John Hurt: 1940-2017

John Hurt

This is the kind of thing is sad to write about. The brilliant John Hurt passed away yesterday. He had just celebrated his 77th birthday this week.

Hurt was diagnosed with early stages of pancreatic cancer two years ago, but after receiving treatment he announced that same year his cancer was in remission.

Sir John Hurt had a magnificent acting career across six decades in over 129 films and dozens of television shows, with roles ranging from critically acclaimed films to geek celebrated, and many times managing both. He received several BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy Awards nominations  and in 2015 he was knighted for his services to drama by Queen Elizabeth II.

Hurt was born on January 22 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, son of Phyllis and Arnould Herbert Hurt. His father was a vicar no a church in Derbyshire, and his uprising was so strict he wasn’t allowed to see films despite living opposite a cinema and also wasn’t allowed to mix with the local kids. Despite being discouraged by his parents and teachers he developed a passion for acting eventually made it to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and in 1962 he got his first role in a film in The Wild  and the Willing.

Early success in his career came from A Man for All Seasons, Midnight Express and he played one of his most memorable roles in David Lynch’s Elephant Man in 1980. He became a legend for sci-fi fans after playing Kane, the first victim of the titular creature of Ridley Scott’s Alien in an infamously bloody scene. Years later he would reprise that role, and that scene, as a parody in Mel Brook’s Spaceballs. Hurt followed that with King Lear opposite Laurence Olivier, he played the title role and on-screen narrator in Jim Henson’s TV series “The Storyteller” in 1988, and he appeared in Robert Zeneckis’ Contact in 1997 .

Adding another iconic character to his resume, in 2001 he playing Mr. Ollivander in Chris Columbus’ adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a role he would repeat later in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (though his scenes were cut from that film) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. He played Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, the man who finds and raises the titular Hellboy in the Guillermo del Toro adaptation of the comic book series in 2004. He also appeared briedly in the sequel Hellboy: The Golden Army. Playing another comic book character, he appeared in V for Vendetta as fascist Chancellor Adam Suttler and in 2008 he played Professor Harold Oxley in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In 2013 he appeared in three episodes of “Doctor Who” as a ‘forgotten’ incarnation of the doctor. That year he also appeared in Bong Joon-ho’s sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer.

His distinctive voice also gave him a great presence in films such as Ralph Bakshi’s animated The Lords of the Rings where he voice Aragorn. He played the main antagonist in the dark animated Disney movie The Black Cauldron where he played the main antagonist. He also narrated Perfume: The  Story of a Murderer for director Tom Tykwer.

Never stopping from doing what he loved, Hurt had four films scheduled for release this year, That Good NightDamascus CoverMy Name Is Lenny and the currently filming Darkest Hour for director Joe Wright.

There’s no doubt that John Hurt was a living legend, a charming, talented man who always gave gravitas to any role he played, and he was loved and will be truly missed by movie fans. Rest in peace Sir Hurt, and thank you for so many memorable roles.