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Katrin Cartlidge, 41; British Stage, TV and Movie Actress

September 10, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Katrin Cartlidge, the intense British actress best-known for her performances in films by the director Mike Leigh, has died. She was 41.

Cartlidge died Saturday at a London hospital of what was believed to be blood poisoning and pneumonia.

According to friends, Cartlidge had dinner with friends Friday evening in London, but woke up during the night with the belief that she had food poisoning.

She was taken to a local hospital and died three hours later, according to Bingham Ray, who distributed the Leigh films that Cartlidge appeared in for United Artists.

Born in London, Cartlidge was exposed to avant-garde theater and art from an early age. She turned to acting in school to compensate for the mild dyslexia and a slight astigmatism that gave the false impression that she was of below-average intelligence.

With no formal training in acting, Cartlidge began auditioning for plays while still a teenager.

To make ends meet, she worked as an art model and a dresser in London theater before landing the part of Juliet in a production of "Romeo and Juliet." She made her stage debut at the age of 18.

Three years later, she found regular work on television in the British soap opera "Brookside."

Cartlidge got her start in film in 1985's "Sacred Hearts." But it was three central performances that established Cartlidge as a gifted and independent talent: as David Thewlis' punkish lover in Leigh's "Naked" (1993); as the protective sister-in-law in Lars von Trier's "Breaking the Waves" (1996); and, most prominently, as a ruthless cable news reporter in Danis Tanovic's Oscar-winning "No Man's Land" (2001).

Cartlidge was one of the two title characters in Leigh's "Career Girls" (1997) and also made an appearance in his Gilbert and Sullivan movie "Topsy-Turvy" (1999).

Most recently she appeared in a BBC television version of "Crime and Punishment."

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times some years ago, Cartlidge called working with Leigh, "an extraordinarily exciting process."

"Mike's process is completely collaborative," she said. "At the beginning, you simply agree to work with him, attempting to build a character drawn from the entire melee of your own experience. You do this work in a sort of vacuum with no knowledge of what the other actors are doing, and Mike reviews the character with you periodically.

"He then decides which aspects of your character he wants to explore and creates a very loose structure.... The most difficult thing about working with Mike," she said, "is that it makes you incapable of turning your mind off."

Leigh, in turn, said Cartlidge brought a unique point of view to her work.

"Katrin is a total original," Leigh told the London Times some years ago. "She's not frightened of ugliness or danger, you can see from some of her roles; she confronts everything with courage. She's very droll, sharp and perceptive, but also incredibly generous.

"She's the last person who would ever get twitchy about other people's performances," Leigh said. "She's an ensemble actor."

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

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