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‘.
Younger viewers may know him best from his appearances in three of the ‘Harry Potter‘ pictures or as the elderly mentor in ‘Hellboy‘.
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]
Magnificent actor, a true and sad loss. He will definitely be missed.
Almost like Gary Oldman (who, in my opinion, he physically resembles to a small degree), he’s one of those actors who may not have been a “leading man”, but elevated anything and everything that he touched.
A couple of extra highlights not mentioned above –
– Dr. Who (he played one of the Doctors, but telling you which one would be a horrible spoiler!)
– Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
– Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (with Gary Oldman again)
– The Lord of the Rings (the voice of Aragorn in the animated version)
I’ve always liked John Hurt. I’m lucky enough to have his autograph on my Alien poster (even though I never got to meet him). Another sad one to see go…
I know everyone moaned about 2016, but I don’t think it’s anything out of the ordinary. I think we have just unfortunately hit the time where a lot of the iconic actors from the late 70’s and 80’s, a great period for cinema, are reaching an age where we’re starting to lose them… 🙁
Rest in peace, John. 🙁
On his own YouTube page a few years back, John Hurt posted a video of his many onscreen deaths.