He grew up in the Finsbury Park area to a working class family before hopping around various odd jobs and stumbling into an acting career by accident.
But Bob Hoskins, who died this week of pneumonia at the age of 71, went on to become one of the greatest British actors of his generation.
Here are five things you may not have known about north London’s home grown Hollywood star, who became a household name with roles in movies like The Long Good Friday and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
1. A country gent
Despite his renowned cockney image, Hoskins was actually born in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, in 1942. His mother had been evacuated there during The Blitz but she returned to the Finsbury Park area shortly after Hoskins was born.
2. A few scrapes with the locals
Hoskins had a few run-ins with some troublesome locals in the Finsbury Park and Haringey areas as a teenager. One incident left him with a stab wound in the stomach. He later said: “There was a lot of crime, of course, in the Forties and Fifties - robberies, old people getting mugged. There were gangs around Finsbury Park and Haringey. They had knives and coshes and sticks. It was quite violent and it didn't take a lot to get into a fight.”
3. Stardom by chance
Hoskins got into acting purely by chance while he waited for a friend in the bar of an amateur theatre named The Unity, in Camden, in 1966. He was asked to read for a part, which he was given by the director, launching an acting career that would later take him to Hollywood.
4. A breakthrough role
Hoskins almost missed out on his major breakthrough role of Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday. When he was offered the role, he was suffering with a tapeworm, picked up during filming in South Africa. He required a stay in hospital but recovered in time to accept the part that shot him to Hollywood fame.
5. Ghost writer
Later in his career, Hoskins went on to write a number of plays under the name Robert Hoskins.