Albert Finney (9 May 1936 – 7 February 2019) was an English actor who worked in film, television and theatre. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and worked in the theatre before attaining prominence on screen in the early 1960s, debuting with The Entertainer (1960), directed by Tony Richardson, who had previously directed him in the theatre. He maintained a successful career in theatre, film and television.
Finney in 1966
|Born||9 May 1936|
|Died||7 February 2019 82) (aged|
|Education||Royal Academy of Dramatic Art|
(m. 1957; div. 1961)
(m. 1970; div. 1978)
Pene Delmage (m. 2006)
He is known for his roles in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (also 1960), Tom Jones (1963), Two for the Road (1967), Scrooge (1970), Annie (1982), The Dresser (1983), Miller's Crossing (1990), A Man of No Importance (1994), Erin Brockovich (2000), Big Fish (2003), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), The Bourne Legacy (2012), and the James Bond film Skyfall (2012).
A recipient of BAFTA , Golden Globe, Emmy and Screen Actors Guild awards, Finney was nominated for an Academy Award five times, as Best Actor four times, for Tom Jones (1963), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Dresser (1983), and Under the Volcano (1984), and as Best Supporting Actor for Erin Brockovich (2000). He received several awards for his performance as Winston Churchill in the 2002 BBC–HBO television biographical film The Gathering Storm.
Finney was born in Salford, Lancashire, the son of Alice (née Hobson) and Albert Finney, a bookmaker. He was educated at Tootal Drive Primary School, Salford Grammar School and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), from which he graduated in 1956.
While at RADA Finney made an early TV appearance playing Mr Hardcastle in Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer. The BBC filmed and broadcast the RADA students' performances at the Vanbrugh Theatre in London on Friday 6 January 1956. Other members of the cast included Roy Kinnear and Richard Briers.
In February 1956 John Fernald, principal of RADA, gave Finney his first major role in the Vanbrugh Theatre's student production of Ian Dallas' play The Face of Love, as Shakespeare's Troilus. Finney graduated from RADA and became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Finney was offered a contract by the Rank Organisation but turned it down to perform for the Birmingham Rep. He was in a production of The Miser for Birmingham Rep, which was filmed for the BBC in 1956. Also for the BBC he appeared in The Claverdon Road Job (1957) and View Friendship and Marriage (1958).
Finney made his breakthrough in the same year with his portrayal of a disillusioned factory worker in Karel Reisz's film version of Alan Sillitoe's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), produced by Richardson. The film was a box-office success, being the third most popular film in Britain that year. It earned over half a million pounds in profit.
Finney then did Billy Liar (1960) on stage and for British television.
Finney had been chosen to play T. E. Lawrence in David Lean's production of Lawrence of Arabia after a successful and elaborate screen-test that took four days to shoot. However, Finney baulked at signing a multi-year contract for producer Sam Spiegel and chose not to accept the role.
Finney created the title role in Luther, the 1961 play by John Osborne depicting the life of Martin Luther, a key early figure of the Protestant Reformation. He performed the role with the English Stage Company in London, Nottingham, Paris and New York. The original West End run at the Phoenix ended in March 1962, after 239 performances there, when Finney had to leave the cast to fulfill a contractual obligation with a film company.
Finney starred in the Academy Award-winning 1963 film Tom Jones, directed by Richardson and written by Osborne. The success of Tom Jones saw British exhibitors vote Finney the ninth most popular star at the box office in 1963.
Finney followed this with a small part in The Victors (1963). He then made his Broadway debut in Luther in 1963. When that run ended he decided to take a year off and sail around the world. "People told me to cash in on my success while I was hot," he later said. "I'd been acting for about eight years and had only had one vacation... Captain Cook had been a hero of mine when I was a kid, and I thought it would be exciting to go to some of the places in the Pacific where he'd been."
The success of Tom Jones enabled Finney produce his next film, Night Must Fall, in 1964, which he also starred in and which was directed by Reisz.
He and Michael Medwin formed a production company, Memorial Productions, which made Privilege (1967), directed by Peter Watkins; The Burning (1968), a short directed by Stephen Frears; and If.... (1968), directed by Lindsay Anderson. Memorial also did stage productions, such as A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, which Finney performed in London and then Broadway. Memorial also produced some in which Finney did not appear, such as Spring and Port Wine and The Burgular.
