Saturday 16 February 2019

'He detested snobbery and class prejudice, and railed at pretension of any kind' - Gabriel Byrne pays tribute to the late Albert Finney

Albert Finney: From kitchen-sink dramas to spy blockbusters (Marc O’sullivan/REX/Shutterstock)
Albert Finney: From kitchen-sink dramas to spy blockbusters (Marc O’sullivan/REX/Shutterstock)
Albert Finney is known for his role in Annie (Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock)
Albert Finney has died aged 82 (Sean Dempsey/PA)
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Time magazine named Miller’s Crossing one of the 100 greatest movies of all time. In the Coen brothers’ 1990 gangster classic set during Prohibition Gabriel Byrne played loner anti-hero Tom Reagan, the right-hand of aging Irish mobster Leo O’Bannon played by Albert Finney. Their performance together cast a spell.

“The roles could have been written for Edward G. Robinson and early Humphrey Bogart  — not," Mr Byrne points out, "as a pastiche but as a kind of homage. In a playful moment during rehearsal one day, he broke up the company by delivering his lines in Bogie's voice and cadences,” wrote Helen Dudar in the New York Times in September, 1990.

Gabriel Byrne has honoured the great Albert Finney who died last Friday.

“I was so saddened to hear of Albert’s passing,” Gabriel told me.

“We got to know each other well during the four months we worked together on Miller’s Crossing  — going to and from work and at nighttime in the bars of Bourbon Street."

"And we kept in touch," added Gabriel.

"We were participants together in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in New Orleans where the film was shot. I said to him once sleep interfered with his hunger for life and he agreed.” 

“He was voluble. Fluent, articulate and  flamboyant. Passionate and compassionate. Extrovert and introvert. Some sadness hinted at but never articulated. Great fun to be out with, brilliant to work with.”

“Albert detested snobbery and class prejudice. Railed at pretension of any kind."

"He never lost the rebelliousness of Arthur Seaton, the character he played in his film debut [in 1960] Saturday Night And Sunday Morning. It’s the definitive English working class angry rebel without a cause.”

“I loved that he turned down all the gongs the British establishment tried to bestow on him. The OBE later the MBE. They left it at that because they knew he would never want to be called Sir and be turned down again."

"He was a great actor," said Gabriel, "who made it look effortless yet in every character he played we recognize his great  and complex humanity.”

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