Tuesday, May 30, 2017

John Hurt (1940-2017)

"My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today."
- Hazel (voiced by John Hurt), Watership Down-

Sadly, this writer is spending way too much time saying goodbye to artists he's loved across a lifetime.

Catching up on the losses of 2017 another big,big man lost in January of this year was English actor John Hurt (1940-2017).

You want to talk about a prolific performer. Hurt was in demand and always busy.

For me and for many science fiction fans, and likely the general film going population, Hurt may best be remembered for his unenviable chest burster sequence as Kane in director Ridley Scott's classic Alien (1979).

Yet film fans will certainly recollect their favorites when it comes to Hurt. Personally, I'm by no means a Hurt connoisseur, but I'd like to offer a selection of some of his performances that I recall fondly and that hurt so great.

Alan Parker's Midnight Express (1978), Ridley Scott's Alien (1979), David Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980), Sam Peckinpah's The Osterman Weekend (1982), Michael Radford's 1984 (1984), Michael Caton-Jones Scandal (1989) and Rob Roy (1995), Jim Sheridan's The Field (1990), Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001) and Hellboy (2004).

Let us also not forget his voice contribution to Martin Rosen's fantastic and gorgeous animated features Watership Down (1978) and The Plague Dogs (1982). And the list goes on and on. These are but just a few films that resonated with me through the years.

Hurt even portrayed the War Doctor in TV series  Doctor Who (2013). He also filmed scenes as a key character in the unaired Pilot for the awesome and extremely underrated TV series The Strain (2014). That would have been interesting to see.

And yet, this is but a sampling of his immense and exceptional work. It's sad to see him go.

And then there are the films that never see the light of day.

On a personal note, I recall being in Ireland in 1995 and sitting across from him in a pub and even earlier in the day at a fish and chips shop by the ocean in County Cork in a place called Ballycotton. He was filming a movie with Johnny Depp and Marlon Brando that never saw the light of day. I was so star struck upon seeing the man sitting next to me I didn't have the nerve to say hello, but it was definitely like sitting next to a living legend for me. We literally breathed the same air and shared a lager (sort of) just feet away later in the evening at Stephen Pearce pub in the same small Irish village. He was surrounded by a few adoring ladies. He's easy to adore. My upbringing to respect people's space kept me from crossing that line. Oh well, I still have his films along with that quiet moment.

So it's sad to see another great go. His performances speak for themselves. He was that rare and special talent.

The charitable John Hurt was just 77 years of age.


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