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Sad news to report this evening as reports have come in that English stage and screen veteran John Hurt has passed away according to multiple reports, first emerging from British newspapers. The twice Oscar-nominated actor revealed last year that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer however an official cause of death hasn’t yet been reported. Hurt was 77-years old.
Throughout a career that spanned over fifty years, there are multiple points and entry from film fans of all forms all around the world. He broke through as Rich in Fred Zinneman’s Oscar-winning historical drama A Man for All Seasons (1966) and forged an impressive career across film, stage and television. Highlights included portraying Caligula in the landmark 1976 mini-series I, Claudius, his portrayal of a drug addict stuck in a Turkish prison in Alan Parker’s Midnight Express (a role that earned Hurt his first Oscar nomination), the voice of Hazel in Watership Down (1978) and his classic, Oscar-nominated performance in David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980). He also appeared in late director Michael Cimino’s notorious 1980 period epic Heaven’s Gate.
Hurt memorably appeared in Ridley Scott’s horror classic Alien (1979), cementing a specific legacy for the genre and for cinematic pop culture particularly in how his character dies in the film, with his chest burst open by the alien creature itself. Further chillingly, Hurt brought his fiery, wiry sensibility to Michael Radford’s 1984 adaptation of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984. Younger cinephiles and moviegoers may remember Hurt best as Mr. Ollivander in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). Hurt also appeared in Love and Death in Long Island (1996), Contact (1997), Las von Trier’s Dogville (2003) and Manderlay (2005), Hellboy (2004), The Proposition (2005) and V for Vendetta (2006).
Most recently, Hurt appeared to acclaim in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) and Snowpiercer (2014). His latest screen role was as a priest comforting Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) in the Oscar nominated Jackie, now in theaters. A few more projects are still in the canon for the screen great including the drama The Good Night starring Charles Dance, the thriller Damascus Cover and Joe Wright’s Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour, in which Hurt portrays Neville Chamberlin.
Over the course of his career, Hurt received Oscar nominations, won a Golden Globe (for Midnight Express) and won 3 BAFTA prizes. In 2012, BAFTA awarded his a British Contribution to Cinema prize and his was bestowed a BFI Fellowship from the British Film Institute in 2009. Just last year, Hurt was knighted by the Queen Elizabeth II.
Hurt is survived by his wife, producer Anwen Rees-Myers as well as two children from a previous marriage.