Vale: Sir John Hurt
Acclaimed British actor, best known for films including The Elephant Man and Alien, has died.
Acclaimed British actor Sir John Hurt, best known for films including The Elephant Man and Alien, has died aged 77.
He announced in 2015 that he had pancreatic cancer, but continued working.
He was given the all-clear in October 2015 but last year pulled out of the stage play The Entertainer due on the advice of his doctors.
Hurt was one of Britain’s best-known and most versatile actors. Over six decades, he appeared in more than 120 films as well as numerous stage and television roles, widely admired for his range, intensity and empathy in portraying the most complicated and outcast lives.
After a promising start on stage, he found his first notable screen role in 1966’s A Man for All Seasons, which starred Paul Scofield as the martyred Englishman Thomas More.
He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2014 and has been twice nominated for an Academy Award – for 1978’s Midnight Express, and for playing the title role of John Merrick in David Lynch’s 1980 biopic The Elephant Man.
He played wand-maker Mr Ollivander in the Harry Potter films, an erudite English writer smitten with Jason Priestley in Love and Death on Long Island, and an omniscient, enigmatic billionaire who funds an astronomer (Jodie Foster) in Contact.
The death of his character in the film Alien has often been voted as one of cinema’s most memorable moments.
Hurt also played the everyman protagonist Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the spy chief known as Control in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and can currently be seen in the biopic Jackie opposite Natalie Portman.
On the small screen, Hurt played the gay British writer Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant, the crazed Roman emperor Caligula in I, Claudius, and the grizzled War Doctor in Doctor Who, and he lent his voice to projects including Watership Down and Merlin.
Of his chameleon roles and craft, he once said, “The only way I can describe it is that I put everything I can into the mulberry of my mind and hope that it is going to ferment and make a decent wine.
“How that process happens, I’m sorry to tell you I can’t describe.”
Mel Brooks paid tribute to Hurt, who had starred in his comedy Spaceballs, saying on Twitter: “No one could have played The Elephant Man more memorably.”
“He carried that film into cinematic immortality. He will be sorely missed.”
Stephen Fry praised Sir John for being “great on the stage, small screen and big”.
Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood said: “It was such an honor to have watched you work, sir.”
Hurt was deeply respected by his peers, and received a lifetime achievement award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2012.