Memorial then made Charlie Bubbles (1968), which Finney starred in and also directed. Liza Minnelli made her feature debut in the movie. Finney later called it "the most intense sense of creation I've ever had."
Finney then made Gumshoe (1971), the first feature directed by Stephen Frears, for Memorial. Memorial continued to produce films in which Finney did not appear: Spring and Port Wine (1970), with James Mason; Loving Memory (1971), an early directorial effort from Tony Scott; Bleak Moments (1971), the first feature from Mike Leigh; O Lucky Man! (1973) for Anderson; and Law and Disorder (1974); hot in Hollywood.
In 1972 Finney returned to the stage after a six-year absence with Alpha Beta, which he later filmed for TV with Rachel Roberts.
Memorial Productions pulled out of producing and Finney focused on acting. "It was OK at first," he later said, "but in the end it was sitting in an office, pitching ideas to Hollywood and waiting for the phone to ring."
Murder on the Orient Express
Finney played Agatha Christie's Belgian master detective Hercule Poirot in the film Murder on the Orient Express (1974). Finney became so well known for the role that he complained that it typecast him for a number of years, "People really do think I am 300 pounds with a French accent", he said.
Finney decided to take time off from features and focus on stage acting, doing the classics at the National Theatre in London. "I felt that it needed commitment," he later said. "When you're making movies all the time, you stop breathing. You literally don't breathe in the same way that you do when you're playing the classics. When you have to deliver those long, complex speeches on stage, you can't heave your shoulders after every sentence. The set of muscles required for that kind of acting need to be trained. I really wanted to try and do justice to my own potential in the parts. I didn't want to be a movie actor just dropping in, doing Hamlet and taking off again. I wanted to feel part of the company."
Finney made a TV movie Forget-Me-Not-Lane in 1975, which was written by Peter Nichols, and he also performed a cameo role in The Duellists (1977), the first feature directed by Ridley Scott. He also released an album through Motown.
Return to films
Finney had not played a lead role in a feature film in six years, and started to think about returning to cinema. The last two successful films he had made were Scrooge and Orient Express in which he was heavily disguised. "Most Americans probably think I weigh 300 pounds, have black hair and talk with a French accent like Hercule Poirot," said Finney. "So I thought they should have a look at me while I was still almost a juvenile and kind of cute."
Finney decided to make six films in succession "so that I could relax and get back into it again. In order to feel really assured and comfortable in front of a camera, you've got to do it for a while."
He received excellent reviews for his performance in the drama Shoot the Moon (1982). Finney said the role "required personal acting; I had to dig into myself. When you have to expose yourself and use your own vulnerability, you can get a little near the edge."
Less well received was his performance as Daddy Warbucks in the Hollywood film version of Annie (1982), which was directed by John Huston. Finney said going into this film after Shoot the Moon was "marvelous. I use a completely different side of myself as Warbucks. 'Annie' is show biz; it's open, simple and direct. It needs bold, primary colors. I don't have to reveal the inner workings of the character, and that's a relief."
Finney went into The Dresser (1983), directed by Peter Yates, which earned him a Best Actor Oscar Nomination. He then played the title role in the TV movie Pope John Paul II (1984), his American TV debut.
Huston cast Finney in the lead role of Under the Volcano (1984), which earned both men great acclaim, including another Oscar nomination for Finney.
Finney performed on stage in Orphans in 1986, then did the film version , directed by Alan J. Pakula. He had the lead in a TV mini series, The Endless Game (1989), written and directed by Bryan Forbes.
Finney began the 1990s with the lead role in a film for HBO, The Image (1990). He received great acclaim playing the gangster boss in Miller's Crossing (1990), replacing Trey Wilson shortly before filming.
He followed it with The Playboys (1992) for Gillies MacKinnon; Rich in Love (1993) for Bruce Beresford; The Browning Version (1994) for Mike Figgis; A Man of No Importance (1994), for Suri Krishnamma; and The Run of the Country (1995) for Peter Yates.
Finney did Nostromo (1997) for television, and Washington Square (1997) for Agnieszka Holland then made A Rather English Marriage (1998) with Tom Courtenay. He had support roles in Breakfast of Champions (1999) and Simpatico (1999).
He had the lead in Delivering Milo (2001) and in 2002 his critically acclaimed portrayal of Winston Churchill in The Gathering Storm won him British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), Emmy and Golden Globe awards as Best Actor.
