In a five-decade career spanning hundreds of films and TV appearances, John Hurt died countless times on screen, including perhaps the most memorable death scene in all of cinema. Sadly, the actor has played his final role and passed away in real life as well.
After establishing himself as a face to watch in theater, television and features such as ‘A Man for All Seasons‘ and ‘10 Rillington Place‘, Hurt made a major breakthrough with cinema audiences by playing a heroin-addicted Brit wasting away in a Turkish prison in director Alan Parker’s ‘Midnight Express‘. The movie ignited a firestorm of controversy regarding its xenophobic message and attitude, but was a sizable box office hit. Hurt’s performance (which is excellent) received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
He followed that a year later with Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror thriller ‘Alien‘. The now iconic scene in which his character dies gruesomely via a monster tearing outwards from his chest shocked and terrified theater audiences. According to legend, it also startled the other members of the cast, who weren’t told what to expect during filming.
1980 was a very tumultuous year for the actor. He had a sizable role in Michael Cimino’s epic Western ‘Heaven’s Gate‘, which had a legendarily troubled production and went on to become one of the most notorious box office flops of all time. Of course, no one blamed John Hurt for that, but the film’s failure must have been dispiriting all the same. During the same year, however, he donned an elaborate makeup prosthesis to portray the title character in David Lynch’s historical drama ‘The Elephant Man‘. Unrecognizable as himself (and barely recognizable as human), Hurt somehow managed to elicit a very emotionally affecting performance that scored him a second Oscar nomination, this time for Best Actor.
Director Michael Radford cast him as the lead in the adaptation of George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four‘, produced in the actual year of 1984. A couple decades later, Hurt would appear in another dystopian political allegory, playing the oppressive dictator in ‘V for Vendetta‘.
John Hurt was 77-years-old. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a couple years ago but was believed to be in remission until news of his death broke late last week.
[Source: The Guardian]