Remembering the acting legend Sir Alec Guinness

The British actor who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy and mysteriously predicted the death of James Dean, warning the actor one week before it happened, was born on this day in 1914

Remembering the acting legend Sir Alec Guinness

Born Alec Guinness de Cuffe on April 2, 1914 in Maida Vale, London, England, the acting legend was one of three British actors, along with Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, who made the transition from theater to films after the Second World War. He appeared in several film classics throughout his long career, including The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957, a performance awarded with an Oscar, Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, as General Yevgraf Zhivago in Doctor Zhivago, 1965, and as Professor Godbole in A Passage to India, 1984. One of his most iconic and memorable roles was as Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy; for the original film, for his performance he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 50th Academy Awards. Despite keeping a straight posture both socially and sexually throughout his life, Guinness was a bisexual man and in his biography, Alec Guinness: The Unknown, Garry O’Connor reports that in 1946 Guinness was arrested and fined 10 guineas for a homosexual act in a public lavatory in Liverpool in 1946. Guinness is said to have avoided publicity by giving his name to police and court as “Herbert Pocket”, the name of the character he played in Great Expectations. His sexuality however was never a secret to his close friends and family, including his wife. A famous and mysterious episode in Guinness’s life took place one week before the actor James Dean died. The future Obi-Wan Kenobi was in California for the first time and came across a restaurant called the Villa Capri, where no tables were available, however, Dean who was at that same restaurant, recognized him and invited both Guinness and his companion them to join him. Before they went inside Dean asked them to go with him into the courtyard to show them his brand new racing car, Porsche 550 Spyder, that was parked there. ‘The sports car looked sinister to me’, Sir Alec Guinness wrote. “How fast can you go in that?” I asked. “I can do 150 in it,” he replied. Exhausted, hungry, feeling a little ill-tempered in spite of Dean’s kindness, I heard myself saying in a voice I could hardly recognize as my own, “Please never get in it. . . if you get in that car you will be found dead in it by this time next week.” Dean just laughed and said, “Oh, shucks! Don’t be so mean!” Alec Guinness died on the night of 5 August 2000 at Midhurst in West Sussex aged 86.

Watch Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy

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