John Hurt (1940-2017)

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Professor Wagstaff
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John Hurt (1940-2017)

#1 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Fri Jan 27, 2017 9:30 pm


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Jean-Luc Garbo
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Re: Passages

#2 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Sat Jan 28, 2017 12:35 am

I'm absolutely stunned. Hurt was one of my favorite actors - very close to my favorite entirely. While I never saw a bad performance, I think my favorites Elephant Man and Love and Death on Long Island were his best.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Passages

#3 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Jan 28, 2017 2:38 am

Very sad. When he revealed that he was fighting pancreatic cancer, I didn't think the end could be far off - incredibly difficult cancer to treat (I still recall the conversations I had with a good friend who is now a surgeon on the challenges doing so). But it's incredible he was able to pack in so much work in those years. A wonderful actor.

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Re: Passages

#4 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Jan 28, 2017 7:21 am

Professor Wagstaff wrote:John Hurt
That's terrible news. Of course I'll always remember the chest bursting scene in Alien, but it feels like he has been a constant presence in so many films over the decades. And not just in terms of physically such as in The Elephant Man or his portrayal of Conservative politician Alan Clark in The Alan Clark Diaries or the contrasting figure of Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant (reprised in An Englishman In New York) but vocally too. He always had such a distinctive voice that it seemed inevitable that he would be the piercingly, omnisciently callous narrator in Dogville and Manderlay. Not to mention his voice work in the 70s Ralph Baskshi Lord of the Ring film and Watership Down and The Plague Dogs.

But its a fantastic career throughout, and Hurt worked with a stunning variety of directors - David Lynch, Spielberg, Richard Fleischer (in 10 Rillington Place) Guillermo del Toro, Michael Cimino, Alan Parker (in the politically dubious, but humanist Midnight Express), Bong Joon-Ho, Alex de la Iglesia, Gus Vant Sant, Tom Twykwer, Jim Jarmusch, Pablo Larrain (in the recent Jackie). From Jerzy Skolimowski in The Shout, Roger Corman's last directed film Frankenstein Unbound to Sam Peckinpah's last film The Osterman Weekend (a flawed film but the performances are great throughout, and Hurt's character is really the driving force of the action. I particularly love the scene where Hurt has to improvise his way through a news report as his technology fails him!)

And what about his fantastic work as Winston Smith in 1984? (Again with a heartbreaking voiceover) Just the two minute hate scene is fantastic. (It also makes his role in V For Vendetta actually as the Big Brother figure quite amusing! His role as the flawed inspirational father figure in Snowpiercer, concealing the truth of how the world works, resonates too)

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Re: Passages

#5 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sat Jan 28, 2017 9:26 am

I liked him as Warren Christopher in the HBO movie Recount

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Re: Passages

#6 Post by j99 » Sat Jan 28, 2017 10:21 am

Professor Wagstaff wrote:John Hurt
For me, his greatest performance will always be The Naked Civil Servant, a film for television, and a bold and daring production, which was life changing for many. I also loved his supporting role in Midnight Express, and his starring role in the remakable The Elephant Man. I'll also miss that voice. It would appear in the unlikeliest of places; the Aids advert in the mid 80s, the narrator in Lars Von Trier's Dogville and Manderlay, and also the voice in kids animation The Gruffalo. He has such a long, and varied filmography, that everyone from 8 to 80 could find at least something to enjoy. One of the all time British greats. RIP sir.

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ando
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John Hurt (1940 - 2017)

#7 Post by ando » Sun Jan 29, 2017 12:24 am

j99 wrote:
Professor Wagstaff wrote:John Hurt
For me, his greatest performance will always be The Naked Civil Servant, a film for television, and a bold and daring production, which was life changing for many. I also loved his supporting role in Midnight Express, and his starring role in the remakable The Elephant Man. I'll also miss that voice. It would appear in the unlikeliest of places; the Aids advert in the mid 80s, the narrator in Lars Von Trier's Dogville and Manderlay, and also the voice in kids animation The Gruffalo. He has such a long, and varied filmography, that everyone from 8 to 80 could find at least something to enjoy. One of the all time British greats. RIP sir.
R.I.P.
I agree with all the above. Love his cameos. And I especially like his vocal performance in Alex Cox's Vincent, a biopic of sorts on Van Gogh (hard to find and seldom shown but excellent).

My favorite performance is his turn in Beckett's one act play, Krapp's Last Tape. Great actor.

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Re: Passages

#8 Post by GaryC » Sun Jan 29, 2017 2:30 am

ando wrote:And I especially like his vocal performance in Alex Cox's Vincent, a biopic of sorts on Van Gogh (hard to find and seldom shown but excellent).
*cough* Paul Cox. I've said it before but Cox is very neglected as far as DVD releases of his work go, let alone Blu-rays.

