John Hurt: In Loving Memory of the Unforgettable Actor with a Magical Face

Among a sea of memorials to John Hurt, I am but another wholly taken in by his magnetism, and his ability to transcend the physical — to simply become another person. Whether portraying one gender or another made no difference to Hurt and of his many affecting roles, his physicality was often masked by wigs or make-up, sometimes hampered by effects, but there was no missing exactly who was underneath. For all who first discovered the incredible trio of his late 70s to 1980 performances (Midnight Express, Alien, The Elephant Man), he immediately cemented a spot atop our personal lists and a hunger for more. From the War Doctor to the Wand Maker, with each role, and every line that marked his impossibly morphing countenance, he only became more beautiful … more watchable. Hurt’s gift to play everything — high comedy, drama, thriller, fiends and beloved friends — each character left its mark forever etched across that magical face, and in our hearts and minds.

“… I played a lot of girls, but that’s beside the point; the fact is that I was pretending to be somebody else”.

A sampling of John Hurt’s ever-changing visage:

Young and Willing aka The Wild and the Willing, 1962

A Man for All Seasons, 1966

Hurt at King’s Head Theater, 1970s

Photo by Colin O’Brien

 10 Rillington Place, 1971, BAFTA nominated

The Naked Civil Servant, 1971, won British Academy Television Award for Best Actor

I, Claudius, 1976

Midnight Express, 1978, BAFTA Best Actor, Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor, Academy Award nominated

Alien, 1979, BAFTA nominated

The Elephant Man, 1980, BAFTA Best Actor, Golden Globe and Academy Award nominated

History of the World Part 1, 1981

The Osterman Weekend, 1983

 Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1984, Evening Standard British Film Award Best Actor

Spaceballs, 1987

 The Field, 1990, BAFTA nominated

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1993

Love and Death on Long Island, 1997, British Independent Film Best Actor nominated

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone, 2001

Hellboy, 2004

The Proposition, 2005, Australian Film Institute Award Best Supporting Actor nominated

V for Vendetta, 2005

An Englishman in New York, 2009, Berlin International Film Festival Teddy Award, British Academy Television Award Best Actor nominated

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2, 2010 & 2011

Melancholia, 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 2011

Only Lovers Left Alive, 2013

Snowpiercer, 2013

Doctor Who, 2013

 The Last Panthers, 2015

Jackie, 2016

That Good Night, to be released 2017

Damascus Cover, to be released 2017

My Name Is Lenny, to be released 2017

The Absinthe Drinkers, unreleased


Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over ten years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

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