58 Facts About Alec Guinness


Alec Guinness portrayed Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas's original Star Wars trilogy; for the original 1977 film, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 50th Academy Awards.

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Alec Guinness continued to play Shakespearean roles throughout his career.

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Alec Guinness was one of the greatest British actors who, along with Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, made the transition from theatre to films after the Second World War.

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Alec Guinness served in the Royal Naval Reserve during the war and commanded a landing craft during the invasion of Sicily and Elba.

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Alec Guinness won an Academy Award, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and a Tony Award.

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Alec Guinness received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, the Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement in 1980 and the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award in 1989.

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Alec Guinness appeared in nine films that featured in the BFI's 100 greatest British films of the 20th century, which included five of Lean's films.

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Alec Guinness's mother's maiden name was Agnes Cuff, born on 8 December 1890 to Edward Cuff and Mary Ann Benfield.

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Alec Guinness himself believed that his father was a Scottish banker, Andrew Geddes, who paid for Alec Guinness's boarding-school education at Pembroke Lodge, in Southborne, and Roborough, in Eastbourne.

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Alec Guinness's first job in the theatre was on his 20th birthday, while he was a student at the Fay Compton Studio of Dramatic Art, in the play Libel, which opened at the old King's Theatre, Hammersmith, and then transferred to the West End's Playhouse, where his status was raised from a walk-on to understudying two lines, and his salary increased to £1 a week.

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Alec Guinness appeared at the New Theatre in 1936 at the age of 22, playing the role of Osric in John Gielgud's successful production of Hamlet.

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Also in 1936, Alec Guinness signed on with the Old Vic, where he was cast in a series of classic roles.

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At the Old Vic, Alec Guinness worked with many actors and actresses who would become his friends and frequent co-stars in the future, including Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Peggy Ashcroft, Anthony Quayle, and Jack Hawkins.

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Alec Guinness starred in a 1938 production of Hamlet which won him acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Alec Guinness served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in the Second World War, initially as a seaman in 1941, before receiving a commission as a temporary Sub-lieutenant on 30 April 1942 and a promotion to Temporary Lieutenant the following year.

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Alec Guinness then commanded a Landing Craft Infantry at the Allied invasion of Sicily, and later ferried supplies and agents to the Yugoslav partisans in the eastern Mediterranean theatre.

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Alec Guinness returned to the Old Vic in 1946 and stayed until 1948, playing Abel Drugger in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, the Fool in King Lear opposite Laurence Olivier in the title role, DeGuiche in Cyrano de Bergerac opposite Ralph Richardson in the title role, and finally starring in an Old Vic production as Shakespeare's Richard II.

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Alec Guinness played the Uninvited Guest in the Broadway production of T S Eliot's The Cocktail Party.

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Alec Guinness played Hamlet under his own direction at the New Theatre in the West End in 1951.

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Alec Guinness won a Tony Award for his Broadway performance as Welsh poet Dylan Thomas in Dylan.

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Alec Guinness next played the title role in Macbeth opposite Simone Signoret at the Royal Court Theatre in 1966.

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Alec Guinness made his final stage performance at the Comedy Theatre in the West End on 30 May 1989, in the play A Walk in the Woods.

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Alec Guinness made his speaking debut in film in the drama Great Expectations.

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Alec Guinness was idolised by Peter Sellers—who himself would become famous for inhabiting a variety of characters in a film—with Sellers's first major film role starring alongside his idol in The Ladykillers.

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Alec Guinness played the role of Jamessir Bensonmum, the blind butler, in the 1976 Neil Simon film Murder by Death.

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Alec Guinness won particular acclaim for his work with director David Lean, which today is his most critically acclaimed work.

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Alec Guinness was offered a role in Lean's Ryan's Daughter but declined.

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At that time, Alec Guinness "mistrusted" Lean and considered the formerly close relationship to be strained—although he recalled, at Lean's funeral, that the famed director had been "charming and affable".

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Alec Guinness appeared in five Lean films that were ranked in the British Film Institute's 50 greatest British films of the 20th century: 3rd, 5th (Great Expectations), 11th (The Bridge on the River Kwai), 27th (Doctor Zhivago) and 46th (Oliver Twist).