Agreed with everyone. I watched The Elephant Man again yesterday in tribute. That was a film that I clearly saw at just the right time in my life - on its original release in 1980, aged sixteen - an dit knocked me for six. But plenty of other great roles and cameos and voice parts. I don't remember a bad performance.

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Dr Amicus
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Re: Passages

#9 Post by Dr Amicus » Sun Jan 29, 2017 5:37 am

I'll go along with all the above on Hurt, but would like to add his role as the War Doctor in the 50th anniversary adventure, The Day of the Doctor. Apparently a replacement for Christopher Eccleston who didn't want to return, and thus effectively a necessary Retcon, Hurt's performance as "the Doctor who doesn't deserve the name" was a highlight of the episode. And he returned to the role for several audio adventures too.

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Re: Passages

#10 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jan 29, 2017 6:27 am

Most recently I found particularly amusing Hurt's couple of small roles in Greek myth films! In Immortals he is the 'old man' figure bookending the action and heavily implied to be one of the Gods in disguise, meddling in the affairs of humans. And in the 2014 Hercules film with The Rock he gets to play a great bad guy, ending up being ironically crushed by his own temple!

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Re: Passages

#11 Post by bsmit » Sun Jan 29, 2017 8:24 am

Hurt was such a warm presence in so many films and productions. In addition to what's already been mentioned, his role as the title character in the Jim Henson TV series The Storyteller was sublime. Highly recommended for those that liked Henson's darker Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal side or like European folk tales told with lots of puppets.

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Re: Passages

#12 Post by ando » Sun Jan 29, 2017 11:32 am

GaryC wrote:
ando wrote:And I especially like his vocal performance in Alex Cox's Vincent, a biopic of sorts on Van Gogh (hard to find and seldom shown but excellent).
*cough* Paul Cox. I've said it before but Cox is very neglected as far as DVD releases of his work go, let alone Blu-rays.
Thanks for the correction. Of Course, Paul Cox, who I just discovered died last June! Hadn't he retired? I remember his disgust with the business and that he had recovered from a long illness. Sad loss. Yes, I also wish more of his film were readily available.

Re: Hurt
For some great early Hurt there's Richard Fleischer's 10 Rillington Place (1971), a seriously creepy biopic about the serial killer, John Christie. Hurt plays the hapless newlywed neighbor/victim of Christie's machinations.

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Re: John Hurt (1940 - 2017)

#13 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jan 29, 2017 12:09 pm

I was hoping that this might be on YouTube: the 1985 BBC Arena documentary about Yukio Mishima in which Hurt reads extracts from Mishima's autobiography and novels. (Its also available on the Criterion edition of Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters)

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knives
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Re: John Hurt (1940 - 2017)

#14 Post by knives » Sun Jan 29, 2017 1:01 pm

Hurt's best quality was probably in his name. Even when playing dastardly characters, like in the aforementioned Rock film, he could convey such an essential and broken hurt that could introduce such a complex sympathy. Skolimowski's weird The Shout is probably my favorite example of that.

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Re: John Hurt (1940 - 2017)

#15 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jan 29, 2017 1:12 pm

Also as in The Osterman Weekend where:
SpoilerShow
Hurt's character is manipulating everyone's paranoid fears and heightening them through technology, before killing them off. And its all just so that he can blackmail Rutger Hauer's reporter into facing down and exposing Burt Lancaster's general on his news show. By showing the footage of the brutal killing of Hurt's wife, that Lancaster colluded in, on national television.

Its a flawed film mainly because the use of manipulatable video imagery is rather overblown, and the idea of an army guy recording footage of their top secret assassinations for posterity is ridiculous for the era (in the novel it is apparently audio-based, which makes a bit more sense), if maybe not so much these days, but Hurt really sells the idea of someone on a revenge mission who ends up becoming the monster themselves in the process by murdering others and kidnapping another family to achieve his ends. He also gets a quite moving death scene here as well, given the honour of being blown away, shown through Peckinpah's signature slow motion violence!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Thu Mar 02, 2017 6:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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L.A.
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Re: John Hurt (1940 - 2017)

#16 Post by L.A. » Sun Jan 29, 2017 3:15 pm

John in the music video for Suede's Attitude.

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Re: John Hurt (1940 - 2017)

#17 Post by FrauBlucher » Sun Jan 29, 2017 4:50 pm

One of my favorite Hurt characters was a small part in The Proposition where he plays Jellon Lamb, a poet, a drunk and a bounty hunter all wrapped up in one sociopath in a film full of sociopaths. He's a stand out.

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colinr0380
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Re: John Hurt (1940 - 2017)

#18 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jan 29, 2017 6:06 pm

And there's his performance in the 2010 version of the ghost story Whistle And I'll Come To You.

