Sir John Vincent Hurt CBE (22 January 1940 – 25 January 2017) was an English actor, who initially came to prominence for his role as Richard Rich in the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons, and sustained a career in lead and supporting roles in many popular motion pictures.
Born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, Hurt was born as the son of Phyllis and Arnold Herbert Hurt. He was inspired in his childhood to become an actor, after appearing in a school production of The Blue Bird. At the age of twelve, Hurt, now enrolled in boarding school, confessed his ambition to his headmaster, who proceed to laugh him off, telling him, "Well, you may be all right in school plays but you wouldn't stand a chance in the profession."
Hurt got the last laugh in the end though. With a proper acting career in both film and television stating in the early 1960s, with his breakthrough role often being considered Richard Rich in the 1966 film adaption of A Man for All Seasons, Hurt saw himself becoming one of England's best-known, most prolific and sought-after actors, and had a versatile film career spanning five decades. He was also known for his many Shakespearean roles, and oddly closed the circle on some special ones. For instance, he played Winston, the tyrannized subject of Big Brother in Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984, and played Sutler, the Big Brother-like dictator in V for Vendetta. He also famously voiced several characters in works inspired by Richard Adams' novels - one of his most famous animated voice roles was the heroic rabbit leader, Hazel, in the film adaptation of Watership Down, but he also played the primary villain, the tyrannical General Woundwort, in the later television adaptation of the same novel. He also voiced Snitter in the film adaptation of The Plague Dogs, by the same author.
Hurt received multiple awards and honours throughout his career including four BAFTA Awards (For The Naked Civil Servant, Midnight Express and The Elephant Man, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award) and a Golden Globe, as well as two Academy Award nominations (for the latter two films). His character's demise in Alien is generally regarded as one of the most memorable scenes in cinematic history. He even reprised the role in the sci-fi spoof Spaceballs, directed by The Elephant Man producer Mel Brooks.
Hurt starred in a voice part in the Warhammer 40,000 CG-animated movie Ultramarines, and also appeared on Doctor Who as the War Doctor, a Shell-Shocked Veteran between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors who shed the name "Doctor" and became a warrior.
He received a knighthood in the 2015's New Year's Honor List, a honor that was no doubt long overdue.
In June of 2015, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but said he was optimistic about treatment and that the disease would not interfere with his professional duties. It did, however, cause production of Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote to be delayed since nobody was willing to insure the film while Hurt had cancer (he was eventually replaced by Jonathan Pryce). He eventually passed away on January 25, 2017, three days after his 77th birthday. The news of his death was announced two days later. Discounting recasts, he was the first Doctor to pass away since Jon Pertwee in 1996, and only the fourth overall (William Hartnell died in 1975, Patrick Troughton died in 1987).
An amusing story was told by Paul Higgins (Jamie MacDonald from The Thick of It). On the opening night of Black Watch, a play Higgins was in, Hurt was sitting in the front row. One character had the line: "I don't care who plays me in the movie, so long as it's not that cunt in The Elephant Man." The next day, the production got a card: "Congratulations on a magnificent performance of a very important play — from the cunt in The Elephant Man and his wife."
A Chronically Killed Actor, a YouTube compilation of his death scenes is even longer than it is for Sean Bean. He was also at drama school with Ian McShane, and they shared an apartment, leading to a lifelong friendship.
Not to be confused with Mississippi John Hurt. And no, he's not related to William Hurt.
