Renowned British actor Tom Wilkinson, celebrated for his impactful roles in iconic films like “The Full Monty,” “Shakespeare In Love,” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” has passed away at the age of 75.
Wilkinson’s talent was recognized with a Bafta win for his performance in the 1997 film “The Full Monty.” He later revisited the character of Gerald in a Disney+ series, 26 years after the original, showcasing his enduring impact.
Throughout his career, he accumulated six Bafta nominations and received two Oscar nominations for his remarkable performances in “Michael Clayton” and “In The Bedroom.”
His sudden passing occurred at his home, surrounded by his loving wife and family, as stated in an official announcement.
George Clooney, his co-star in the legal thriller “Michael Clayton,” hailed Wilkinson as a paragon of grace, saying, “Tom elevated every project. He elevated every actor. He embodied grace, and his absence will be deeply felt by us all.”
With over 130 credits in both film and TV, Wilkinson showcased his versatility, effortlessly transitioning from period dramas like “Sense and Sensibility” and “Belle” to portraying masterminds in movies such as “Rush Hour” alongside Jackie Chan in 1998, and Guy Ritchie’s “RocknRolla” in 2008.
His talent extended beyond the big screen, earning an Emmy for portraying Benjamin Franklin in the 2008 mini-series “John Adams” and an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Joe Kennedy in “The Kennedys.” He portrayed President Lyndon B Johnson in “Selma” (2014) and appeared in acclaimed films like “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”
His passing, confirmed on Saturday by his agent on behalf of his family, marks a poignant loss in the world of entertainment.
According to the Encyclopaedia of British Film, Wilkinson was deemed “a prominent character star with an extraordinary ability, among many others, to convey profound inner anguish.”
Robert Carlyle, his co-star in The Full Monty, hailed Wilkinson as “a colossal performer, a true giant among actors, one of the luminaries not just of his era, but of any era.”
In a tribute shared on social media (formerly known as Twitter), British actor Phil Davis described him as “powerfully nuanced, delicately profound, and immensely intelligent—one of the finest talents,” while singer and actor Will Young referred to him as “a pinnacle of British acting.”
US filmmaker Scott Derrickson paid homage to Wilkinson’s brilliance, recalling a moment when the actor surprised him with a kiss on the lips during the filming of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, labeling him “an incredible talent.”
Originally from Leeds, he later moved to Canada and eventually settled in Cornwall during his childhood. At the age of 18, he discovered his passion when given the opportunity to direct a play.
“It was the first time I felt like I was doing something I truly understood,” he reflected. “I realized that becoming an actor wasn’t limited to just certain backgrounds; it was a path for people like me. Once I realized that, my determination never wavered.”
After training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada), he embarked on the familiar journey into theater and television.
His breakthrough on the big screen came in 1986 with the miniseries “First Among Equals,” an adaptation of Jeffrey Archer’s acclaimed novel.
In this series, he shared the screen with Diana Hardcastle, whom he later married in 1988. Their on-screen chemistry extended beyond the screen as they portrayed a married couple in “The Kennedys” (2011) and the 2014 action film “Good People.” Together, they raised two daughters named Alice and Molly.
In 1994, when portraying Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit for the BBC, Wilkinson expressed, “I looked at it and felt I couldn’t have done it any better. It came out just as I intended. It even won a couple of awards, affirming to me that I can act without a doubt.”
Three years down the line, he found himself faced with a choice: taking the lead in a TV series or a potential role in a low-budget film. Reflecting on this moment, he recounted to The Guardian, “I sought advice from a friend who insisted, ‘Go for the TV role.’ But against the advice, I chose differently. Regrettably, the TV offer turned out to be lackluster.”
Contrarily, the low-budget film became a monumental success, becoming the highest-grossing British film at that time and significantly elevating his career on both sides of the Atlantic.
Wilkinson garnered immense critical acclaim for his role in Todd Field’s 2001 US domestic drama, “In the Bedroom,” portraying a grieving father. His performance earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
Reflecting on the film’s impact, he later remarked, “I hoped the film would achieve two things for me: prove I could carry a lead role in a movie and demonstrate my ability to portray an American lead. And it achieved both those aspirations.”
Continuing his success, he secured his second Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in Tony Gilroy’s 2007 legal thriller “Michael Clayton,” alongside George Clooney.
Among Wilkinson’s repertoire were notable films like “Batman Begins,” “The Patriot,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “The Gathering Storm,” “Black Knight,” “Valkyrie,” “The Lone Ranger,” and “Denial.”
Additionally, he lent his voice to the character of the fox in the TV adaptation of the beloved children’s book “The Gruffalo.”
His long-time agent, Lou Coulson, consistently hailed him as “one of the finest” in various interviews.
Off-camera, Wilkinson was recognized for his grounded nature and preference for a relatively private life. In an interview, he shared, “I enjoy the simplicity of going to Waitrose without drawing attention.”
In recognition of his contributions to drama, Wilkinson was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2005 New Year Honours.