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In letters to his friends, Alec Guinness described the film as "fairy-tale rubbish" but the film's sense of moral good – and the studio's doubling of his initial salary offer – appealed to him and he agreed to take the part of Kenobi on the condition that he would not have to do any publicity to promote the film.

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Alec Guinness said in a 1999 interview that it was actually his idea to kill off Obi-Wan, persuading Lucas that it would make him a stronger character and that Lucas agreed to the idea.

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Alec Guinness stated in the interview, "What I didn't tell Lucas was that I just couldn't go on speaking those bloody awful, banal lines.

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Lucas credited him with inspiring the cast and crew to work harder, saying that Alec Guinness contributed significantly to achieving completion of the filming.

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Alec Guinness was quoted as saying that the royalties he obtained from working on the films gave him "no complaints; let me leave it by saying I can live for the rest of my life in the reasonably modest way I am now used to, that I have no debts and I can afford to refuse work that doesn't appeal to me.

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Alec Guinness appeared in the film's sequels The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (1983), as a force ghost apparition to the trilogy's main character Luke Skywalker.

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In 2003, Obi-Wan Kenobi as portrayed by Alec Guinness was selected as the 37th-greatest hero in cinema history by the American Film Institute.

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Digitally altered archival audio of Alec Guinness's voice was used in the films Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019).

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Alec Guinness was reluctant to appear on television, but accepted the part of George Smiley in the serialisation of John le Carre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy after meeting the author.

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Alec Guinness reprised the role in Smiley's People, and twice won the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the character.

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Alec Guinness received another nomination for best actor for his role in Monsignor Quixote in 1987.

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Alec Guinness won the Academy Award for Best Actor and the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in 1957 for his role in The Bridge on the River Kwai after having been unsuccessfully nominated for an Oscar in 1952 for his performance in The Lavender Hill Mob.

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Alec Guinness was nominated in 1958 for the Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, for his screenplay adapted from Joyce Cary's novel The Horse's Mouth.

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Alec Guinness was nominated for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars in 1977.

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Alec Guinness received an Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement in 1980.

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Alec Guinness received the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award for lifetime achievement in 1989.

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Alec Guinness received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1559 Vine Street on 8 February 1960.

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Alec Guinness was appointed a CBE in the 1955 Birthday Honours, was knighted by Elizabeth II in the 1959 New Year Honours and was made a Companion of Honour in the 1994 Birthday Honours for services to drama.

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In 2014, Alec Guinness was among the ten people commemorated on a UK postage stamp issued by the Royal Mail in their "Remarkable Lives" issue.

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Alec Guinness married the artist, playwright, and actress Merula Silvia Salaman in 1938; in 1940, they had a son, Matthew Alec Guinness, who later became an actor.

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Alec Guinness is said to have avoided publicity by giving his name to police and court as "Herbert Pocket", the name of the character he played in Great Expectations.

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In 1954, while he was filming Father Brown in Burgundy, Alec Guinness, who was in costume as a Catholic priest, was mistaken for a real priest by a local child.

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Alec Guinness was far from fluent in French, and the child apparently did not notice that Alec Guinness did not understand him but took his hand and chattered while the two strolled; the child then waved and trotted off.

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Every morning, Alec Guinness recited a verse from Psalm 143, "Cause me to hear your loving kindness in the morning".

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Alec Guinness died on the night of 5 August 2000 at King Edward VII's Hospital in Midhurst, West Sussex.

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Alec Guinness had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2000, and with liver cancer two days before he died; his wife, who died on 18 October 2000, had liver cancer.

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In 2013 the British Library acquired the personal archive of Alec Guinness consisting of over 900 letters, manuscripts for plays, and 100 volumes of diaries from the late 1930s to his death.

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Alec Guinness wrote three volumes of a best-selling autobiography, beginning with Blessings in Disguise in 1985, followed by My Name Escapes Me in 1996, and A Positively Final Appearance in 1999.

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Shortly after his death, Lady Alec Guinness asked the couple's close friend and fellow Catholic, novelist Piers Paul Read, to write Alec Guinness's official biography.

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