British thesp recently seen in 'Inception'

In a 40-year career encompassing both stage and screen, Pete Postlethwaite became a favorite of top helmers for his skill as a character actor.

The British thesp, who died Sunday at 64, had roles in two 2010 pics garnering kudos buzz: “The Town,” in which he played a menacing florist and crime boss, and “Inception,” in which he played the dying father of Cillian Murphy’s industrialist.

Postlethwaite, who died in Shropshire, had been ailing with cancer.

Thesp was Oscar-nommed for supporting actor for 1993’s “In the Name of the Father,” playing one of four men wrongly accused of planting an IRA bomb.

Born to a Catholic family in Warrington in the north of England, Postlethwaite had planned to become a priest. But after working as a teacher, he was drawn to the stage and began his acting career touring pubs in a theater group alongside then-girlfriend Julie Walters.

Early roles in the 1970s included work at Liverpool’s Everyman Theater, where he collaborated with Bill Nighy, Alan Bleasdale and Jonathan Pryce, among others.

Postlethwaite’s screen work started with small roles in such high-profile British skeins as “Coronation Street,” “Minder” and “Casualty.” Minor parts in “The Last of the Mohicans” and “Alien 3″ followed, but it was 1993’s “In the Name of the Father,” in which he played Daniel Day-Lewis’ father who is dignified even in the face of wrongful imprisonment, that brought him international attention. That pic led to memorable roles in Bryan Singer’s “The Usual Suspects” and in Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet.”

Postlethwaite starred in 1996’s highly regarded British film “Brassed Off,” which focused on the struggles of an English mining community and its brass band. He was featured in 2005’s “The Constant Gardener” and “James and the Giant Peach.”

In a statement, “Town” helmer Ben Affleck called the thesp “a wonderful actor and an extraordinary man.”

Steven Spielberg, who directed Postlethwaite in 1997’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Amistad,” once called him, “probably the best actor in the world,” to which Postlethwaite quipped, “I’m sure what Spielberg actually said was, ‘The thing about Pete is that he thinks he’s the best actor in the world.'”

In 2008, Postlethwaite returned to the Everyman Theater to play the lead in “King Lear,” a role he had always wanted to tackle.

He was well known for his political activism, including his opposition to the Iraq war.

Survivors include his wife, Jacqui, a son and daughter.

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