Sir Alec Guinness
(April 2, 1914 — August 5, 2000) was an award-winning British actor.
Guinness was born out of wedlock and the identity of his father has never been officially confirmed, although he believed a banker named Andrew Geddes who occasionally visited him to be his father. In his early twenties he started to appear on the London stage and soon became a well-known, highly-regarded Shakespearean actor. Guinness became a protege of the legendary Shakespearean actor John Gielgud; Gielgud's entourage also included future stars Peggy Ashcroft, Jack Hawkins and Anthony Quayle.
After serving in World War II
, he transitioned to film, making his debut in David Lean
's highly successful adaptation of Great Expectations
. The start of Guinness's film career was also the start of a very productive partnership with Lean that included The Bridge on the River Kwai
and Lawrence of Arabia
Guinness became famous early in his career as the star of a series of black comedies
made by Ealing Studios
. Kind Hearts and Coronets
involved the illegitimate descendant of a noble family killing all his relatives in order to inherit a dukedom; Guinness played not the murderer but all eight of the nobles who stood in the murderer's way. The Ladykillers
features Guinness as the head of a band of bank robbers (this film was remade by The Coen Brothers
with Tom Hanks
playing the Guinness part). His partnership with Lean brought him an Academy Award
for Best Actor as the Stiff Upper Lip
Col. Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai
. Guinness also earned a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for writing The Horse's Mouth
, in which he also starred. In 1960 he starred in Tunes of Glory
, which he considered his best performance. In 1959 he was knighted.
Guinness became known to a new generation of moviegoers when he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars
original trilogy. Guinness famously hated the part
and the Star Wars
films, calling them "chidish banalities
". In his memoir Guinness claimed that he talked George Lucas
into killing Obi-Wan off because he "couldn't go on speaking those bloody awful, banal lines." He recounted a story in which a little boy said he'd seen Star Wars over a hundred times
, to which Guinness responded by asking the boy never to watch it again. (The boy went away crying.) In later years he did not even bother to read his Star Wars
fan mail. He didn't return the checks, however
. Guinness was smart enough to negotiate a 2% share of Lucas's 20% share of the Star Wars
profits. This made him very rich.
In later years, Guinness focused primarily on television. Most notably, played George Smiley in the 1979 miniseries of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
and its sequel, Smiley's People
. Author John le Carré
was reportedly so enamored of Guinness's performance that in later books, he based Smiley on Guinness.
Guinness was married to actress and artist Merula Salaman from 1938 until his death. Their son, Matthew Guinness, also became an actor.
Alec Guinness works on this wiki: