Sunday, January 29, 2017

John Hurt has died at age 77

After a tragic set of celebrity deaths towards the end of 2016, which included the passing of Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, and George Michael, there was a brief period of relief for fans and cinephiles. I don't like to subscribe to the idea of blaming the year for famous fatalities, but there's no doubt that 2016 was a brutal time for the loss of actors and entertainers. This week, we get rolling on another tragic stretch with many mourning the loss of beloved performers. Mary Tyler Moore passed away at the age of 80 earlier in the week, and Oscar-nominated French actress Emmanuel Riva died at the age of 89 just yesterday. But the loss that hit me the hardest was the passing of John Hurt, who died yesterday at the age of 77. Hurt was a true icon, an actor who could instantly improve nearly any movie through his presence alone. He transcended genre, and despite an overall lack of recognition from the Academy, he'll be known as one of the most prolific, talented actors of his generation.

Image Credit: IMDB- Hurt in 2001's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Hurt has over 204 credits to his name on IMDb, and he appeared in some of the most popular films ever made. His career stretched from 1962 to the present day, with several films that have yet to be released. Hurt first broke through with a role in 1978's Midnight Express, for which he received an Oscar nomination. One year later, Hurt permanently cemented his status as a part of cinematic history with his role as Kane in Alien, where his character fell victim to the famous chest-bursting incident. The next year, Hurt received his second Oscar nomination for The Elephant Man, following that up with roles in Heaven's Gate, 1984, and even a cameo in Spaceballs. He further established his legacy with the character of Ollivander, who he played in several installments in the Harry Potter franchise. During the 2000s, Hurt also appeared in Hellboy, V for Vendetta, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, all before capping off his incredible career with integral parts in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Snowpiercer, and last year's Jackie. He has four upcoming productions, including Joe Wright's The Darkest Hour, where he plays Neville Chamberlain. Hurt was a universally appealing presence in the world of film and television, and he will be sorely missed.

I was first exposed to Hurt through the Harry Potter franchise, which was the vessel for my exposure to so many incredible actors. Hurt is only in one scene in the 2001 film, but he makes such an invaluable impact in a short period of time, which seemed to be the motto for his entire career. Hurt was rarely the lead, but he always managed to capture my attention whenever he was on screen. He's simply excellent in Alien, effectively selling one of the greatest horror sequences put on film with an empathetic, likable individual. He's excellent in Snowpiercer as Gilliam, the wise old man behind the inner workings of the dystopian train. And of course, in his most recent performance, Hurt's impact as the Priest in Jackie was near perfection. In a movie filled with showy, dynamic turns, his understated brilliance was captivating. Hurt really was an incredible talent, and I'm going to miss seeing him in new roles as the years go by. Nonetheless, he left a permanent impact on the industry with some terrific performances.

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