test. However, due to contractual obligations, Finney pulled out – replaced by Peter O’Toole – and took a role in 1963’s Tom Jones, which landed him his first Oscar nomination.
Finney attempted directing in 1968, working both behind and in front of the camera in Charlie Bubbles. Despite enjoying the process of making the picture, it was a box-office failure and he never directed a feature-length film again.
His appeal to mass audiences did not dwindle for long, as two years later, in 1970, Finney played Scrooge in Ronald Neame’s musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic Christmas tale. Then, in 1974, he played Hercule Poirot in Sidney Lumet’s version of Murder on the Orient Express. The role was so successful, Finney later complained that he was typecast as an overweight Frenchman.
In 1983, he starred in both Annie and Shoot the Moon, the latter of which earned him a Golden Globe and Bafta nomination. Through the Nineties, he starred in multiple BBC productions, including The Green Man (1990), Karaoke (1996), Cold Lazarus (1997) and A Rather English Marriage (1998).
Finney returned to more high-profile films in the Noughties, with roles in Erin Brockovich, Big Fish, Ocean’s Twelve and The Bourne Ultimatum. His last role was in the 2012 Bond film Skyfall.
As well as acting, Finney was known for his outspoken views on class, turning down both a CBE and a knighthood due to the “snobbery” surrounding them.
On never turning up to the Oscars, Finney reasoned: “It seems to me a long way to go just to sit in a non-drinking, non-smoking environment on the off chance your name is called. It’s as if you are entered into a race you don’t particularly want to run in.
“All the hoops you have to jump through on these occasions, it’s not my favourite occupation. Walking around in the spotlight having to be me is not something I’m particularly comfortable with or desire. I’d sooner pretend to be someone else.”
He was married three times and is survived by his son Simon, from his first wife Jane Wenham, and Pene Delmage, who he married in 2006. Between 1970 and 1978 he was married to A Man and a Woman actor Anouk Aimée.