Actor Tom Courtenay has paid a heartbreaking tribute to his friend Albert Finney, who has died aged 82, in which he describes their final meeting – when both knew it would be the last time they ever saw one another.
Finney, who played Ebenezer Scrooge, Sir Winston Churchill and ‘Daddy’ Warbucks in Annie in a long and extraordinary career, died after a short illness.
The actor, who beat kidney cancer in 2011, had spent the past month in Britain’s top cancer hospital – the Royal Marsden in London – before succumbing to a chest infection on Thursday.
Today, Tom Courtenay, 81, who starred alongside Finney in 1984 film The Dresser, spoke of their last meeting together – and how their friendship have been so strong, it was more aptly termed love.
Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay first met in the 1950s, when Courtenay approached Mr Finney to ask how he might get into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. But it was only during their time on The Dresser that they became great friends. They are pictured together here in 1997
Finney (left), with actors Edward Fox and Tom Courtenay at ‘The Dresser’ film premiere in London in 1984
Tom Finney, who died yesterday, pictured with his third wife Pene Delmage, who he married in 2006 and survives her husband with his only son Simon. Both were by his side when he passed away in London
Actor Albert Finney died at the age of 82 after an extraordinary career in theatre and film including as as Sir Winston Churchill (right)
British film and stage actor Albert Finney enjoying a glass of beer in his regular pub behind the Cambridge Theatre in London in 1961
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, he said: ‘ I saw him four weeks ago. I’d arranged to go to India and so went to the hospital to see him before I went.
‘While there I was told “this is it” because they’re not giving him any more treatments. So, I went up and saw him in his room to say goodbye. And he knew it was to say goodbye too.
‘It wasn’t easy. He couldn’t move very well but his voice was still powerful. He was tired but he was with it. I kissed him on the forehead, we didn’t know what to say. Not much to say really.
‘The last thing he said to me was ‘have a good time in India.’
The two had in fact first met in the 1950s, when Courtenay approached Mr Finney to ask how he might get into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. But it was only during their time on The Dresser that they became great friends.
Confirming Finney’s passing yesterday, a statement from a family spokesman said: ‘He passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side.’
He lived in the Hampshire seaside town of Emsworth and was married three times, to actresses Jane Wenham and Anouk Aimeé and finally to travel agent Pene Delmage in 2006, who has survived him with his son Simon, from his first marriage.
Actor David Morrissey was among the many stars who paid tribute to Finney on social media today and tweeted: ‘One of the true greats. A powerhouse of an actor’ while Russell Crowe, who starred with him in Ridley Scott’s ‘A Good Year, said: ‘Sad sad news. Loved our chats and your company Albert’.
Liza Minnelli and Albert Finney in an intimate moment during the film Charlie Bubbles, 1967
Albert Finney kisses Audrey Hepburn in the movie Two For The Road made in 1967
Albert Finney won plaudits for his portrayal of Dicken’s miser Ebenezer Scrooge in ‘Scrooge’ in 1970. Bafta remembered the actor today, who was honoured with a Bafta Fellowship in 2001 (pictured right)
Actors David Morrissey and Russell Crowe, who starred with him in ‘A Good Year’, paid tribute to Albert Finney
Tributes including many photos of Albert through the years – including David Walliams and the producers of James Bond, who posted an image of him playing Kincade in Skyfall
Finney, a bookmaker’s son born and educated in Salford, Greater Manchester, rose to worldwide stardom after his breakthrough hit Saturday Night And Sunday Morning in 1960 – but despite being nominated for Oscars five times in his career he never won.
He was known as British cinema’s original ‘angry young man’ and starred alongside Liza Minelli, Audrey Hepburn and Julia Roberts, but considered himself anti-establishment and twice turned down honours – a CBE in 1980 and a knighthood in 2000.
He had battled health problems in recent years but survived a kidney cancer scare in 2011 – but it is not known if the disease had returned.
Actor Rufus Sewell tweeted: ‘Very sad to hear about Albert Finney. I had the enormous privilege of working with him early on. Apart from being effortlessly great he was also a great all round example of how to behave’.
David Walliams posted a black and white photograph of Finney on Twitter, writing alongside it: ‘The beautiful Albert Finney’.
Bond producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said they were ‘heartbroken at the loss’ of Finney.
