The passing of John Hurt.

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Ethan Anderton at /Film reports the death of John Vincent Hurt.

The prolific actor has hundreds of screen credits, but as Anderton points out:

“John Hurt may be best known for playing Kane in Alien, who met an unfortunate end in the famous scene where a xenomorph bursts through his chest (a role he would reprise to great comedic effect in Spaceballs).”

I first encountered Hurt on the big screen in his role as the above-mentioned Kane:

aliendc_0191
Kane (John Hurt) awakens from hypersleep

In 1979, Ridley Scott’s Alien introduced film-goers to a new standard for science fiction, and Hurt played a pivotal role in that movement.  His cigarette-puffing Kane was imperious on the bridge, one of several crusty veterans of untold voyages…and nothing like any space man we’d seen before.

When interviewed in 2004 by Cintra Wilson of Salon.com, Hurt had this to say about acting:

“I think it would be very difficult to play somebody if they didn’t think they had any virtues or redeeming characteristics. You can play an unlovable character because society doesn’t find them easy to love, but somewhere deep inside most people, who do not commit suicide, is a love for themselves.”

Since Alien‘s executive officer, I can remember seeing him play a heroin addict (Midnight Express, 1978), a “human being” (The Elephant Man, 1980), a clerk (1984, 1984), a king (Outlander, 2008), a spy (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 2011), the other man (Jayne Mansfield’s Car, 2012), a member of a vampire clique (Only Lovers Left Alive, 2013), and a resistance leader (Snowpiercer, 2013).

During his career, Hurt netted three BAFTAs (the latest for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema, no less), a Golden Globe, and two nominations for an Oscar.

One never knew what to expect from his characters when Hurt entered the scene, but he inhabited them and moved about their world with the skill and artistry gained from decades of acting.

According to imdB’s John Hurt page, he had four films in the works for 2017:

  • That Good Night, where he played a terminally ill screenwriter (completed)
  • Damascus Cover, a spy movie (post-production)
  • My Name is Lenny, a bio-pic based on the life of one of Britain’s most notorious bare-knuckled fighters (post-production)
  • Darkest Hour, a WWII drama in which he played Neville Chamberlain (filming)

That distinctively rich voice and accompanying flair for eccentric acting roles, will be missed.  It might just be time for a personal John Hurt film festival.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends… 

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