Albert Finney, the British actor best known for his roles in Annie and Murder on the Orient Express, has died at the age of 82.

While he will remain celebrated for the roles he brought to the big screen, Finney also has the honour of being remembered for one role that never quite made it that far. 

When David Lean was in production on his masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia, his first choice for the role of T.E. Lawrence was, in fact, Finney, who was a virtual unknown at the time, but would soon achieve a breakthrough with Karel Reisz’s 1960 film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning – still regarded as one of his finest performances.

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The actor was brought in for a screen test and offered the part. He turned it down, concerned by the idea that he’d be trapped in a long-term, restrictive contract. 

Marlon Brando was also offered the part, but turned it down in favour of Mutiny on the Bounty, while both Anthony Perkins and Montgomery Clift were briefly considered. Of course, it was Peter O’Toole who finally landed the part, earning an Oscar nomination for his performance.  

Finney died following a short illness. He had been in the Royal Marsden hospital, just outside London, for the past month and died from a chest infection on Thursday (7 February) afternoon.

A statement from his family reads: “Albert Finney, aged 82, passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side. The family request privacy at this sad time.”

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