The much-loved English actor Pete Postlethwaite has died at the age of 64.

The versatile Oscar-nominated, Cheshire-born actor was equally adept in film (The Usual Suspects, Brassed Off, Jurassic Park), TV drama (The Sins, Casualty) and period drama (Martin Chuzzlewit).

Journalist and friend Andrew Richardson said

Pete passed away peacefully in hospital in Shropshire on Sunday following a lengthy illness.

The actor had continued to work until recent months despite receiving treatment for cancer.

His family has requested that the media respect their privacy.

Pete, who was made an OBE in the 2004 New Year Honours List, was described by Hollywood director Steven Spielberg as ‘the best actor in the world’. They worked together on The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Amistad.

In response to the praise, Pete joked: “I’m sure what Spielberg actually said was, ‘the thing about Pete is that he thinks he’s the best actor in the world’.”

Pete received his Oscar nomination for his performance as Guiseppe Conlon in the 1993 film In The Name Of The Father, about the wrongful convictions of the so-called Guildford Four for an IRA bomb attack.

His other films included Brassed Off, The Usual Suspects, The Shipping News, Inception, Romeo & Juliet and The Town.

Born in Warrington, he had originally planned to be a priest. He later became a teacher but eventually followed his passion for the stage, beginning his career at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool where he rubbed shoulders with such future stars as Bill Nighy, Julie Walters, Alan Bleasdale, Jonathan Pryce, Matthew Kelly and Anthony Sher.

In 2008 he returned to the Everyman to play the lead in King Lear, a role that he had always wanted to play.

Pete was also a political activist who marched against the war in Iraq, supported the Make Poverty History campaign and starred in the 2009 film about global warming, The Age Of Stupid.