Albert Finney, Five-Time Oscar Nominee and Erin Brockovich Star, Dies at 82
Five-time Oscar nominee Albert Finney has died at the age of 82.
The famed British actor — known for his roles in Erin Brockovich, Annie, Big Fish, Skyfall, and the Bourne franchise — succumbed to symptoms of an undisclosed illness, his family said in a statement obtained by the BBC.
Their statement read: “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 disclosed in 2011 that he had been suffering from kidney cancer, The Guardian reported. A publicist told that outlet that Finney died on Thursday of a chest infection at the Royal Marsden hospital just outside London.
His wife, Pene Delmage — whom he married in 2006 — and son, Simon (from his first marriage to actor Jane Wenham) were by his side, The Guardian reported.
Born in 1936 as the youngest of three children, Albert Finney Jr. grew up in the northern English town of Salford in a family that worked its way up to lower middle class.
A passion for acting developed at age 9, he told PEOPLE in 1982, recalling his starring roles in such memorable school plays as Bell the Cat (“I played the Mayor of Ratville”) and in puppet shows (“I didn’t do the puppets, I did the voices—and I discovered I had an ability to mimic rather well”).
When it came time to leave school, his headmaster informed Albert that about all he was fit for was the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. This proved not entirely ignoble advice. Finney won a scholarship and joined the likes of Peter O’Toole, Alan Bates and Brian Bedford, all then attending London’s most prestigious drama school. Charles Laughton saw him play Macbeth at the Birmingham Repertory. “You were bloody awful,” growled the older actor, who nonetheless signed Albert for a production in London.
Finney’s next venture was understudying Laurence Olivier in Coriolanus, though a knee injury eventually knocked Olivier off the boards. A few films came next before his big break overseas with two roles in 1960: a supporting part in The Entertainer, and a leading role as the original “angry young man” in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.
Over the following six decades, Finney would rack up over 50 credits on the big and small screen alike — successfully making the transition from Hollywood marquee idol to serious actor.
“I don’t yearn for how I used to look,” Finney told PEOPLE in 1982. “I don’t think I’m particularly handsome. I think maybe I’m attractive. I remember with Tom Jones being very concerned to tell people that I was not just another pretty face, and that’s why I took all those character roles. Why I played Luther on Broadway, for instance. All those character roles were perhaps an overreaction to being treated like some kind of sex symbol.”
He’d receive his first of five Oscar nominations for playing the title character in 1963’s Tom Jones, which itself was named 1964’s Best Picture. Finney famously lost the trophy to Sidney Poitier for Lilies of the Field — a historic moment that made Poitier the first black performer in a leading role to win an Academy award.
Other leading actor Oscar nominations would come for Finney for his work Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Dresser (1983), and Under the Volcano (1984).
From there, it would be nearly 20 years since Finney was up for the industry’s top acting prize. Though the actor stayed busy with projects, he’s wasn’t nominated again until 2000, for his supporting role as Ed Masry in Erin Brockovich.
To millions of people, however, Finney will always be Daddy Warbucks — having played the beloved bald billionaire in the 1982 film adaptation of the hit musical Annie.
The reason I agreed to Annie was because I thought I still looked cute enough, and my charm was not totally chipped away,” Finney joked to PEOPLE in 1982. Said producer Ray Stark at the time: “You know what it took for Finney to play Daddy Warbucks? It took courage.”
Finney had a reputation for being a ladies man, with a passionate offscreen romance with Audrey Hepburn while they were starring in 1967’s Two for the Road (“Oh, he’s charming, Annie costar Carol Burnett told PEOPLE in 1982. “He makes you think you’re the only girl around”).
He married three times: to Wenham, from 1957-1961; to actor Anouk Aimée, from 1970-78; and to Delmage.