Pete Postlethwaite died this weekend, January 2nd, 2011, at the age of 64. The cause was cancer.

You may not think you know who Pete Postlethwaite is, but you definitely do. He’s a wonderful character actor who has featured prominently in high-profile films for more than two decades. He had an inimitable voice, a lanky frame, and thoughtful, occasionally deceptive eyes that peered out from over large cheekbones. He didn’t have the look of a movie star, but he had something even better: He had the look of someone who has lived a life, of someone with stories to tell and of valuable experience to impart.

The 1990s were surely Postlethwaite’s decade to run. He appeared in David Fincher’s Alien3, Michael Mann’s The Last Of The Mohicans, and Jim Sheridan’s In The Name Of The Father. His breakout role was probably the conspicuously-named and probably-malevolent Kobayashi in 1995’s The Usual Suspects. The next year, he was equally memorable as the sympathetic Father Laurence in Romeo + Juliet. He had a role in the underrated James & The Giant Peach, then he was enlisted by Steven Spielberg, for The Lost World and Amistad.

And so it went. As happens with so many of his fellow supporting players, Postlethwaite often popped up as the best thing in bad films. Occasionally, he still got the roles worthy of his talent, as he did in the still-overlooked The Constant Gardner in 2005. In fact, 2010 was something of a banner year for Postlethwaite: He played Sam Worthington’s fisherman father in Clash Of The Titans, and then he went on to figure in pivotal roles in two of the year’s greatest films: as the bed-ridden business magnate in Inception, and then, finally, as the ominous florist and crime-broker “Fergie” Colm in The Town.

Pete Postlethwaite’s talent wasn’t the kind that was flashy or attention-grabbing. His skill was innately humble. He was strong support for the more showy performances in a picture. If he was doing his job right, and he always did, then audiences probably would never notice how great he was at it. He is the definition of the kind of talent that we wouldn’t have missed until he was gone. But now he is gone, and he will without question be missed.