Alec Guinness

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Alec Guinness

Born

4/2/1914, Marylebone, London, England, UK

Died

8/5/2000

Birth Name

Alec Guinness de Cuffe

Gender

Male

Also Known As

Sir Alec Guinness, Alec Guiness
9.7
out of 10
User Rating
17 votes

Biography

EDIT
Alec was born in London in 1914. For years he was known by his step-father, David's surname of Stiven, or his mother's name of de Cuffe, and it was only at 14 was he told that he real name was Guinness, and it was rumoured his real father…more

Credits

Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

    • Star Wars Stories

      Harrison Ford said that Alec helped him find an apartment to stay at when he arrived in England to film the first Star Wars film.

      George Lucas said Alec was very patient and helpful to him during the filming of the first Star Wars (1977), even to the point of getting the other actors to work more seriously.

      Alec reportedly answered one Star Wars fan's boast that he'd seen the first movie over a hundred times, with a nod and the words "Promise me you'll never watch it again." The boy was stunned, but his mother thanked Guinness.

      Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher, have always spoken very fondly of Alec, praising him as being a very professional actor who was always respectful to the people he worked with.

      Despite popular belief, Alec NEVER uttered the line "May the force be with you" in ANY of the Star Wars films (the closest he came was "the force will be with you").

      Alec disliked his role as "Obi-Wan Kenobi" in the Star Wars movies, and even claimed that he persuaded George Lucas to kill off the character as a way to limit his involvement in the films. He also claimed to have thrown away all of his Star Wars-related fan mail unopened.

      Ewan McGregor was not the only actor in the Star Wars prequels to study Alec's performances. The voice for the character "Watto" was modeled after Alec's performance as Fagin in Oliver Twist.

    • Theatre Work

      Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Dylan, Converstions at Night, Richard III (1953, during the inaugural season of Stratford Festival's tent theatre), King Lear, Importance Of Being Ernest, The Prisoner, Twelfth Night and in An Inspector Calls (1946), with Sir Ralph Richardson.

      Broadway
      Flare Path (1942-1943), The Cocktail Party and Dylan (1964).

      Final theatre appearance
      It was at the Comedy Theatre in London on May 30 1989, in a production called A Walk in the Woods, where he played a Russian diplomat.

    • Alec was offered the role of Lieutenant Colonel Barrow in Tunes of Glory. However, he said he would only accept the job if he played the role of Jock Sinclair, as he had played characters like Barrow too many times. Alec then suggested John Mills for the part of Barrow.

    • While in the military Alec, for awhile, planned on becoming an Anglican priest.

    • Books

      In 1985, he released his autobiography Blessings in Disguise.
      In 1997, he and writer John Le Carré released My Name Escapes Me: Diary of a Retiring Actor. In 1999, he released his book A Positively Final Appearance, which he expressed his devotion to The Simpsons!

    • Alec once sent a script back with a polite rejection. The writer came back with a "we tailored it just for you." He simply replied: "But no one came to take measurements."

    • In certain prints of The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), a film in which Alec won the Oscar for Best Actor, his last name is misspelled "Guiness."

    • One of Alec's last jobs was providing the voice (his first and only voice-over) for a cartoon character on a UK TV ad campaign by the Inland Revenue advising the public about the new tax return forms which were to be introduced. He said in his diary of the recording (made on 30th March 1995) "I did it feebly."

    • Alec was a heavy smoker for most of his life, he finally managed to give up the habit in his last years.

    • Alec's favourite hotel in London was the Connaught, in which he always stayed whenever visiting the city.

    • Alec was awarded an honorary DLitt by Oxford University in 1977 and an honorary LittD by Cambridge University in 1991.

    • The qualities Alec claimed to most admire in an actor were "simplicity, purity, clarity of line."

    • Alec was voted third in the Orange Film 2001 survey of greatest British film actors.

    • Alec was a fan of the television series Due South (1994).

    • Alec was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1955 and he was Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1959. He was made a Companion of Honour in 1994.

    • Beyond a part in Evensong (1934) as an extra, his film career began after World War II with his portrayal of "Herbert Pocket" in Great Expectations (1946).

    • Alec's Star on the Walk of Fame for his contributions to the Motion Picture industry is located at 1551 Vine Street., Hollywood, CA.

