In a statement, Pinsent’s family said that he passed away on Saturday while sleeping.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted on Twitter that Gordon Pinsent was “one of Canada’s most famous performers.” He possessed boundless talent and was enthusiastic and intriguing.
Pinsent spent decades working in radio, television, and film. He got the Genie Award for best actor in a leading role for “Away From Her” from the Academy of Canadian Television and Film in 2008.” He portrayed a husband who lost his wife to both another guy and Alzheimer’s disease.
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.
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.