From ‘Tom Jones’ to ‘Skyfall’: star Albert Finney dies at 82
By GREGORY KATZ
Friday, February 8
LONDON (AP) — 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 Friday that he “passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side.” He died Thursday from a chest infection at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, a cancer treatment center.
Finney burst to international fame in 1963 in the title role of “Tom Jones,” playing a lusty, humorous rogue who captivated audience with his charming, devil-may-care antics.
He excelled in many other roles, including “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”, a 1960 drama that was part of the “angry young man” film trend.
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 big-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. There was no “Albert Finney”-type character that he returned to again and again.
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.
Although Finney rarely discussed his personal life, he said in 2012 that he had been treated for kidney cancer for five years.
He also explained why he had not attended the Academy Awards in Los Angeles even when he was nominated for the film world’s top prize.
“It seems silly to go over there and beg for an award,” he said.
The son of a bookmaker, Finney was born May 9, 1936, and grew up in northern England on the outskirts of Manchester. He took to the stage at an early age, doing a number of school plays and — despite his lack of connections and his working-class roots — earning a place at London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
He credited the headmaster of his local school, Eric Simms, for recommending that he attend the renowned drama school.
“He’s the reason I am an actor,” Finney said in 2012.
Finney made his first professional turn at 19 and appeared in several TV movies.
Soon, some critics were hailing him as “the next Laurence Olivier” — a commanding presence who would light up the British stage. In London, Finney excelled both in Shakespeare’s plays and in more contemporary offerings.
Still, the young man seemed determined not to pursue conventional Hollywood stardom. After an extensive screen test, he turned down the chance to play the title role in director David Lean’s epic “Lawrence of Arabia,” clearing the way for fellow RADA graduate Peter O’Toole to take what became a career-defining role.
But stardom came to Finney anyway in “Tom Jones”.
That was the role that introduced Finney to American audiences, and few would forget the sensual, blue-eyed leading man who helped the film win a Best Picture Oscar. Finney also earned his first Best Actor nomination for his efforts and the smash hit turned him into a Hollywood leading man.
Finney had the good fortune to receive a healthy percentage of the profits from the surprise hit, giving him financial security while he was still in his 20s.
“This is a man from very humble origins who became rich when he was very young,” said Quentin Falk, author of an unauthorized biography of Finney. “It brought him a lot of side benefits. He’s a man who likes to live as well as to act. He enjoys his fine wine and cigars. He’s his own man. I find that rather admirable.”
The actor maintained a healthy skepticism about the British establishment and turned down a knighthood when it was offered, declining to become Sir Albert.
“Maybe people in America think being a ‘Sir’ is a big deal,” he said. “But I think we should all be misters together. I think the ‘Sir’ thing slightly perpetuates one of our diseases in England, which is snobbery.”
He told The Associated Press in 2000 that he would rather be a “mister” than a “Sir.”
Instead of cashing in by taking lucrative film roles after “Tom Jones,” Finney took a long sabbatical, traveling slowly through the United States, Mexico and the Pacific islands, then returned to the London stage to act in Shakespeare productions and other plays. He won wide acclaim before returning to film in 1967 to co-star with Audrey Hepburn in “Two for the Road.”
This was to be a familiar pattern, with Finney alternating between film work and stage productions in London and New York.
Finney tackled Charles Dickens in “Scrooge” in 1970, then played Agatha Christie’s sophisticated sleuth Hercule Poirot in “Murder on the Orient Express” — earning his second Best Actor nomination— and even played a werewolf hunter in the cult film “Wolfen” in 1981.
In 1983, he was reunited with his peer from the “angry young man” movement, Tom Courtenay, in “The Dresser,” a film that garnered both Academy Award nominations.
Finney was nominated again for his role as a self-destructive alcoholic in director John Huston’s 1984 film “Under the Volcano.”
Even during this extraordinary run of great roles, Finney’s life was not chronicled in People or other magazines, although the British press was fascinated with his marriage to the sultry French film star Anouk Aimee.
He played in a series of smaller, independent films for a number of years before returning to prominence in 2000 as a southern lawyer in the film “Erin Brockovich,” which starred Julia Roberts. The film helped introduce Finney to a new generation of moviegoers, and the chemistry between the aging lawyer and his young, aggressive assistant earned him yet another Oscar nomination, this time for Best Supporting Actor.
His work also helped propel Roberts to her first Best Actress Oscar. Still, Finney declined to attend the Academy Awards ceremony — possibly damaging his chances at future wins by snubbing Hollywood’s elite.
Finney also tried his hand at directing and producing and played a vital role in sustaining British theater.
The Old Vic theater said 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.”
Finney is survived by his third wife, Pene Delmage, son Simon and two grandchildren. Funeral arrangements weren’t immediately known.
