John Hurt (22 January 1940 – 27 January 2017)
With his distinctive voice, and even more distinctive features, John Hurt was an actor who was rarely out of work, from his first appearance in 1962 in an episode of the British TV series Z Cars, to his final role as Neville Chamberlain in Darkest Hour (due in November 2017). But Hurt’s acting career might never have started; when he was a young boy he lived opposite a cinema but his parents forbade from seeing movies there. It wasn’t until he went to an Anglican Preparatory School that he developed a desire to act. However, his parents didn’t encourage him, and his headmaster told him he “wouldn’t stand a chance”.
Luckily, Hurt persevered, and he won a scholarship to RADA in 1960. Two years of studying later and he was finding work on TV and in movies, and making a name for himself. It was A Man for All Seasons (1966) that brought him to the attention of a wider audience, and from there he never looked back, and over the next fifty years he made over a hundred and twenty movie appearances as well as numerous TV and video appearances. Aside from the movies listed below he was notable for being the mad Emperor Caligula in I, Claudius (1976); the first victim – spectacularly so – of the Xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979); himself in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs (1987); and the renowned wandmaker Garrick Ollivander in the Harry Potter movies. His commitment and passion to acting were rewarded twice: with a CBE in 2004, and a knighthood in 2015.
His career also encompassed various outings as a narrator or voice actor on a variety of animated projects, from Watership Down (1978) (and the 1999-2000 TV series) to Thumbelina (1994), and Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie (2010). But whatever the movie, Hurt was one of those actors you could always rely on to give a great performance however good or bad the material was. He had a natural integrity, and a straightforward approach to acting that focused on the character almost exclusively, which led to so many compelling performances over his fifty-year plus career. Despite his slight frame, he was a persuasive physical presence, unafraid to push himself in the search for the reality of the role he was playing, whether made up as Quentin Crisp, or suffering torture as Winston Smith. And he was a member of a rare group of actors, those who’ve played the Time Lord, Doctor Who. With his passing, Hurt leaves behind an incredibly varied and impressive body of work that will continue to provide endless hours of entertainment for fans and future generations alike.
1 – 10 Rillington Place (1971)
2 – Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs (1974)
3 – The Naked Civil Servant (1975)
4 – Midnight Express (1978)
5 – The Elephant Man (1980)
6 – 1984 (1984)
7 – The Field (1990)
8 – Love and Death on Long Island (1997)
9 – Hellboy (2004)
10 – Shooting Dogs (2005)