A tweet on the official James Bond account quoted them saying: ‘We are heartbroken at the loss of Albert Finney. It was a privilege to work with him and an honour to have had him as part of our Bond family.’
Another tweet of a photograph of Finney from Skyfall said: ‘We are very sad to hear Albert Finney has passed away at the age of 82. The five-time Oscar nominee played gameskeeper Kincade’
Miranda Hart tweeted: ‘Aaaah goodbye Daddy Warbucks. Thanks to Albert Finney (and Carol Burnett) in Annie my quest to play and sing for a life style began. What an actor he was. Thank you. #albertfinney #annie’.
The National Theatre tweeted: ‘We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Albert Finney. He was a huge part of the National Theatre acting company from its early days in Chichester and performed many roles over the years, including Hamlet which opened the Lyttelton Theatre in 1976’.
The Old Vic theatre tweeted: ‘We are very sad to hear of the loss of Albert Finney. His performances in plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov and other iconic playwrights throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s stand apart as some of the greatest in our 200-year history’.
Bafta also remembered the actor, who was honoured with a Bafta Fellowship in 2001.
They said: ‘We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Albert Finney. The recipient of the BAFTA Fellowship in 2001, Finney will be warmly remembered for his powerful performances in Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, Tom Jones, Big Fish and many more’.
Albert Finney was adored for his wide variety of roles that crossed generations but will always be remembered as one of the ‘angry young men’ in the working class film and theatre renaissance of the early 1960s.
He was part of a new wave of actors in the movement sparked in the mid-1950s by working class and middle class novelists and playwrights, starring in Saturday Night And Sunday Morning in 1960, one of the first gritty kitchen-sink dramas.
A five-time Oscar nominee who could seemingly play any character offered to him, Finney was also known for roles in films including Tom Jones, Murder On The Orient Express, Annie, Erin Brockovich, Skyfall, two of the Bourne films and Big Fish.
In one of his lesser TV roles in The Gathering Storm, he won critical acclaim for his portrayal of Winston Churchill.
Albert Finney became a pin-up as Arthur Seaton and Welsh actress Rachel Roberts, as Brenda, in ‘Saturday Night And Sunday Morning’, one of his breakthrough movies
Finney rose to fame after playing the original ‘angry young man’, Arthur Seaton, in the film production of Alan Sillitoe’s classic novel, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, about a factory worker coming of age in Nottingham
‘Kitchen sink drama’ Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, released in 1960, broke new ground as part of what was dubbed a ‘British New Wave’ of filmmaking
The actor as Hercule Poirot in a scene from Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ in 1974
Finney was a campaigner – (left to right) Meg Wynn Owen, Sheila Hancock, Albert Finney, Robert Morley, Kenneth Williams and Eileen Atkins outside the South African Embassy in London as part of an anti-apartheid protest
Born on May 9 1936 in a working class area of Salford, Finney knew from an early age that he wanted to act but at the time there were few opportunities for someone from his background.
The star, pictured in character for ‘Should I work for the poor?’ in 1973 refused a knighthood
At 17, he was accepted by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and later became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
After graduating in 1955, he made his professional stage debut in Julius Caesar in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he also under-studied Laurence Olivier.
Finney made his movie debut with a small part alongside Olivier in The Entertainer in 1960, directed by Tony Richardson.
Richardson then offered Finney the lead in Saturday Night And Sunday Morning – part of the kitchen-sink cultural movement of men who were disillusioned by modern society – and period romp Tom Jones.
The latter made him a major star and gave him the first of his five Oscar nominations.
He was awarded a Bafta for Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, hailed as the most promising newcomer of the year.
Finney turned down the title role in Lawrence Of Arabia but gained plaudits in a string of acclaimed movies, including Murder On The Orient Express – in which he played Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot – The Duellists, Shoot The Moon and The Dresser.
As well as acting, Finney proved himself as a singer, starring in the musicals Scrooge in 1970, in which he played Ebenezer Scrooge, and in Annie in 1982, playing the strict but kind-hearted billionaire Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks.
In later years, Finney appeared in two of the Bourne films – The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy – and his final film role was in 2012 James Bond movie Skyfall.
On the small screen, Finney’s TV works includes Karaoke, Cold Lazarus, The Green Man and My Uncle Silas.
