Actor Tom Wilkinson Dies Aged 75

Tom Wilkinson

by James White |
Updated on

Tom Wilkinson, a character actor who was also adept when called upon to play leading parts, has died. The charismatic performer, able to embody both warm, relatable heroes and cunning villains, was 75.

Born in Leeds before moving to Canada and then Cornwall in childhood, Wilkinson knew he was destined to work in entertainment at the age of 18 when he was asked to direct a play.

He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) before forging a career in theatre, film and TV. In 1986, he got his first major screen role in mini-series First Among Equals, based on politician-turned-author Jeffrey Archer’s best-selling novel.

That kicked off a successful career on screens big and small, with his film resume including the likes of Shakespeare In Love, Batman Begins, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Girl With A Pearl Earring, The Patriot, Selma, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, The Gathering Storm, Sense and Sensibility, RocknRolla, Valkyrie and Denial.

On TV, he was seen in shows including Belgravia, John Adams, Recount, David Copperfield and Martin Chuzzlewit.

Among his many roles, he may be best remembered for a handful, including 1997’s The Full Monty featured Wilkinson as Gerald, one of a group of recently laid-off Sheffield steelworkers who decide to try stripping to make ends meet. He was offered the job at the same time as another gig, this one on TV. "I remember phoning a friend and he said, 'Take the TV, take the TV,'" he recalled to The Guardian in 2011. "But I didn’t follow his advice, and the TV turned out to be crap."

The film on the other hand, became one of the highest grossing British independent movies of all time. Wilkinson reprised his role alongside co-stars Robert Carlyle and Mark Addy for this year’s Disney+ sequel series, which caught up with the characters in the present day.

Wilkinson was nominated for Academy Awards for actor in a leading role for In the Bedroom in 2001, and actor in a supporting role for Michael Clayton in 2007. His Full Monty role scored him a BAFTA.

His Michael Clayton co-star George Clooney paid tribute.
"Tom made every project better. Made every actor better. He was the epitome of elegance and he will be dearly missed by all of us."

In 1986, while working on First Among Equals, Wilkinson met Diana Hardcastle, and the couple married in 1988. They played husband and wife in The Kennedys in 2011, and in 2014’s Good People. She survives him alongside their two daughters, Alice and Molly.

"It is with great sadness that the family of Tom Wilkinson announce that he died suddenly at home on December 30," read the statement released to mark his passing. "His wife and family were with him. The family asks for privacy at this time."

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