Alec Guinness was an English actor who had a net worth of $100 million dollars at the time of his death. He was knighted in 1959 and passed away in 2000 at the age of 86. While he began his career in theater, he appeared in several films over the course of his life. He is perhaps best known for portraying Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas’ original “Star Wars” trilogy. His appearance in the 1977 film earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the 50th Academy Awards. He was knighted in 1959.
Star Wars Paycheck: Perhaps to his dismay, Alec is most widely recognized today for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the “Star Wars” franchise. Sir Alec famously thought Star Wars was “fairy tale rubbish” but he ended up negotiating a killer deal to appear in the films. First he demanded that the studio double his standard paycheck. Second, he negotiated a small percentage of all every Star Wars movie in perpetuity. That meant when the new movies were released, Alec earned a nice little fee for no work at all. To date, Sir Alec’s estate has earned an estimated $100 million off Star Wars, before taxes.
Early Life and Stage Career: Alec Guinness was born in Paddington, London, England on April 2, 1914. He first worked advertising copy. His first job in the theater was on his 20th birthday when he was a student at the Fay Compton Studio of Dramatic Art in the play “Libel,” which opened at the Old King’s Theater in Hammersmith before transferring to the West End’s Playhouse. Guinness quickly moved from a walk-on role to an understudy with two lines. At age 22, he appeared in the Albery Theater in the role of Osric in a successful production of “Hamlet.” He later signed on with the Old Vic where he was cast in a series of classic roles and worked with numerous actors who would eventually become his friends and future co-stars. Throughout the late 1930s, Alec played several Shakespearean roles. In 1939, he adapted Charles Dickens’s novel “Great Expectation” to the stage, which was a huge success.
Guinness served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in World War II, initially as a seaman in 1941 before getting a commission as a temporary sub-lieutenant in 1942 and a promotion to temporary lieutenant the following year. During the Second World War, he was granted a brief leave of absence from the Royal Navy to appear in the Broadway production of “Flare Path”.
After the war, Guinness went on to a stellar stage career, winning multiple awards, including a Tony Award for his portrayal of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas in “Dylan.” He returned to the Old Vic in 1946 and stayed until 1948, appearing in several productions like “The Alchemist,” “King Lear,” “Cyrano de Bergerac,” and more. After he left the Old Vic, he played Eric Birling in “An Inspector Calls” at the New Theatre in October 1946. In 1950, Guinness played the Uninvited Guest in the Broadway production of T.S. Eliot’s “The Cocktail Party.” Under his own direction, Guinness played Hamlet at the New Theatre in the West End in 1951. Between April 1934 and May 1989, Guinness played 77 parts on stage.
Film Work: Guinness successfully transitioned into film work after his successful run on stage. Guinness was mainly associated with the Ealing Comedies and in particular for playing nine characters in “King Hearts and Coronets” in 1949. Other films from this period included “The Lavender Hill Mob” (1951), “The Man in the White Suit” (1951) and “The Ladykillers” (1955), with all three ranked among the Best British films. He portrayed the 19th-century British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli in “The Mudlark,” which included the task of delivering an uninterrupted seven-minute speech in Parliament. In 1951, he was cast in his first romantic lead role opposite Petula Clark in “The Card.” The same year, he was voted the most popular British star. Other notable film roles of this period included “The Swan” with Grace Kelly in her first film role, “The Horse’s Mouth,” for which he also wrote the screenplay and was nominated for an Academy Award.” In 1973 he starred in “Hitler: The Last Ten Days,” which he considered his best film work although critics disagreed. Another role which is sometimes referred to as one of his best and is also considered by many critics is that of Colonel Jock Sinclair in “Tunes of Glory.”
Guinness worked closely with director David Lean and won acclaim for his performances in such films as “Great Expectations”, “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (for which he won an Oscar), and “Lawrence of Arabia”. Guinness appeared in five Lean films that were ranked in the British Film Institute’s top 50 greatest British films of the 20th century: 3rd (“Lawrence of Arabia”), 5th (“Great Expectations”), 11th (“The Bridge on the River Kwai”), 27th (“Doctor Zhivago”) and 46th (“Oliver Twist”.)
He is most widely recognized today as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the “Star Wars” trilogy. His first appearance beginning in 1977 brought him worldwide recognition to a new generation as well as Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. Upon his first viewing of the film, Guinness wrote in his diary, “It’s a pretty staggering film as spectacle and technically brilliant. Exciting, very noisy and warm-hearted. The battle scenes at the end go on for five minutes too long, I feel, and some of the dialogue is excruciating and much of it is lost in noise, but it remains a vivid experience.”
Sir Alec famously thought Star Wars was “fairy tale rubbish” but he ended up negotiating a killer deal to appear in the films. First he demanded that the studio double his standard paycheck. Second, he negotiated a small percentage of every Star Wars movie in perpetuity. That meant when the new movies were released, Alec earned a nice little fee for no work at all. To date, Sir Alec’s estate has earned an estimated $100 million off Star Wars before taxes. However, he soon became unhappy with being identified with the part and expressed dismay at the rabid fan following that the trilogy attracted.
In the DVD commentary of the original “Star Wars,” Lucas says that Guinness was not happy with the script rewrite in which Obi-Wan is killed. Although Guinness disliked the fame that followed the work he was not a personal fan of, Lucas and fellow cast members Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Kenny Baker, Carrie Fisher, and others have spoken highly of his courtesy and professionalism, on and off the set. In 2003, Obi-Wan Kenobi as portrayed by Alec Guinness was selected as the 37th greatest hero in cinema history by the American Film Institute. Digitally altered archival audio of Guinness’s voice was used in the films “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015 and in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” in 2019.
Personal Life: Alec was married to actress Merula Silvia Salaman from 1914 until his death in 2000. They had a son, Matthew Guinness, who later became an actor. Guinness died on August 5, 2000, in West Sussex. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer six months earlier and had been diagnosed with liver cancer two days before he died, while his wife was also suffering from liver cancer. She passed away two months later.
|Net Worth:||$100 Million|
|Date of Birth:||Apr 2, 1914 – Aug 5, 2000 (86 years old)|
|Height:||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|