5 ways to develop children’s talents
February 11, 2019
Author: Kenneth A. Kiewra, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Disclosure statement: Kenneth A. Kiewra does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Nebraska-Lincoln provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Some people think talent is born. The often-told story of Mozart playing piano at 3 and composing at 5 reinforces such beliefs.
But here’s the rest of that story: Mozart’s father was a successful musician, composer and instructor. He was devoted to teaching Mozart and helping him practice hard and achieve perfection.
Despite all this, Mozart did not produce his first masterwork until his early 20s – after about 15 years of arduous practice and top-notch instruction.
Talent, I argue, is not born, it’s made – and parents can make a big difference.
Conditions for success
Although some might believe that talent is rare, psychologist Benjamin Bloom said otherwise after he investigated top performers in six talent domains: “What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn if provided with the appropriate conditions of learning.”
Those appropriate conditions include five things: an early start, expert instruction, deliberate practice, a center of excellence, and singleness of purpose.
Children can’t ignite and stoke these talent factors on their own. Instead, as I argue in my 2019 book, “Nurturing Children’s Talents: A Guide for Parents,” children need a talent manager, most often a parent, to nurture talent growth. I make this case as an educational psychologist who specializes in learning and talent development.
Let’s take a closer look at these talent factors and parents’ influence.
1. Early start
The seeds of talent are usually planted early and in the home. One study revealed that 22 of 24 talented performers – from chess players to figure skaters – were introduced to their talent domains by parents, usually between ages 2 and 5.
Some of those parents were elite performers or coaches themselves. One was national championship volleyball coach John Cook, who raised All-American volleyball star Lauren Cook.
“I think my daughter had an advantage because of my job,” coach Cook said. “She grew up around volleyball. When she was a little kid, we set up a mini court in the basement and would play volleyball on our knees.”
Some parents were not linked to the child’s eventual talent area but provided a nurturing early environment that sparked a talent interest. Such was the case for Adora Svitak, an accomplished child writer and presenter.
Adora published two books by age 11 and made hundreds of international presentations, including a TED Talk viewed by millions. Adora’s parents, John and Joyce, were not writers or presenters, but they set the stage for Adora’s accomplishments. As her mother describes, they read “interesting and fascinating” books to her for more than an hour each night. “Reading really helped shape Adora’s love for learning and reading,” she said.
In addition, they encouraged Adora’s early writing, offered guidance, helped her publish her books and arranged speaking engagements. Joyce eventually quit her job to manage Adora’s career. She said, “It is a full-time job, and it can be hard. But, I don’t just manage somebody; I manage my daughter.”
2. Expert instruction
Parents go to great lengths to provide or arrange expert instruction. Chess grandmaster Kayden Troff learned how to play chess at age 3 while observing his father, Dan, and older siblings play.
With few chess resources near their Utah home, Dan assumed chess-coaching duties. To do so, Dan studied chess 10 to 15 hours a week during lunch breaks and after hours.
He read books, watched videos, and studied grandmaster games that allowed him to create a book with specialized lessons to instruct Kayden during nightly training sessions. Eventually, when Dan could no longer keep pace with Kayden’s growth, he arranged for Kayden to take lessons from grandmasters via the internet.
To pay for lessons costing US $300 a month, Dan, a banker, and his wife worked extra jobs as custodians and spent 400 hours organizing an annual chess camp.
3. Deliberate practice
Practice among the talented is never casual, it’s deliberate: goal-directed and beyond one’s comfort zone.
State high school swim champion Caroline Thiel described her taxing practice routine this way:
“Some days in practice you’re just so exhausted. You’re sore and your entire body aches, and it’s hard to find motivation. Your brain shuts down but your body keeps going through the muscle aches, heavy breathing and throwing up. People don’t realize how hard swimmers practice; they think we just jump in the pool and swim a few laps.”
4. Center of excellence
When I asked Jayde Atkins, a national high school rodeo champion, why she is so talented, she said, “Look at all I have, I should be good.” Jayde was raised on a horse ranch in central Nebraska and began riding at age 2.
Her parents, Sonya and J.B., are riders and professional horse trainers who taught her the ropes and practiced with her for hours each day. The Atkins had well-bred horses and a big trailer to transport them to nearby towns for rodeo competitions. The family ranch was a self-made center of rodeo excellence.
Most talented performers do not a have a center of excellence outside their back door. In those cases, they may travel to get to one. Consider three tennis players from Lincoln, Nebraska, my hometown. With their parents’ blessing and support, Jon and Joel Reckewey left home as teenagers and moved three hours away to Kansas where they trained at the prestigious Mike Wolf Tennis Academy.
Wimbledon and U.S. Open doubles champion Jack Sock traveled weekly to that same tennis academy as a boy before his entire family eventually relocated to Kansas. With parents’ support, budding stars often gravitate to centers of excellence, where top coaches and rising stars flock.
