Sir Alec Guinness

 

 

In 1960, Guinness once again earned acclaim for his portrayal of another officer, in Tunes of Glory. Cast as hard-drinking, ill-mannered Scottish Lieutenant-Colonel Jock Sinclair, a role he would later name as his favorite, the actor gave a powerful performance opposite John Mills as the upper-crust British officer assigned to take over his duties. He subsequently became associated with David Lean's great epics of the 1960s, starring as Prince Feisal in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and as Zhivago's brother in Dr. Zhivago (1965); much later in his career, Guinness would also appear in Lean's A Passage to India (1984) as Professor Godbole, an Indian intellectual.

Although Guinness continued to work at a fairly prolific pace throughout the 1960s and 1970s, his popularity was on the wane until director George Lucas practically begged him to appear as Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (1977). The role earned the actor his third Academy Award nomination (his second came courtesy of his screenplay for Ronald Neame's 1958 satire The Horse's Mouth) and introduced him to a new generation of fans. Guinness reprised the role for The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983); although the role Obi Wan was perhaps the most famous of his career and earned him millions, he reportedly hated the character and encouraged Lucas to kill him off in the trilogy's first installment so as to limit his involvement in the subsequent films. It remains a highly popular role and one, that it must be said, Sir Alec played extremely well despite no love for it.

He received an honorary Academy Award in 1979. After this he played a role that gave him massive popular popular acclaim, that of George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which kept the nation glued to its television sets in 1979 as people tried to follow the intricacies of John le Carré's plotting. In 1988 he earned a slew of award nominations -- including his fourth Oscar nomination -- for his work in a six-hour adaptation of Dickens' Little Dorrit. In addition to acting, Guinness focused his attention on writing, producing two celebrated memoirs. An intensely private man, Guinness, after playing ‘the prisoner’ in 1954 became a devout Roman Catholic who commented once that he bared his soul to his confessor but no one else. He was then content to live in semi-retirement near Petersfield, guarding his privacy and safe in the knowledge that within the profession he would be remembered as a great actor and, always ready to help others, the most generous of men.

He died on August 5, 2000, at the age of 86, leaving behind his wife of 62 years, a son, and one of the acting world's most distinguished legacies.

Quotes:
'An actor is totally vulnerable. His total personality is exposed to critical judgment - his intellect, his bearing, his diction, his whole appearance. In short, his ego'

Autobiographies:
'Blessings in Disguise' 1985
'My Name Escapes Me' 1997
'A positively final appearance' 1998

Suggested films to see:
Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Star Wars (1977)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979)

 

 

 

 

    

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