- A Man for All Seasons (1966) as Richard Rich
- 10 Rillington Place (1971) as Timothy John Evans
- I, Claudius (1976) as Caligula
- Watership Down (1978) as Hazel (voice)
- Midnight Express (1978) as Max
- The Shout (1978) as Anthony Fielding
- The Lord of the Rings (1978) as Aragorn (voice)
- Alien (1979) as Kane
- Crime and Punishment (1979 television serial) as Raskolnikov
- The Elephant Man (1980) as John Merrick
- Heaven's Gate (1980) as Billy Irvine
- Night Crossing (1981) as Peter Strelzyk
- History of the World Part I (1981) as Jesus Christ
- Partners (1982) as Officer Kerwin
- The Plague Dogs (1982) as Snitter (voice)
- The Osterman Weekend (1983) as Lawrence Fassett
- King Lear (1983) as the Fool
- Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) as Winston Smith
- The Black Cauldron (1985) as the Horned King (voice)
- Spaceballs (1987) as Kane
- The Storyteller (1988) as The Storyteller
- Pyramid (1988) as Pharaoh Khufu (voice)
- Little Sweetheart (1989) as Robert Burger
- The Field (1990) as "The Bird" O'Donnell
- King Ralph (1991) as Lord Percival Graves
- Thumbelina (1994) as Mr. Mole (voice)
- Rob Roy (1995) as John Graham, Marquis of Montrose
- Dead Man (1995) as John Scholfield
- Love and Death on Long Island (1997) as Giles De'Ath
- Contact (1997) as S.R. Hadden
- Watership Down (1999) as General Woundwort (voice)
- Lost Souls (2000) as Father Lareaux
- The Tigger Movie (2000) as the Narrator (voice)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) as Mr. Ollivander
- Dogville (2003) as the Narrator
- Hellboy (2004) as Professor Trevor Bruttenholm
- The Skeleton Key (2005) as Ben Devereaux
- The Proposition (2005) as Jellon Lamb
- V for Vendetta (2005) as Adam Sutler
- Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer (2006) as the Narrator (voice)
- Hellboy: Blood & Iron (2007) as Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (voice)
- Merlin (2008) as the Great Dragon (voice)
- Outlander (2008) as Hrothgar
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) as Dr. Harold Oxley
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) as Professor Trevor Bruttenholm
- Brighton Rock (2010) as Phil Corkery
- Ultramarines (2010) as Carnak
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) as Mr. Ollivander
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) as Mr. Ollivander
- Melancholia (2011) as Dexter
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) as Control
- Immortals (2011) as Old man/Narrator
- The Confession (2011) as The Priest
- The Hollow Crown (2012) as Choir/Narrator (Henry V episode)
- Doctor Who (2013) as the War Doctor
- Snowpiercer (2013) as Gilliam
- Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) as Christopher Marlowe
- Hercules (2014) as King Cotys of Thrace
- Thomas & Friends (2015) as Sailor John (voice)
- The Legend of Tarzan (2016) as Professor Porter
- Jackie (2016) as the Priest
- Privateer 2: The Darkening (1996) as Joe the Bartender
- The Seduction of Claude Debussy by Art of Noise (1999) as the narrator (voice)
- BBC Radio's dramatization of The Divine Comedy (2014) as an older Dante Alighieri (voice)
- Big Finish Doctor Who (2015–2017) reprising his War Doctor role (voice)
- The Big Finish version of The Invisible Man (2017) as Griffin (voice)
Tropes seen in:
- The Alcoholic: He might have disagreed, calling it "a silly word", but there is no denying he enjoyed the tip of a glass, though perhaps not to the extremes of his generational cohorts Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed, which would go some way towards explaining why he outlived all of them. When he died, many completely ordinary people recounted stories of his jovial casual friendliness towards them at the bar stool.
- Art Imitates Life: John Hurt's last reading role, the British drama That Good Night is about a terminally ill artist of irascible nature trying to make peace with his own mortality and connect with his family during his final days. John Hurt was also a terminally ill artist of irascible nature trying to make peace with his own mortality and trying to connect with his family (as his children also worked in the film's production) during his final days.
- Badass Baritone: His voice has been described as a mixture of honey and acid, and is a big reason why he was able to chalk up over 200 film and TV roles.
- Chronically Killed Actor: To the point his official YouTube channel has a death reel. A research shows Hurt dies in about a third of his filmography. He even dies in a documentary!
- Cool Old Guy:
- He had his own official Facebook account and frequently posted Doctor Who and Alien related humour.
- Not only that, at the age of 73 he got to play a brand-new (or at least previously unrevealed) version of The Doctor, adding to his cool old guy cred. It has been said of him that, even in his senior years, he got to play a dragon, a wizard, and the Doctor, i.e. three of the coolest things in fiction.
- He was also a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland to the point he could recite Jabberwocky from memory as seen here.
- Determinator: He suffered from pancreatic cancer, an especially devastating form of the disease that typically kills within a few months. Hurt hung on for two years after being diagnosed, and kept working the whole time, with him even claiming the cancer was in remission, until at the time of his death there were still three films he'd appeared in that had yet to be released.
- Large Ham: While Hurt could give subtle and subdued performances when necessary, he also loved to chew the scenery when playing larger-than-life, colorful characters, e.g. eccentric billionaire S.R. Hadden in Contact, equally eccentric bounty hunter Jellon Lamb in The Proposition, and the foul-mouthed, wizened, aging London Gangster Old Man Peanut in Forty Four Inch Chest.