5. Singleness of purpose
Talented people display a singleness of purpose.
One chess parent I interviewed told me, “The extraordinary time we put toward this one activity takes him out of a lot of fun and games.” Another parent said, “He’s not interested in school; he’s interested in chess. He just lives and breathes chess.” That same parent said, “We once took chess away (because of low school performance) and he was miserable. It was like yanking out the soul.”
When I asked chess parents why their children dedicate themselves to chess the way they do, they were unanimous about how much joy and satisfaction their children got from pursuing chess.
Parents support this singleness of purpose. However, on occasion, they may find themselves supporting more than one passion. For instance, McKenzie Steiner is an all-state softball player and rising country music star. Her father, Scott, was McKenzie’s longtime softball coach, logging thousands of hours a year on the diamond and practicing pitching in the backyard, and also serving as her country band assembler, promoter and manager.
Although stories of pushy parents abound, the parents I spoke with recognize that children must drive the talent train with passion and hard work and that parents can only help keep the train on track. They helped because they saw a need that only they could meet. They would no sooner ignore a talent need than a medical need. And, of course, they help because they love their children and want them to be fulfilled.
‘The Lego Movie 2’ opens No. 1 but everything is not awesome
By JAKE COYLE
AP Film Writer
Monday, February 11
NEW YORK (AP) — “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” was easily the top ticket-seller in theaters over the weekend, but the film’s $35 million opening failed to stack up to its expected haul, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The animated sequel had been forecast to draw around $50 million. Instead, it debuted with half the $69 million the 2014 original did, despite good reviews and an A-minus CinemaScore.
With about a $100 million budget, Warner Bros.’ “The Lego Movie 2” had been pegged as a dependable, star-studded franchise release sure to kick-start a moribund box office. But after record ticket sales last year, Hollywood’s 2019 has gotten off to such a bad beginning that the movie’s tagline of “Everything is not awesome” is looking more like accurate industry analysis.
“The expectations were certainly much higher for ‘The Lego Movie 2’ considering the success of the first installment,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. “We were all hoping that this would be the weekend that got the momentum of the box office going in the right direction. We’re still waiting.”
Every weekend this year has been down from the same weekend a year ago. That’s a streak sure to continue. Next weekend, the new releases include “Happy Death Day 2U” and “Alita: Battle Angel.” What opened the same weekend last year? “Black Panther.”
“Momentum is everything at the box office,” Dergarabedian said. “And we’ve sort of lost that.”
Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell and others reprise their voice roles in “The Lego Movie 2,” while Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph join the cast. Mike Mitchell directs the movie written by original writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
Oversaturation could be to blame. Since the 2014 original, which grossed $469 million worldwide, Warner Bros. released two spinoffs: “The Lego Batman Movie” in 2017 and “The Lego Ninjago Movie” later the same year.
Distribution executives for Warner Bros. declined to comment on the weekend’s results.
Until now, 2019’s sluggish box office was partly blamed on lack of quality releases, with only a handful of highly promoted films from major studios. This weekend saw a relatively robust slate of releases, including Taraji P. Henson’s “What Men Want” and the Liam Neeson thriller “Cold Pursuit.” Both did solid if not spectacular business.
Paramount’s “What Men Want,” a loose remake of the 2000 Mel Gibson comedy, debuted with $19 million. Henson plays a sports agent with the ability to hear men’s thoughts in Adam Shankman’s film, a kind of gender flip from the original. The film got poor reviews (47 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), but audiences gave it an A-minus CinemaScore.
Lionsgate’s “Cold Pursuit” debuted with $10.8 million, a result in line with expectations despite the controversy that surrounded its star in the week leading up to release. Neeson drew heavy criticism after he acknowledged in an interview published last Monday that he wanted to kill a random black person when a close friend told him she had been raped by a black man.
Neeson later appeared on “Good Morning America” to say he’s not a racist. Organizers for the New York premiere of “Cold Pursuit” canceled the film’s red carpet.
Orion Pictures’ horror thriller “The Prodigy” also debuted, with $6 million.
China’s first big-budget space-movie spectacle “The Wandering Earth” bowed in China over the Chinese New Year holiday weekend with a staggering $172.7 million Friday to Sunday, and nearly $300 million since opening Tuesday.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” $35 million ($18.1 million international).
2. “What Men Want,” $19 million.
3. “Cold Pursuit,” $10.8 million ($2.8 million international).
4. “The Upside,” $7.2 million.
5. “Glass,” $6.4 million ($6.6 million international).
6. “The Prodigy,” $6 million ($1.1 million international).
7. “Green Book,” $3.6 million ($11.4 million international).
