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Albert Finney, actor from 'Tom Jones,' 'Annie,' and 'Erin Brockovich,' dies at age 82

He received Oscar nods for best actor for "Tom Jones," "Murder on the Orient Express," "The Dresser," and "Under the Volcano."
Image: Albert Finney
British actor Albert Finney attends the premiere of "Erin Brockovich" in Los Angeles on March 14, 2000.Lucy Nicholson / AFP - Getty Images file

Venerable British actor Albert Finney, best known to American moviegoers for his role in "Erin Brockovich," died, his family said Friday.

He was 82.

Finney had only "passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side," according to a family statement to NBC News.

Albert Finney, who has died at the age of 82 after a short illness.William Conran / AP file

Finney enjoyed a remarkable, decades-long career that garnered him five Academy Award nominations

He received Oscar nods for best actor for "Tom Jones," "Murder on the Orient Express," "The Dresser," and "Under the Volcano."

He was nominated for best supporting actor at the 2001 Oscars for his role in "Erin Brockovich," where he played lawyer Ed Masry, opposite Julia Roberts as the crusading protagonist.

Roberts won best actress that year, while Benicio Del Toro won best supporting actor for "Traffic."

"I'm very saddened to learn of the passing of Albert Finney," Brockovich, the noted consumer advocate, tweeted on Friday. "While I didn't know him well he wonderfully immortalized my dear friend Ed Masry in the film Erin Brockovich capturing a warmth and integrity I believe they shared."

Finney's last big-screen role came in the 2012 Bond movie "Skyfall," playing Kincade, a Scottish gamekeeper at the Bond family's estate.

Despite his long and celebrated career, Finney generally shunned the spotlight.

He didn’t even attend the Oscars when he was nominated.

"It seems silly to go over there and beg for an award," he told the Manchester Evening News in 2012.

In that same interview, Finney almost casually mentioned that he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2007, leading to surgery and six rounds of chemotherapy.

“I didn’t feel anything on the first two, then the third one, I thought, 'That’s funny, I feel bad,'" he told the newspaper. “That got worse. It took me about a year or a year and a half to feel it was out of my system. But it saved me.”

Finney was born May 9, 1936, and grew up in northern England just outside of Manchester.

He caught the acting bug early and studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts leading to early jobs on British TV and Shakespeare plays on stage.

Finney was so in demand, he turned down the lead of the 1962 epic "Lawrence of Arabia," opening the door for Peter O'Toole to take what turned out to be his greatest role.

The actor’s early success brought him riches that set him on a course where he didn’t need to take any role he didn’t truly adore.

"This is a man from very humble origins who became rich when he was very young," said Quentin Falk, author of an unauthorized biography of Finney. "It brought him a lot of side benefits. He's a man who likes to live as well as to act. He enjoys his fine wine and cigars. He's his own man, I find that rather admirable."

Finney, the son of a bookmaker, had no desire to surround himself with elite friends and titles. He even turned down an offer of knighthood.

"Maybe people in America think being a `Sir' is a big deal," he once said. "But I think we should all be misters together. I think the `Sir' thing slightly perpetuates one of our diseases in England, which is snobbery. And it also helps keep us `quaint,' which I'm not a great fan of."

Finney is survived by his third wife, Pene, son Simon and two grandchildren.

Associated Press contributed.