He also played the title role in the television series My Uncle Silas, based on the short stories by H. E. Bates, about a roguish but lovable poacher-cum-farm labourer looking after his great-nephew. The show ran for two series broadcast in 2001 and 2003.
Finney had a key role in Big Fish (2001) directed by Tim Burton, and did another cameo for Soderbergh in Ocean's Twelve (2004). He sang in Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005) and the film of Aspects of Love (2005).
Finney was reunited with Ridley Scott in A Good Year (2006). He had support roles in Amazing Grace (2006), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007). His last appearance in a feature was in Skyfall (2012).
Even with his success on the big screen, Finney never abandoned his stage performances. He continued his association with the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic in London, where he performed in the mid-1960s in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard.
He received Tony Award nominations for Luther (1964) and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1968), and also starred on stage in Love for Love, Strindberg's Miss Julie, Black Comedy, The Country Wife, Alpha Beta, Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape, Tamburlaine the Great, Another Time and, his last stage appearance, in 1997, "Art" by Yasmina Reza, which preceded the 1998 Tony Award-winning Broadway run.
A lifelong supporter of Manchester United, Finney narrated the documentary Munich, about the air crash that killed most of the Busby Babes in 1958, which was shown on United's TV channel MUTV in February 2008.
Personal life and death
With his first wife, Jane Wenham, he had a son, who works in the film industry as a camera operator. In 1970, nearly a decade after his divorce from Wenham, Finney married French actress Anouk Aimée, a union that lasted eight years. He then married for the third and last time in 2006, to Penelope Delmage, who at the time was working as a travel agent. They remained together until Finney's death.
Finney in May 2011 publicly disclosed that he had been receiving treatment for kidney cancer. According to a 2012 interview, he had been diagnosed with the disease five years earlier and underwent surgery, followed by six rounds of chemotherapy. He died at age 82 from a chest infection on 7 February 2019, at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.
Awards and honours
|2001||Best Supporting Actor||Erin Brockovich||Nominated|
|1985||Best Actor||Under the Volcano||Nominated|
|1975||Murder on the Orient Express||Nominated|
Julia Roberts mentioned Finney in her Oscar acceptance speech for Best Actress in Erin Brockovich, calling him a "pleasure to act with".
- 1960 Best British Actor for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
- 1960 Most Promising Newcomer for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning — Won
- 1963 Best British Actor for Tom Jones
- 1973 Best Actor for Gumshoe
- 1974 Best Actor for Murder on the Orient Express
- 1982 Best Actor for Shoot the Moon
- 1984 Best Actor for The Dresser
- 1990 Best Actor (BAFTA TV Awards) for The Green Man
- 1996 Best Actor (BAFTA TV Awards) for Karaoke/Cold Lazarus
- 1998 Best Actor (BAFTA TV Awards) for A Rather English Marriage
- 2000 Best Supporting Actor for Erin Brockovich
- 2002 Best Actor (BAFTA TV Awards) for The Gathering Storm — Won
- 2003 Best Supporting Actor for Big Fish
In addition Finney received the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award in 2001.
He won an Emmy Award, for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Made for TV Movie, for his performance as Winston Churchill in HBO's The Gathering Storm. He had previously been nominated for the HBO telefilm The Image (1990).
He received nine Golden Globe Award nominations, winning three:
- 1963 Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for Tom Jones
- 1963 Most Promising Newcomer (Male) for Tom Jones — Won
- 1970 Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for Scrooge — Won
- 1982 Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama for Shoot the Moon
- 1983 Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama for The Dresser
- 1984 Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama for Under the Volcano
- 2000 Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for Erin Brockovich
- 2002 Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television for The Gathering Storm – Won
- 2003 Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for Big Fish
For his work on Broadway, Finney was nominated for two Tony Awards, both for Best Actor in a Play, for Luther in 1964, and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg in 1968. For the London stage, he won the Laurence Olivier Award, for Best Actor, for Orphans in 1986. He won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor three times, for A Flea in Her Ear in 1966, Tamburlaine the Great in 1976 and Orphans in 1986.
Other awards include: a Golden Laurel for his work on Scrooge (1970) and for his work on Tom Jones, for which he was the 3rd Place Winner for the "Top Male Comedy Performance" for 1964. He was honoured by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association as Best Actor for Under the Volcano (which he tied with F. Murray Abraham for Amadeus), the National Board of Review Best Actor award for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and the New York Film Critics Circle Best Actor award for Tom Jones.