8. “Aquaman,” $3.3 million ($6 million international).
9. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” $3 million.
10. “Miss Bala,” $2.7 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Comscore.
1. “The Wander Earth,” $172.7 million.
2. “Crazy Alien,” $77.7 million.
3. “Pegasus,” $52.4 million.
4. “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden
World,” $38.2 million.
5. “Alita: Battle Angel,” $32 million.
6. “Boonie Bears: Blast Into The Past,” $27.8 million.
7. “Extreme Job,” $18.2 million.
8. “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” $18.1 million.
9. “The New King Of Comedy,” $14.9 million.
10. “Green Book,” $11.4 million.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP
‘The Favourite,’ ‘Roma’ win big at British Academy Awards
By JILL LAWLESS
Monday, February 11
LONDON (AP) — Tragicomic royal drama “The Favourite” and Mexican family memoir “Roma” split the honors with multiple wins each at Sunday’s British Academy Film Awards — victories that suggest a wind of change may be blowing through the movie industry.
“The Favourite” won seven trophies including best British film and best actress for OIivia Colman, who plays Britain’s 18th century Queen Anne in the female-centric drama.
Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” which centers on the nanny to a middle-class Mexico City family, took prizes for best picture, director, cinematography and foreign-language film.
Winners relished the symbolism of their victories.
“Thank you for celebrating our female-dominated movie about women in power,” said “The Favourite” writer Deborah Davis, who won the original screenplay award alongside co-writer Tony McNamara.
Cuaron thanked the film’s backer, Netflix, for having the courage to support “a black and white film about a domestic worker” that is not in English.
He said the extent to which the film has been embraced “in an age where fear and anger are proposed to divide us means the world to me.”
Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” snapped up the outstanding British film and screenplay awards as well as prizes for its opulent production design, its extravagant costumes, larger-than-life hair and makeup and the performances of Colman and supporting actress Rachel Weisz.
“This is for all three of us,” Colman said, speaking of Weisz and the film’s other star, Emma Stone. “It’s got my name on it but we can scratch on some other ones.”
The best-actor trophy went to Rami Malek for his electric turn as Queen front man Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Mahershala Ali was named best supporting actor as a concert pianist touring the 1960s Deep South in “Green Book.”
Other winners included Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” for best adapted screenplay and the Bradley Cooper-directed “A Star is Born” for music.
The awards, known as BAFTAs, will be scoured for clues on who might triumph at Hollywood’s Academy Awards on Feb. 24. “Roma” and “The Favourite” each have 10 Oscar nominations.
The main difference with the Oscars is that at the British awards, real royalty mixes with the Hollywood variety.
Prince William, and his wife, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge — wearing a white, off-the-shoulder Alexander McQueen dress — joined Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Viola Davis, Timothee Chalamet and other film stars for the black-tie ceremony at Royal Albert Hall.
“Absolutely Fabulous” star Joanna Lumley was the gently risque host.
William, who is president of the British film academy, presented its top honor, a BAFTA Fellowship, to film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, longtime collaborator of Martin Scorsese.
British academy voters all but ignored superhero blockbuster “Black Panther,” which is up for best picture at the Oscars and took top prize at the SAG awards last month. It had a single BAFTA nomination, for visual effects, which it won. One of its stars, Letitia Wright, was named Rising Star, the only category decided through a public vote. The London-raised actress spoke of her own past struggles with depression and urged others not to give up.
The red carpet glamour unfolded against a backdrop of soul-searching and scandal about abuses in the entertainment industry.
Last week, the British academy suspended director Bryan Singer’s nomination as part of the team behind “Bohemian Rhapsody” after four men accused him of sexually assaulting them when they were minors.
BAFTA said the alleged abuse was “completely unacceptable” and incompatible with its values. Singer, who was fired while “Bohemian Rhapsody” was in mid-production in 2017, denies the allegations. The film itself is still nominated.
At last year’s BAFTAs ceremony, many women wore black as a symbol of opposition to harassment, abuse and inequality in the wake of allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
White dresses and colorful frocks were prominent on many stars this year, along with a sense of hope that things are, finally, changing.
A British wing of the “Times’s Up” campaign founded last year is vowing to keep the campaign going and to double the number of women in film, on and off screen.
The number of female nominees was up this year, but there was criticism of the academy’s failure to nominate any female filmmakers in the best-director category. Only one woman has ever won a BAFTA directing prize, Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” in 2010.
BAFTA chairwoman Pippa Harris said only 10 percent of films entered for this year’s awards were directed by women.
“It needs to be 50 percent,” said Harris, who called the gender imbalance an industry-wide problem.
“There has been a traditional problem with getting females to be noticed in terms of their TV work and then get picked up to make feature films,” she said. “Men seem to find that transition much easier.”
Jill Lawless on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless