Hey, guys Quint here with some more bad news this week. John Hurt passed away today at the age of 77.
I feel drained. This week has been such a bummer already and now we're ending it on an incredibly sad note.
John Hurt had a massive career that spanned heavy drama, intense sci-fi horror, parody films and crazy superhero movies. He was Hellboy's adoptive daddy, the Elephant Man, Winston Smith, Jesus (for Mel Brooks, no less), Caligula, Montrose and the man without whom we wouldn't have any Alien movies because the crew of the Nostromo wouldn't have gotten infected.
Like most reading this, I only knew Hurt through his work. I was in his presence once, when a few of us online types were invited to visit Amblin after the movie site community turned our noses up at the folks who stole a bunch of photos from their offices during the making of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and tried to sell them. The trip wasn't an Indiana Jones set visit, really. Spielberg joined us in the Amblin screening room during his lunch break to take some questions and say thanks for not being dicks and paying for these stolen photos.
When that was over we all piled into a van to take us off the Universal lot just as the rest of the crew hit lunch, including the cast. We all squealed when we saw Harrison Ford in his full Indiana Jones outfit and murmured amongst ourselves when John Hurt wandered past the van. At the time the common thought was he was playing Abner Ravenwood, so we all thought we saw Marion's daddy.
The excitement of not knowing who he was playing exactly was a part of the buzz of the moment, but the majority of it was seeing film history pass casually by this van full of nerds, completely unaware of our presence. This man was Kane. He was John Merrick. He was Ollivander.
I could probably write a couple books on Hurt's many and varied film roles, but I won't subject you guys to that. I'll just say that what's most amazing about his work is that he brought his whole presence to every film role and wasn't one of those actors whose only work of note was done early in their career. His early career is packed with doozies, like Alien, Midnight Express, The Elephant Man and 10 Rillington Place, but some of his best performances came in the latter half of his life.
Look at his joyous turn in Contact or his soulful turn as Professor Broom in Hellboy or his imposing presence in V for Vendetta or the sweet lightness in his voice as narrator of one of my favorite underseen movies of the aughts: Perfume – Story of a Murderer or his eye-drawing performance in Snowpiercer or his nutso turn in Only Lovers Left Alive.
He left a hell of a filmography behind him, but I can't help but feel sad about the at least decade of performances I think he had left in him before Cancer took him away from us. It's a selfish thought, but it's a true look inside my emotions surrounding this particular passing. Hurt always had a light in his eyes. It's something that only got brighter as he got older when that spark dimmed in so many of his colleagues.
John Hurt made his mark on cinema and in the hearts of true film fans. He will be missed.