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ando
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Re: John Hurt (1940 - 2017)

#19 Post by ando » Sun Jan 29, 2017 6:14 pm

I remember Partners (1982) being a dud. Might have improved with age though.

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domino harvey
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Re: John Hurt (1940 - 2017)

#20 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jan 29, 2017 6:42 pm

It hasn't. Here's my write up from the 80s thread:
domino harvey wrote:Partners (James Burrows 1982) If you are in the market for a comedy sure to make everyone regardless of political or sexual orientation uncomfortable, here it is. TV sitcom-vet Burrows directs Ryan O'Neal (straight) and John Hurt (gay) as two cops ordered to go undercover as gay lovers in order to catch a gay serial killer. O'Neal is such a manly stud that he constantly beds women just by being in their general proximity, and Hurt is such a prissy little queer that he starts getting jealous over these flings as though the two were an actual couple. If that sounds like a recipe for hilarity, keep it to yourself. This is a film with no conceivable audience because right away it alienates potential homosexual viewers with obnoxious gags like the police chief commissioning a lavender VW bug for the two, or the ha-ha-ha-ha-larious sight of a straight man being hugged by a naked gay man. Whoa, no way! That's BRILLIANT! And these gags reinforce the sense of Otherness regarding gay culture that would keep many of those who'd find this a riot out of the theatres anyways. The film of course talks out of both sides of its mouth and preaches understanding and how it's hard out there for a gay man, but still can't resist poking fun at all those effeminate homos, &c. If this film had any balls it'd follow the premise down and have both mismatched officers fall in love with each other rather than going for the regrettable choice of letting the gay one get a crush on the straight one. But that might have been actually progressive and entertaining, and not this, whatever this is. In the film's defense, they did wait about eleven minutes before using the word "faggot," which I would have lost a bet on going in.

This part of the New York Times review is hilarious, by the way (concerning the goddawful, "Wow, fuck this movie" last minute or so):
Vincent Canby wrote: At the theater preview at which I saw ''Partners,'' a group of irate patrons hissed and booed the film's end. I assume it was not because they were disappointed that the film was over too soon.

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Re: John Hurt (1940 - 2017)

#21 Post by Lowry_Sam » Sun Jan 29, 2017 9:14 pm

Since no one has mentioned it, I have to give a shout out to my favorite of his performances, Krapp's Last Tape. Hurt's performance in this Beckett's one-man one-act play is the best thing in the Becket on Film box set. Atom Egoyan stages it perfectly, only disappointed I didn't get a chance to see it live.

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ando
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Re: John Hurt (1940 - 2017)

#22 Post by ando » Sun Jan 29, 2017 9:36 pm

I mentioned it. That Beckett box set is full of good performances to my mind. But Hurt's performance is certainly a stand out. Here's a post live Krapp performance interview/discussion from 2012. I didn't know he'd been knighted.

DH, Partners seemed more like a (not so) glorified Ryan O'Neal vehicle than anything worth serious consideration. It remains so. Babs did slightly better with The Main Event. But laughs at the expense of his straight-laced routine worked best in What's Up Doc?, imo.

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Re: John Hurt (1940-2017)

#23 Post by beamish13 » Mon Jan 30, 2017 1:48 pm

He was one of the most distinctive voice actors ever, as his work on The Black Cauldron, The Plague Dogs and Watership Down attests.

I'm fond of his early work like John Huston's Tom Jones-esque Sinful Davey and Stuart Cooper's Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs

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Re: John Hurt (1940 - 2017)

#24 Post by j99 » Mon Jan 30, 2017 7:12 pm

colinr0380 wrote:I was hoping that this might be on YouTube: the 1985 BBC Arena documentary about Yukio Mishima in which Hurt reads extracts from Mishima's autobiography and novels. (Its also available on the Criterion edition of Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters)
I completely forgot about this, and one of my favourite Arenas, along with the Jean Genet interview (which i remember the late, great Colin Blakely doing the voiceover). Luckily I have the Mishima docu on dvd. I must give it another watch. Thanks for the reminder.

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Re: John Hurt (1940-2017)

#25 Post by JamesF » Tue Jan 31, 2017 8:28 am

Hurt lived in Norfolk the last few years of his life and became quite a regular, beloved presence in the area, including becoming a patron of the arthouse cinema in Norwich I used to work at, Cinema City, and its education program The John Hurt Centre. One of his last films is the narration for a locally-produced cinema history documentary called The Final Reel, which some of you may find interesting.

I never had the chance to meet him, but my partner and I spotted him out of the window of a fish-and-chips shop in Cromer (where I believe he was living) while we were visiting my future in-laws back in October - wish I'd run out and said hello now!

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