But the Oscar-winner also had a real-life otherworldly encounter, according to letters published for the first time today.
Then 69 and a devout Catholic, Sir Alec said he saw a ghost while in Bangalore filming David Lean’s A Passage To India.
In a letter to his wife Merula dated March 23, 1984 he wrote: ‘Last night I heard my bathroom door click open. I was immediately awake and called, “What’s that?”
‘A very conventional white ghost appeared, an elderly... woman in grey white and heavily veiled.
‘I couldn’t make out her face. She moved... with dignity down the side of my bed and as I clicked on the light she disappeared.’
Guinness, whose credits include The Bridge On The River Kwai and The Ladykillers as well as Marley’s ghost in the 1970 film Scrooge, told his wife if he hadn’t seen a spirit then he must have been dreaming ‘while sitting up and awake’.
Although deeply religious, Sir Alec was interested in the psychic world and reportedly told James Dean not to drive on the day the star died in a crash in 1955.
Piers Paul Read, Guinness’s official biographer, last night said he was not aware of the letter.
He said: ‘Alec was quite superstitious... In the Navy he also had a premonition about being drowned in an oncoming storm. I don’t think he claimed to be psychic but he was open to the idea.’
In other letters acquired by the British Library, Guinness reveals he and director David Lean, who had worked together five times previously, were barely speaking during the filming of A Passage To India.
Their rows lead Sir Alec to write: ‘I don’t think I will ever bother to do a film again.’
In another letter he delights in having been to Mass as he feels it allows him to keep on hating Lean.