Tom Wilkinson, the British actor best known for his Oscar-nominated roles in films like “In the Bedroom”, “Michael Clayton”, and “The Full Monty”, has died at the age of 75. Wilkinson passed away suddenly at his home on December 29th, 2023, as confirmed by his publicist.
Wilkinson’s Illustrious Career Spanned Five Decades
Over a prolific career that spanned nearly 50 years, Wilkinson starred in an array of acclaimed films, from independent dramas to Hollywood blockbusters. After early roles in movies like “The Temp” and TV shows such as “First Among Equals”, Wilkinson had his major breakthrough playing one of the unemployed steelworkers who decides to form a male striptease act in 1997’s “The Full Monty”.
While a modest hit at the time, “The Full Monty” has since become a beloved comedy classic, and it represented Wilkinson’s arrival as a lead actor after years in supporting parts. Wilkinson was already 49 years old when he got his big break in “The Full Monty”, embodying the everyman charm and talent that would come to define much of his career.
Nominated for Two Oscars for Best Supporting Actor
In the 2000s, Wilkinson thrived as a character actor in films like “In the Bedroom”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, “Batman Begins”, and “Michael Clayton”. His performances in “In the Bedroom” (2001) and “Michael Clayton” (2007) earned him back-to-back Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor.
While Wilkinson never won the Oscar despite these two nominations, he continued to impress in an array of memorable supporting turns. Whether playing an erudite gangster in movies like “The Grand Budapest Hotel” or a conflicted politician in “Denial”, Wilkinson brought nuance and depth to every role. Later standout performances included 2017’s “The Sense of an Ending” and the 2020 adaptation of “The Father”.
Peers and Co-Stars Pay Tribute to Wilkinson’s Talent
In the wake of Wilkinson’s passing, peers and co-stars alike have been quick to pay tribute to the acclaimed actor’s enduring talent. George Clooney, who starred with Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton”, called him “as good an actor as I ever met…just something special about him.”
Director Scott Derrickson, who helmed Wilkinson in “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, remembered Wilkinson as “one of the greats…He elevated every film he was in.”
And Daniel Craig, Wilkinson’s co-star in films like “The Sentinel” and “Belfast”, called the late actor “astonishingly brilliant” and stated that “his performances will remain with me forever.”
|Notable Wilkinson Roles
|The Full Monty
|Gaz, unemployed steelworker turned stripper
|In the Bedroom
|Matt Fowler, grieving father
|Arthur Edens, attorney with bipolar disorder
|Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
|Dr. Howard Mierzwiak
|Carmine Falcone, Gotham gangster
|The Exorcism of Emily Rose
|Father Moore, priest on trial
|Professor Emeritus Richard Rampton
|The Grand Budapest Hotel
|Author Dmitri Desgoffe und Taxis
Wilkinson Struggled Before Finding Fame in Middle Age
Part of what made Wilkinson such a compelling everyman presence was that the Leeds native struggled considerably before becoming an acclaimed actor later in life. After attending Kent University and forging an early stage career, Wilkinson suffered periods of unemployment and depression before his breakthrough in “The Full Monty”.
The actor credited roles in British TV films and shows throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s for helping keep him afloat. And even when Wilkinson found fame, he remained prudent with his earnings, aware that fame can be fickle in the acting world. After the success of “The Full Monty”, Wilkinson reportedly continued living in his modest London flat that cost just £500 per month in rent.
What’s Next for Wilkinson’s Final Films?
At the time of his death, Wilkinson had recently wrapped filming on “The Devil’s Hour”, an upcoming Amazon Prime series starring Peter Capaldi and Jessica Raine. It’s unclear if Wilkinson had completed voice work on Wes Anderson’s latest film “Asteroid City” – the director has featured Wilkinson in minor roles in the past. Wilkinson was also attached to an adaptation of “Copenhagen”, though that project is still in development.
While Wilkinson’s sudden passing comes as a shock to movie lovers, his incredible body of work across five decades will no doubt live on for years to come. With unforgettable performances across independent films and Hollywood blockbusters alike, Wilkinson established himself as one of the UK’s most talented and compelling character actors. While Wilkinson may be gone, his indelible talent will continue inspiring actors and film fans alike.
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