      In 2005, he was one of the first 100 to be honoured with his name set into the pavement in London's 'Avenue of the Stars' in Convent Garden.

    • Alec wasn't present when he won the Oscar in 1958, so actress Jean Simmons accepted the award on his behalf.

    • Awards

      Academy Awards
      Best Actor in a Leading Role for The Lavender Hill Mob (1953) (Nomination).
      Best Writing, Screenplay based on Material from Another Medium for The Horse's Mouth (1959) (Nomination)
      Best Actor in a Leading Role for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1958) (Won)
      Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Star Wars (1978) (Nomination)
      Honorary Award for advancing the art of screen acting through a host of memorable and distinguised performances (1980) (Won).
      Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Little Dorrit (1988) (Nomination).

      BAFTA
      Film Award for Best British Actor for The Prisoner (1956) (Nomination)
      Film Award for Best British Actor for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1958) (Won)
      Film Award for Best British Screenplay for The Horse's Mouth (1960) (Nomination)
      Film Award for Best British Actor for Tunes of Glory (1961) (Nomination)
      TV Award for Best Actor for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1980) (Won)
      TV Award for Best Actor for Smiley's People (1983) (Won)
      TV Award for Best Actor for Monsignor Quixote (1986) (Nomination).

      Berlin International Film Festival
      Honorary Gold Berlin Bear (1988) (Won)

      Broadcasting Press Guild
      Best Actor for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1980) (Won)

      Emmy
      Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor (Lead or Support) for The Wicked Scheme of Jebal Deeks (1960) (Nomination).
      Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special for Smiley's People (1983) (Nomination)

      European Film Awards
      Life Achievement Award (1996) (Won).

      Evening Standard British Film Awards
      Best Actor for Star Wars (1979) (Won).
      Special Award (1995) (Won).

      Golden Globes
      Best Motion Picture Actor in a Supporting Role for Star Wars (1978) (Nomination).
      Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture for Little Dorrit (1989) (Nomination).

      Golden Laurel Awards
      Second place for Top Male Dramatic Performance for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) (Won).
      Third place for Top Male Comedy Performance for The Horse's Mouth (1958) (Won).

      Grammy
      Spoken Word Award for Alec Guinness: A Personal Choice (1964) (Nomination).

      Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Awards
      Silver Ribbon for Best Actor - Foreign Film for The Lavender Hill Mob (1952) (Won).

      KCFCC Awards
      Best Supporting Actor for The Comedians (1967) (Won).

      LAFCA Awards
      Best Supporting Actor for Little Dorrit (1988) (Won).

      Laurence Olivier Theatre Special Award for his Outstanding Contributions to West End Theatre (1989) (Won).

      London Critics Circle
      Special Achievement Award (1990) (Won).

      NBR Awards
      Best Actor for Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) (Won).
      Best Actor for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) (Won).

      NYFCC Awards
      Best Actor for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) (Won).

      Saturn Awards
      Best Supporting Actor for Star Wars (1977) (Won)

      Tony Awards
      Best Actor (Dramatic) for Dylan, as Dylan Thomas (1964) (Won).

      Volpi Cup for Best Actor for The Horse's Mouth (1958) (Won).

    • Alec's past salaries:

      Star Wars (1977) $150,000 + 2% of profits

      The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) £6,000

      Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) £6,000

    • Alec was 5' 10" (1.78 m) tall.

  • Quotes

    • Sir Alec Guinness: (discussing how much he disliked working on "Star Wars" (1977) and his attempts to encourage George Lucas to kill off "Obi-Wan Kenobi") And he agreed with me. What I didn't tell him was that I just couldn't go on speaking those bloody awful, banal lines. I'd had enough of the mumbo jumbo.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: I shrivel up every time someone mentions Star Wars to me.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: Failure has a thousand explanations. Success doesn't need one.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: We live in an age of apologies. Apologies, False or true, are expected from the descendants of Empire builders, slave owners and persecutors of heretics, and from men who, in our eyes, just got it all wrong. So, with the age of 85 coming up shortly, I want to make an apology. It appears I must apologise for being male, white, and European.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: (In 1985 he told the Guardian newspaper that he hoped by the end of his life to have put everything in order) ... a kind of little bow, tied on life. And I can see myself drifting off into eternity, or nothing, or whatever it may be, with all sorts of bits of loose string hanging out of my pocket. Why didn't I say this or do that, or why didn't I reconcile myself with someone? Or make sure that someone whom I like was all right in every way, either financially or, I don't know...

