Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Sir John Vincent Hurt CBE 22 January 1940 – 25 January 2017
This morning we wake to the sad news that John Hurt has passed away. One of those actors who had established his status as “national treasure”. A prolific performer who managed to achieve cult status and popularity through several roles that spanned genre and generation to attain a permanent position of admiration.
He was friends with Hell raising trio Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed, a respected versatile actor whose voice had become an unmistakable trademark. Yet as he aged, his face cracked and wrinkled in a way that made every gesture and twitch pregnant with meaning and fascination.
His career began back in the 1960's and saw many one episode appearances in various TV series and multiple theatre and on screen play productions before starring as Caligula in the 1976 TV mini series I, Claudius. In 1978 he voiced the character of Aragorn in the animated Lord of the Rings and the lead of Hazel in the timeless Watership Down. This was the prelude to starring in four of the most outstanding films of that era, with the unforgettable role of Kane in Alien (1979), a BAFTA award and Oscar nomination for Midnight Express (1978), a role in one of the most infamous troubled Hollywood productions of all time, Heaven's Gate (1980) and in the same year the eponymous Elephant Man, John Merrick for which he won a second BAFTA and was titled “the greatest actor in the world” by director David Lynch.
He went on to play hero Winston Smith in the 1984 production of 1984 and played the jockey Bob Champion in the story of his defeat of cancer to return and win the Grand National in Champions. He lampooned his performance in Alien with a memorable repetition of his chest bursting scene in Spaceballs (1987) and won a whole new generation of fans as the Storyteller in the 1987-88 TV series of the same name. His work continued apace through the 90s during which period he featured in 1995's Rob Roy and as the manipulative multi millionaire Hadden in Contact alongside Jodie Foster. Into the new century he once again found legendary status amongst a whole new genre of fans with his role as Mr. Ollivander in the Harry Potter series and then with roles in the Hellboy films 2004 & 2008 and V for Vendetta 2005 he won over graphic novel fans and then made his name part of the Hollywood mainstream royalty franchise Indiana Jones.
In 2013 he then became part of British TV royalty with a role as a forgotten incarnation of “The Doctor” in long running sci-fi institution Dr. Who.
His versatility, grace and nuance meant he was always in demand, TV, film and stage all eager to shine a light on his performance, but his greatest asset, his voice led to a huge number of animated voice over and narration work. How can that voice be described? Coffee and red wine soaked Dundee cake. A trademark that is lost to those who have watched his performances dubbed into a second language. The video below has multiple clips of some of his most famous and iconic roles, we encourage our readers to revisit some in original version to savour the rich, croaky tones of his voice.
A man who has truly been immortalized in a four decade long career which will live on, long in the memory.