'Erin Brockovich'

The son of a bookmaker, Albert Finney grew up in Manchester and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. He first grabbed filmgoers’ attention as a cheeky working-class bloke in “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” (1960) and then “Tom Jones” (1963). He’s always exuded star power, but always followed his own star, eschewing the Oscars ceremony all three times .

Still sparky at 64, the independent-minded British veteran popped back into the mainstream this year with his performance as crusading American lawyer Ed Masry opposite Julia Roberts in Universal’s smash hit “Erin Brockovich.” As a result, Finney has garnered a Golden Globe nominee for supporting actor.

“He’s better looking than the real Ed,” producer Stacey Sher points out about the star many women still think of in romantic terms, though his “Two for the Road” (1967) days are well behind him.

She describes Finney as an actor who is totally “committed to the work” but brings a light-hearted enthusiasm to the set.

Co-producer Michael Shamberg concurs: “He shows up on time and is fun to work with.”

Both producers note that Finney’s American accent was spot on and his chemistry with Roberts delightful.

“Albert’s genius is that he listens better than any other actor I’ve ever worked with,” says Shamberg, describing various moments when “just the way he looked at Julia or the shift of his head” are the subtle moves of an actor skilled in the art of creating truth, with sufficient star power not to be outdazzled by Roberts.

After all, Finney still has that dazzling Tom Jones grin.

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