Canadian acting icon Gordon Pinsent has died, his family said in a statement. He was 92.
“Gordon Pinsent’s daughters Leah, and Beverly, and his son Barry, would like to announce the passing of their father peacefully in sleep today with his family at his side,” said a note released late Saturday, written on behalf of Gordon’s family by his son-in-law, the actor Peter Keleghan.
“Gordon passionately loved this country and its people, purpose, and culture to his last breath.”
The Grand Falls, N.L., native and Canadian household name had a storied acting career spanning dozens of films and TV projects over six decades, including Due South, The Red Green Show, Babar and the Adventures of Badou, and The Grand Seduction. Focusing on CBC programs alone, one could add The Forest Rangers, Quentin Durgens, M.P.; the original Street Legal and Republic of Doyle, among others.
In the U.S., it was such TV series and movies as It Takes A Thief, Silence of the North, Young Prosecutors, Banacek, and the feature film The Thomas Crown Affair, among others.
“My whole career has depended on the happiness that I get when asked to do something,” Pinsent said in a 2010 Toronto Life interview. “Pick up the phone and say ‘yes.’ I do that a lot.”
Comedian and actor Mark Critch, a fellow Newfoundlander, said he will miss Pinsent as a mentor, friend, hero and “giant colossus of Canadian entertainment.”
My pal Gordon Pinsent passed. I saw him a few weeks ago, his twinkle as bright as ever. I looked up to him as the Rowdyman but loved him as Porky Pinsent from Grand Falls. He cut the path the rest of us travelled. A household name based on Canadian work. The best there ever was <a href=”https://t.co/1s9yoE9Wml”>pic.twitter.com/1s9yoE9Wml</a>
Born on July 12, 1930, Pinsent was the youngest of six children born to Stephen Pinsent, a paper mill worker and cobbler, and his wife, Flossie.
Their son began acting in the 1940s at the age of 17 before expanding into TV and film.
Pinsent joined the Stratford Festival in 1962 with roles in Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest and Cyrano de Bergerac, and returned to Stratford in the mid-’70s as a leading player.
He had more than 150 TV and movie acting credits to his name, with his Internet Movie Database resumé spanning from a 1957 TV movie to a cartoon voice in 2021.
A companion of the Order of Canada and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Pinsent also received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, the Earle Grey Award for lifetime achievement in television, and a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.
He won the Genie for best actor in 2001’s The Shipping News, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Annie Proulx, and hit what many consider his career peak with best actor Genie and ACTRA awards in 2006 for his work in Sarah Polley’s Away From Her.
In the 2016 documentary about his life, The River of My Dreams — a film where a reflective, sometimes impish Pinsent speaks in eloquent paragraphs infused with his Newfoundland accent — Canadian director Norman Jewison said Pinsent’s performance in Away From Her was “extraordinary.”
In the film, Pinsent plays a man whose wife (Julie Christie) has Alzheimer’s disease.
“It was so simple, yet so powerful and so moving,” Jewison said of Pinsent. “And I think a lot of it was because you believe him.”
Gordon Pinsent speaks on Away From Her 16 years ago:
Pinsent was also a painter, a writer, a playwright and a director. Two Newfoundland-set novels he wrote, The Rowdyman and John and the Missus, were turned into feature films. Pinsent directed the latter.
His memoirs, By the Way, were published in 1994.
Canadian actor R.H. Thomson, who has been almost as prolific as Pinsent, said in the 2016 documentary that artists have an enormous role in how a country’s “cloth is woven.”
“And artists like Gordon … [have] pulled that thread back and forth, as Canada’s loom has made this cloth of who we are and where we’ve been and where we’re going to,” he said. “And that colour of Gordon Pinsent going through and through the tapestry is now inevitably part of any story of Canada for me.”
George Stroumboulopoulos speaks with Pinsent in 2011: