@Photo by Laurie Sparham – © 2016 Bleecker Street
Tom Wilkinson, who’s known for starring in such films as The Full Monty, Michael Clayton and Shakespeare in Love, died today unexpectedly in his home. The two-time Oscar-nominated actor was 75. His cause of death was not immediately released.
The news was confirmed by Wilkinson’s publicist Nancy Seltzer. She has shared a statement on behalf of his family with CNN: “It is with great sadness that the family of Tom Wilkinson announce that he died suddenly at home on December 30. His wife and family were with him. The family asks for privacy at this time.”
The English-born actor had accumulated approximately 130 screen credits to his name since he began acting in the 1970s. He was nominated for his first Academy Award in 2002 for his leading role in the indie drama, In the Bedroom, alongside Sissy Spacek. His second Oscar nod was in the Best Supporting Actor category for the 2007 legal thriller, Michael Clayton.
Wilkinson also appeared many other high-profile movies over his career, including Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Grand Budapest Hotel. The actor, who won an Emmy and Golden Globe for playing Benjamin Franklin in the 2008 HBO miniseries John Adams, was known for his ability to appear in both period stories and contemporary dramas and thrillers.
Wilkinson’s career truly took off made in the 1990s when he starred in the Oscar-winning Sense and Sensibility opposite Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. He then went on to appear in the 1997 biographical romantic drama Wilde with Stephen Fry and Vanessa Redgrave.
The 2000s brought even more high-profile roles for Wilkinson. Besides In the Bedroom and Michael Clayton, the actor also appeared in 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He played a doctor who manipulates his patients’ realities in the 2004 sci-fi romantic drama, which also features Winslet and Jim Carrey. Wilkinson also starred as a high-ranking Nazi officer caught up in the plot to kill Hitler in the 2008 thriller, Valkyrie.
But one of the actor’s main breakout roles was in the 1997 British musical comedy, The Full Monty, for which he won a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He later admitted that he almost passed on playing the role of Gerald Cooper in the SAG Award-winning film, however.
“I was simultaneously offered the lead in a TV series and a possible part in a low-budget movie,” the performer told The Guardian in 2011. “I remember phoning a friend and he said, ‘Take the TV, take the TV.’ But I didn’t follow his advice, and the TV turned out to be crap.”
The Full Monty, which co-starred Robert Carlyle, ended up becoming a critical and commercial success. The film spawned a Broadway show and a recent Disney+ series revival, in which Wilkinson reprised his role in a minor appearance.
The actor also received acclaim for his appearances on television shows. He became known for playing well known historical and political figures.
Besides playing Franklin in John Adams, Wilkinson also earned an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of JFK’s father Joe in the 2011 miniseries The Kennedys. The actor also played President Lyndon B. Johnson in director Ava DuVernay’s 2014 Academy Award-winning historical drama, Selma.
Besides portraying politicians, the acclaimed character actor also garnered acclaim for playing villains. He portrayed mob boss Carmine Falcone in 2005’s Batman Begins, the first movie in director Christopher Nolan’s superhero trilogy. Wilkinson also played a criminal mastermind in the original Rush Hour.
Wilkinson was born in Leeds, England in 1948. He was first drawn to the theater when at age 18, he was asked to direct a play, according to the BBC.
“For the first time in my life, I started doing something I knew how to do,” the performer said. “I realized it wasn’t necessarily just these southern middle-class types that got to be actors; it could possibly be people like me. And once I knew, I never changed my mind.”
Wilkinson trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London before fully delving into theatre, movie and television work. In 1986, he was cast in his first major screen role in the miniseries First Among Equals, which is based on Jeffrey Archer’s 1984 best-selling novel of the same name.
Wilkinson starred in the political drama series with his wife, Diana Hardcastle. In real life, they went on to marry in 1988, and had two daughters, Alice and Molly, in 1989 and 1991, respectively. The spouses also played husband and wife in The Kennedys and in the 2014 action film Good People.
In the 2005 New Year Honours, the actor was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to drama.
Several of Wilkinson’s collaborators have paid tribute to his legacy since the news of his passing was released. In a statement shared via a representative to CNN today, the performer’s Michael Clayton co-star George Clooney said: “Tom made every project better. Made every actor better. He was the epitome of elegance and he will be dearly missed by all of us.”
In a tribute on X, formerly Twitter, U.S. filmmaker Scott Derrickson recalled working with Wilkinson The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The writer-director praised the actor for being “an amazing talent.” The filmmaker also recalled when the performer gave him a surprise kiss on the lips on the set of the 2005 supernatural horror/legal drama.
Wilkinson is survived by Hardcastle and their two daughters.