But biographical TV film The Gathering Storm in 2002 was his finest moment, with his portrayal of Churchill seeing him win a Bafta and an Emmy Award.
Albert Finney shows us his hair after been shaved for his role as ‘Daddy’ Oliver Warbucks in the movie version of ‘Annie’, right with child star Aileen Quinn
Saffron Burrows and Albert Finney appearing in Dennis Potter’s ‘Karaoke’ in 1995
Finney’s career went from strength to strength, starring alongside Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich in 2000
People in pretty Emsworth, which sits on the Hampshire and West Sussex border, said they regularly saw the actor out and about in the coastal town and drinking in its pubs.
Owner of Driftwood Cafe, Clare Wright, said Finney will be missed in the fishing town.
She said: ‘What a terribly sad loss, he was such a lovely chap and I’m sure Emsworth will miss him.
‘I remember he had this big, booming voice when he came into the cafe – it was really quite something.
‘He was very charismatic, like you might expect for an actor. He was always a pleasure to be around and it’s hard to say a bad word about him.
‘Everyone was very impressed when you told them he was an actor.
‘My sympathy to his family.’
She added that she last saw Finney around six months ago and said he looked frail.
The 82-year-old was a regular drinker in the town’s Blue Bell pub, which sits near the quay.
Staff at the Blue Bell today said he will be missed while drinker Jesse Grant paid tribute to Finney, who he said was ‘one of the boys’.
Mr Grant, from Emsworth, said: ‘Albert was an extremely well-liked man with the locals here.
‘We are all working-class builders in this pub and he was one of the boys.’
Finney was also a regular at fine-dining restaurant 36 On The Quay. Staff today said they ‘hadn’t seen him for a while’.
Another Emsworth drinker, Lee Smith, paid tribute to the actor who he met and said was a ‘top bloke’.
Mr Smith said: ‘I really liked the guy, he was a top bloke.
‘I met him quite a bit and as a famous actor he didn’t look down to me at all.
‘Some times it’s the case that when people are famous they think they are above you, but not with him.
‘He was very polite and he didn’t mind chatting to me for 15 or 20 minutes even though I’m just an ordinary bloke – he wasn’t like that.’
Albert Finney hugs Jessica Lange in the bath starring in Tim Burton’s Big Fish in 2003
He starred alongside Freddie Highmore and Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott’s ‘A Good Year’ in 2006
Finney was loved for his hard-hitting roles through his career, including in 2007 film: ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead’
But he was also well-known for mixing up his styles, including in ITV’s TV series My Uncle Silas
Finney was also recognised for his work on the stage and was nominated for two Tony Awards for his work on Broadway.
He was nominated for best actor in a play for Luther in 1964, and for the same accolade for 1968 play A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg.
Nominated for five Oscars during his career, including best actor for Tom Jones and best supporting actor for Erin Brockovich, Finney shunned attending the Academy Awards.
He received the Bafta Fellowship in 2001 but reportedly turned turn down a CBE in 1980 and a knighthood in 2000.
He was once quoted as saying: ‘My job is acting, and that is why I hate interviews or lectures, explaining myself to an audience.’
Finney had one son, Simon, from his marriage to Jane Wenham. He died at the age of 82 following a short illness.
Several of the acting world’s leading lights paid tribute to Finney after news of his death broke on Friday morning.
American director and screenwriter Ava DuVernay tweeted: ‘I remember seeing SHOOT THE MOON with my Aunt Denise when I was about 10 years old. And then seeing ANNIE a few weeks later with my Mom. Then putting together that the father in both was the same man and thinking – wow, that’s what acting means. Thank you, Albert Finney.’
Bond actor Daniel Craig said, in a statement to Press Association: ‘I’m deeply saddened by the news of Albert Finney’s passing. The world has lost a giant. Wherever Albert is now, I hope there are horses and good company.’
Film director Suri Krishnamma, who made the hit movie ‘A Man of No Importance ‘with the actor as the lead told Mail Online:’ Britain has lost an absolute great.
‘He was such a fantastic actor and a wonderful human being.
‘When we wrapped on the film he paid for and took the entire cast and crew to the races as a thank you. That was the type of generous man he was.
‘He’ll be remembered not only for his wonderful acting but for being a giving and beautifully humane gentleman.
‘It was my first film back in 1994 but respected my direction and it was difficult for me to hide how much in awe of him I was. ‘