Finney won two Screen Actors Guild Awards, for Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, for Erin Brockovich, and as a member of the acting ensemble in the film Traffic. He was also nominated for The Gathering Storm, for Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries, but did not win.
|1956||Henry V||King Henry||Birmingham Repertory Theatre|
|1958||The Party||Soya||New Theatre|
|1959||Coriolanus||Coriolanus||Royal Shakespeare Theatre|
|1961||Luther||Martin Luther||Royal Court Theatre|
|1965||Black Comedy||Harold Gorringe||Old Vic Theatre|
|Much Ado About Nothing||Don Pedro||Old Vic Theatre|
|1965–1966||Miss Julie||Jean||Old Vic Theatre|
|1966||A Flea in Her Ear||Victor Emmanuel Chandebise||Old Vic Theatre|
|1968||A Day in the Death of Joe Egg||Bri||Brooks Atkinson Theatre|
|1976||Hamlet||Prince Hamlet||Royal National Theatre|
|1978||The Cherry Orchard||Lopakhin||Royal National Theatre|
|1984||Serjeant Musgrave's Dance||Serjeant Musgrave||Old Vic Theatre|
Awards and nominations
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- "Goldsmith Televised". The Stage (3900). 12 January 1956. p. 12. Retrieved 10 February 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "She Stoops to Conquer: Part 1". The Radio Times (1677). 30 December 1955. p. 44. ISSN 0033-8060. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
- Quentin Falk – Albert Finney in Character: A Biography – 1992, page 23 "This was Fernald's production of Ian Dallas's The Face of Love, a modern-dress version of Troilus and Cressida."
- FINNEY COMES BACK TO FILM Farber, Stephen. New York Times 26 July 1981: A.1.
- WIFE SUES ALBERT FINNEY, The Guardian 7 July 1961: 19.
- Laurence Olivier, Confessions of an Actor, Orion, 1994, p. 243
- Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 239
- Finney: A Star Who Hides His Magnitude: Albert Finney, Marks, Sally K. Los Angeles Times 23 Apr 1967: c11.
- "David Lean" by Stephen M. Silverman (Abrams, New York, 1992)
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- "Luther to end its run next month", The Times, 16 February 1962, p. 15
- "Most Popular Films Of 1963." Times [London, England] 3 January 1964: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
- ALBERT FINNEY The Guardian 15 Mar 1972: 10.
- Albert Finney to Appear Here In 'Joe Egg,' a London Success: Simon Sells "Plaza Suite" Don't Drink" Will Move By SAM ZOLOTOW. New York Times 12 Dec 1967: 57.
- MOVIE CALL SHEET: 'Charlie' Next Film for Liza Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 21 Oct 1966: C16.
- Finney's fondness for the good life Gritten, David. The Ottawa Citizen 21 Apr 2000: A14.
- Hughes, David (28 December 2018). "Poirot actors: from David Suchet to Kenneth Branagh, the stars who've played Agatha Christie's sleuth". The Independent.
- Sanders, Dennis and Len Lovallo. The Agatha Christie Companion: The Complete Guide to Agatha Christie's Life and Work, (1984), pgs. 438–441. Subscription required ISBN 978-0425118450
- News of the Screen: ' Sugarland' Team For 'Clearwater' 5 Adaptations Set In Theater Series Finney to Direct Comedy on Lunacy By A. H. WEILER. New York Times 12 May 1974: 49.
- WHITHER ALBERT FINNEY?: From Manchester to Motown Christon, Lawrence. Los Angeles Times 18 July 1977: f1.
- ALBERT FINNEY STAGES A FILM COMEBACK, Blume, Mary. Los Angeles Times 19 Oct 1980: p67.
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- The Albert memorial, Billington, Michael. The Guardian 13 Mar 1986: 12.
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- "Revealed: secret list of 300 who scorned honours", The Sunday Times, 21 December 2003
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- Moore, Gene M. (1997). Conrad on Film. Cambridge University Press. p. 249. ISBN 978-0-521-55448-0. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
- Albert Finney Theatre Credits
- Miss Julie
- Art Wyndham's Theatre, London
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- Hershman, Gabriel. Strolling Player – The Life and Career of Albert Finney The History Press, 2017, ISBN 9780750978866
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