Albert Finney (born 9 May 1936) is an English actor. He achieved prominence in films in the early 1960s, and has maintained a successful career in theatre, film and television.
A recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe, Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Awards, Finney has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor four times, for Tom Jones (1963), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Dresser (1983), and Under the Volcano (1984); and was nominated for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Erin Brockovich (2000).
Finney is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His career began in the theatre; he made his first appearance on the London stage in 1958 in Jane Arden’s The Party, directed by Charles Laughton, who starred in the production along with his wife, Elsa Lanchester. Then in 1959 he appeared at Stratford in Coriolanus opposite Laurence Olivier (as Coriolanus), Edith Evans and Vanessa Redgrave.
His first film appearance was a role in Tony Richardson’s The Entertainer (1960), with Laurence Olivier, but he made his breakthrough with his portrayal of a disillusioned factory worker in Karel Reisz’s film version of Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. This led to a series of “Angry Young Man” roles in kitchen sink dramas, before he starred in the Academy Award-winning 1963 film Tom Jones. Prior to this, 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 4 days to shoot. However Finney baulked at signing a multi-year contract for Producer Sam Spiegel and chose not to accept the role. The tremendous success of Tom Jones saw British exhibitors vote Finney the ninth most popular star at the box office in 1963.
After Charlie Bubbles (1968), which he also directed, his film appearances became less frequent as he focused more on acting on stage. During this period, one of his high-profile film roles was as Agatha Christie’s Belgian master detective Hercule Poirot in the 1974 film Murder On The Orient Express. 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.
While being known for his dramatic roles, Finney appeared and sang in two musical films: Scrooge and the Hollywood film version of Annie, which was directed by John Huston, who would direct him once again in Under The Volcano two years later. He also sings in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.
Finney made several television productions for the BBC in the 1990s, including The Green Man (1990), based on a story by Kingsley Amis, the acclaimed drama A Rather English Marriage (1998) (with Tom Courtenay), and the lead role in Dennis Potter’s final two plays, Karaoke and Cold Lazarus in 1996 and 1997. In the latter he played a frozen, disembodied head.
Finney also made an appearance at Roger Waters’ The Wall Concert in Berlin, where he played “The Judge” during the performance of “The Trial”.
In 2002 his critically acclaimed portrayal of Winston Churchill in The Gathering Storm won him BAFTA and Emmy 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 from 2000 until 2003.
A lifelong supporter of Manchester United, Finney narrated the documentary Munich, about the aircrash that killed most of the Busby Babes in 1958, which was shown on United’s TV channel MUTV in February 2008.
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