British actor Albert Finney dies at 82

British actor Albert Finney managed to avoid the Hollywood limelight for more than five decades.
British actor Albert Finney managed to avoid the Hollywood limelight for more than five decades.

Albert Finney, one of the most respected and versatile actors of his generation and the star of films as diverse as Tom Jones and Skyfall, has died. He was 82.

From his early days as a strikingly handsome and magnetic screen presence to his closing acts as a brilliant character actor, Finney was a British treasure known for charismatic work on both stage and screen.

Finney's family said on Friday that he "passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side".

He died on Thursday from a chest infection at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, a cancer treatment centre.

Finney burst to international fame in 1963 in the title role of Tom Jones, playing a lusty, humorous rogue who captivated audiences with his charming, devil-may-care antics.

Finney was a rare star who managed to avoid the Hollywood limelight despite more than five decades of worldwide fame.

He was known for skipping awards ceremonies, even when he was nominated for an Oscar.

Tom Jones gained him the first of five Oscar nominations. Other nominations followed for Murder on the Orient Express, The Dresser, Under the Volcano and Erin Brockovich. Each time he fell short.

In later years he brought authority to bid-budget and high-grossing action movies, including the James Bond thriller Skyfall and two of the Bourne films.

He also won hearts as Daddy Warbucks in Annie.

He played an array of roles, including Winston Churchill, Pope John Paul II, a southern American lawyer, and an Irish gangster.

In one of his final roles, as the gruff Scotsman, Kincade, in Skyfall, he shared significant screen time with Daniel Craig as Bond and Judi Dench as M, turning the film's final scenes into a master class of character acting.

"The world has lost a giant," Craig said.

Finney is survived by his third wife, Pene Delmage, son Simon and two grandchildren.

Australian Associated Press