Tom Wilkinson obituary: The Full Monty and Michael Clayton star dies aged 75

Tom Wilkinson, best known for his roles in hit films like The Full Monty, Batman Begins and Michael Clayton, has passed away at the age of 75.

The versatile Oscar-nominated British actor died suddenly at home, with the news confirmed by his family.

Born in Leeds in 1948, Wilkinson spent his early years living in Canada and Cornwall and later trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) before following the well-worn path to theatre and television work.

He made his acting debut in the mid-1970s as a boat cook in The Shadow Line (1976) and then appeared in episodes of Crime and Punishment (1979) and Panorama (1982).

However, he soon took centre stage as a journalist who investigates the disappearance of over thirty crew members of a fishing trawler in the Cold War-based drama series Spyship (1983).

Throughout the rest of the 1980s, Wilkinson made his presence felt on British television with roles in the likes of Strangers and Brother (1984), Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple: A Pocket Full of Rye (1985), Travelling Men (1985), Happy Families (1985), The Ruth Rendall Mysteries (1988) and the acclaimed political mini-series First Among Equals (1986).

Additionally, he also featured in a variety of films on both the small and big screen that included Sharma and Beyond (1984), Squaring the Circle (1984), Parker (1984), Wetherby (1985), Sylvia (1985), The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank (1988) and First and Last (1989).

In the 1990s, Wilkinson’s career continued to flourish with television appearances in the likes of Inspector Morse (1990), Lovejoy (1991), Prime Suspect (1991), Resnick: Lonely Hearts (1992), and Stay Lucky (1993) as well as film roles in Paper Mask (1990), In the Name of the Father (1993) and Priest (1994).

Wilkinson then received the first of six career BAFTA nominations for his performance as dishonest architect Seth Pecksniff in the small-screen adaptation of Charles Dickens’s novel Martin Chuzzlewit (1994).

Shortly after, he played the ill-fated Mr. Dashwood in the acclaimed romantic drama Sense and Sensibility (1995) before appearing in the thriller The Ghost and the Darkness (1996).

The following year would prove to be the most successful of Wilkinson’s career, as he appeared in a variety of different projects.

Having played the Marquess of Queensbury in Wilde (1997) and Hugh Stratton in Oscar and Lucinda (1997), he earned strong praise for his humorous role as Gerald Arthur Cooper, a snobby ex-factory foreman who reluctantly joined an all-male striptease act in the hit British comedy The Full Monty (1997).

Wilkinson’s performance earned him a (film) BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor, and he would later reprise the role of Gerald in the recent Disney+ spin-off series of the same name earlier this year.

On top of a great year in film, he also scored another BAFTA nod on television for his performance as Hugh Lloyd in the family drama Cold Enough for Snow (1997).

The following year, Wilkinson played the villainous Griffin in the action-comedy Rush Hour (1998) before landing another BAFTA nomination for his role as theatre owner Hugh Fennyman in the multi-Oscar-winning historical dramedy Shakespeare in Love (1998).

Having narrated the BBC adaptation of David Copperfield (1999), he then appeared in The Patriot (2000), Essex Boys (2000) and Black Knight (2001).

Shortly after, Wilkinson claimed the first of two Oscar nominations as well as another BAFTA mention for his performance as Matt Fowler, a seasoned doctor struggling with grief in the family drama In the Bedroom (2001).

The lucrative roles continued to come with Golden Globe and Emmy nods for his roles as Sir Robert Vansittart in the war mini-series The Gathering Storm (2002) and as Roy “Ruth” Applewood in the television film Normal (2003).

During that period, he also appeared in well-known films like The Importance of Being Earnest (2002), Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003), Stage Beauty (2004), A Good Woman (2004) and The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005).

After playing Dr. Mierzwiak in the acclaimed dark comedy Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Wilkinson then played notorious crime lord Carmine Falcone in the comic-book blockbuster Batman Begins (2005).

He then scored BAFTA and Oscar nominations for his terrific supporting turn as paranoid judge Arthur Edens in the lauded legal thriller Michael Clayton (2007).

A year later, he bagged an Emmy win for Best Supporting Actor in a Mini-Series/TV Film for his performance as former American president Benjamin Franklin in the historical mini-series John Adams (2008).

He would go on to receive a further two Emmy nods for his roles as real-life figures James Baker in Recount (2008) and Joseph Kennedy in The Kennedys (2011).

Wilkinson later made his presence felt in other major films including RocknRolla (2008), Valkryie (2008), Duplicity (2009), 44 Inch Chest (2009), The Ghost (2010), The Debt (2010), The Conspirator (2010), Burke and Hare (2010), The Green Hornet (2011), Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011), Belle (2013), Little Boy (2015), Snowden (2016), Denial (2016), The Happy Prince (2018) and SAS: Red Notice (2021).

Among his more popular film roles in recent years included Graham Dashwood in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012), Cole in The Lone Ranger (2014), the Author in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and Lyndon B. Johnson in Selma (2014), as well as a recurring appearance as the Earl of Brockenhurst in the historical series Belgravia (2020).

Wilkinson is survived by his wife Diana Hardcastle and their two daughters.

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