Lives remembered: Tom Wilkinson 1948-2023

Lives remembered: Tom Wilkinson 1948-2023

And it was his role as down-on-his-luck Gerald Cooper in 1997 smash-hit The Full Monty that made him a household name. Former steel worker Gerald is one of six unemployed men who form a striptease act to make money.

While his dole queue dance to Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff had viewers in stitches, Wilkinson managed to imbue his character with a perfect balance of poignancy and humour. After the film’s success Hollywood came calling and although he eschewed fame, he became a prolific character actor.

He was nominated for the best actor Oscar for his role as a doctor trying to avenge his son’s death in 2001 drama In The Bedroom. In 2008 he was in the running for the best supporting actor Oscar after playing a lawyer opposite George Clooney in Michael Clayton.

Wilkinson also impressed in The Importance Of Being Earnest (2002), Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004), Batman Begins (2005), Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011). Director Peter Webber, who worked with him on 2003 period drama Girl With A Pearl Earring, said that the “whip smart” actor’s dedication on set inspired others to bring their A-game.

The star was born Geoffrey Wilkinson in Leeds. His father, a farm worker, moved the family to Canada for a new start. But they returned to the UK five years later and ran a pub in Cornwall. Wilkinson’s father died when he was 16, and he and his mother returned to Yorkshire.

He attended King James’ Grammar School in Knaresborough where the headteacher introduced him to theatre. He started acting while studying at the University of Kent and then auditioned successfully for Rada.

As Equity had another Geoffrey Wilkinson, the actor became known as Thomas, his middle name. He started his career on stage with Nottingham Playhouse, after what director Sir Richard Eyre called the strongest Hamlet audition he had ever seen.

After spells with the Royal Shakespeare Company and a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for his 1981 West End debut in Hamlet, he was unemployed for 18 months and suffered depression. But drawing on his experience of graft and disappointment for his iconic role in The Full Monty, Wilkinson never looked back.

His family said he died suddenly at home. He is survived by his wife Diana and their two daughters.

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