Pete Postlethwaite died on January 2nd this year. The tributes to him have been vivid, from those of us who partly valued an actor of unique physical presence– the ‘raw boned’ face and luminous eyes, the physical grace, and an immediately recognisable, deliberate ‘gruff’ and ‘northern’ voice. But he was also an actor who felt his most important film was The Age of Stupid (UK 2009) because it embodied some of his closest political principles. We were lucky to have permission to use photos from this terrific film, arguing and imaging the need to fight disastrous climate change. If you look at the cover of the 5th edition of MSB you’ll see, in the darkest section, Postlethwaite’s face, as the fictional Archivist of a world destroyed by the change, gazing urgently through the brilliantly imagined screen onto which he projects the news images of warning events that went ignored.
Part of the power of the film came from his willingness to play the role, which of course made it much easier to market, with an Oscar nominee’s presence on board. An innovative ‘green’ premiere of the film was designed– green carpet, celebs arriving by bike or low power vehicles, solar powered projector etc. Ed Miliband (then the Labour government’s Climate Change Secretary) invited himself to it. On hearing this Pete Postlethwaite devised the brilliant gesture of writing and signing a pledge which included threatening to give back his OBE to the Queen if Miliband gave the green light to a new coal power station at Kingsnorth. As Franny Armstrong, the director, wrote in her tribute to Postlethwaite in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/jan/03/pete-postlethwaite-age-stupid). ‘The look on Miliband’s face was priceless (click the link for images of this pledge making). ‘But a month later he announced no new coal-fired power station would get government consent unless it could capture and bury 25% of the emissions it produces immediately – and 100% by 2025.’ And she continued
‘Pete was gutted to be unable to attend the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December 2009, but he dragged himself out of bed to be interviewed on Skype. He told me nothing cheered him up more than people stopping him in the street to explain how they were cutting their carbon.’ He was an inspirational figure both in his acting achievements and in the way he connected them, partly by his choice of roles, to his other attempts to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.
(See http://www.spannerfilms.net/node/49591 for a further illustrated tribute from Franny Armstrong after BBC2 broadcast a tribute programme (January 15th).