    • Sir Alec Guinness: I gave my best performances during the war - trying to be an officer and a gentleman.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: I prefer full-length camera shots because the body can act better than the face.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: I don't know what else I could do but pretend to be an actor.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: Once I've done a film, it's finished. I never look at it again.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: Getting to the theatre on the early side, usually about seven o'clock, changing into a dressing-gown, applying make-up, having a chat for a few minutes with other actors and then, quite unconsciously, beginning to assume another personality which would stay with me (but mostly tucked inside) until curtain down, was all I required of life. I thought it bliss.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: An actor is an interpreter of other men's words, often a soul which wishes to reveal itself to the world but dare not, a craftsman, a bag of tricks, a vanity bag, a cool observer of mankind, a child, and at his best a kind of unfrocked priest who, for an hour or two, can call on heaven and hell to mesmerise a group of innocents.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: (during the filming of "Star Wars") Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: I prefer full-length camera shots because the body can act better than the face.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: Once I've done a film, it's finished. I never look at it again.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: Personally, I have only one great regret - that I never dared enough. If at all.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: (To a group of reporters upon winning his Oscar, 1958) No doorstop shenannigans for me, boys. I have a nice mantel where I'm going to display it.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: (on media reports of his income from the "Star Wars" films) The Times reports I've made £4.5 million in the past year. Where do they get such nonsense?

    • Sir Alec Guinness: (on the performances in "Star Wars") The only really disappointing performance was Tony Daniels as the robot - fidgety and over-elaborately spoken. Not that any of the cast can stand up to the mechanical things around them.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: (on having seen the completed "Star Wars" for the first time) It's a pretty staggering film as spectacle, and technically brillant. Exciting, very noisy and warm hearted. The battle scenes at the end go on for 5 minutes too long, I feel, and some of the dialogue is excruciating and much of it is lost in noise, but it remains a vivid experience.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: (while considering doing "Star Wars") Science fiction - which gives me pause - but it is to be directed by Paul Lucas, who did American Graffiti, which makes me think I should. Big part. Fairytale rubbish, but could be interesting.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: (on his first lunch meeting with George Lucas) I liked him. The conversation was divided culturally by 8,000 miles and 30 years; but I think we might understand each other if I can get past his intensity.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: The stage was my prime interest. I had no ambition to be a film actor and a screen career seemed unlikely to come my way. I'd done a stage adaption of Great Expectations before the war and this had been seen by David Lean and Ronald Neame. I went into the navy during the war, and when I came out they were preparing their film of Great Expectations. They remembered my performance on the stage and asked me if I'd go into their film as "Herbert Pocket." I'd thought of film as a much greater mystery than the theatre and I felt a need to begin in films with a character I knew something about."

    • Sir Alec Guinness: (on The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) The original script was ridiculous, with elephant charges and girls screaming round in the jungle. When David Lean arrived, with a new screenwriter, it became a very different thing. I saw "Nicholson" as an effective part, without ever really believing in the character. However, it paid off; it was a huge success and I got an Oscar for it, though I don't think it made an enormous difference in my career.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: Essentially I'm a small part actor who's been lucky enough to play leading roles for most of his life.

    • Sir Alec Guinness: Flamboyance doesn't suit me. I enjoy being elusive.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • A man of class, integrity, and intelligence. And not to mention a great actor!

    10
    Alec Guinness is possibly my favorite actor. Whether it be him playing 9 members of the same family in Kind Hearts and Coronets or the heroic Colonel Nicholson in Bridge on the River Kwaii or the wise old Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Guinness was a master at whatever he did. He could play both drama and comedy equally well, and was a well balanced actor. I first saw him, of course, in Star Wars but soon I began to see other films he was in and love those as well. He was a classy, intelligent man who rarely made a bad career choice and will be remembered as one of the greatest actors of his time. What a loss the world suffered when Alec Guinness died in 2000.moreless
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