Gordon Pinsent, an award-winning Canadian actor acclaimed for his performance as a heartbroken husband in the film “Away From Her,” has died at 92.
His family said in a statement that Pinsent died in his sleep Saturday.
“Gordon Pinsent was one of Canada’s most iconic actors,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday on Twitter. “He was passionate, captivating and endlessly talented.”
Pinsent worked for decades in radio, television and movies. In 2008, he received the Academy of Canadian Television and Cinema’s Genie Award for best actor in a leading role for “Away From Her.” He played a husband losing his wife not only to Alzheimer’s but also to another man.
Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley directed “Away From Her,” starring Pinsent and Julie Christie, which premiered at film festivals in 2006 before its theatrical release in 2007.
“Gordon had an enormous capacity for joy in absolutely everything he did,” Polley said Sunday on Twitter. “It was infectious and educational. There wasn’t a moment without a twinkle of mischief and a determination to enjoy the moment.”
Pinsent was born in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, in 1930, and began acting in his late teens. With his deep baritone voice, Pinsent played in radio drama on the CBC before working in movies and television.
Pinsent spent about four years in the Canadian Army in the early 1950s. After returning to acting, he appeared on children’s shows in the early 1960s, including CBC’s “The Forest Rangers.” He later appeared in dozens of Canada’s top television shows, including “The Red Green Show,” and was the voice of the animated elephant King Babar on TV and in a movie.
He played a role in the 1968 Steve McQueen movie, “The Thomas Crown Affair,” and portrayed the U.S. president in director Joseph Sargent’s 1970 film, “Colossus: The Forbin Project.” In the 2001 movie “The Shipping News,” Pinsent played newspaperman Billy Pretty, and during filming, he helped other cast members perfect the Newfoundland accent.
Pinsent starred in “Away From Her” when he was 76. Polley said as she read the Alice Munro short story, “The Bear Came Over The Mountain,” she envisioned a film starring Pinsent.
Pinsent’s own wife of 45 years, actress Charmion King, died of emphysema some months before the mainstream release of “Away From Her,” forcing Pinsent to re-examine the film’s themes of quiet despair.
“It was something I wasn’t necessarily drawing on except in the general sense of how anyone must feel at a certain time of life after spending so many years with a partner,” Pinsent said during a 2007 interview, a few weeks after King’s death.
“It’s almost impossible to grasp … how do you prepare?” he said. “Where does love go? Where do you go, the leftover?”
King and Pinsent had one child together, actress Leah Pinsent. He also had two children, Barry and Beverly, from an earlier marriage.
In 2013, Pinsent starred in Don McKellar’s acclaimed Newfoundland-set comedy “The Grand Seduction,” earning a Canadian Screen Award for best supporting actor. In 2018, he released a short film he wrote, “Martin’s Hagge,” about a middle-aged writer with anxiety and depression.
“I really love writing … writing is good, it’s even better than good when you hit those peaks, and it’s the same feeling oddly enough in acting,” Pinsent said. “It’s that lovely thing where you get that zone, that peak of joy, and it reminds you of why you started it all.”
The story has been corrected to show that Joseph Sargent, not Milos Forman, was director of “Colossus: The Forbin Project.”