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John Hurt dies aged 77

Legendary actor John Hurt has died aged 77 following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Born on January 22, 1940 in Chesterfield, central England, Hurt first began his career as a teacher of drawing. However, switching career and honing the instinct for acting which would in time win him numerous accolades, he entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.

In a 2007 instalment of the BBC series Who Do you Think You Are?, the actor explored his Irish roots. He declared on the programme that he knew he was Irish when he arrived in Ireland to act at the Abbey Theatre. “The minute I put foot in Dublin, I said, ‘Home!’ The feeling was so immediate.”

Hurt’s most iconic role was John Merrick in David Lynch’s 1980 film The Elephant Man, where his unforgettable, sensitive performance under layers of prosthetics earned him one of two Oscar nominations.

A year earlier, he played Kane in Ridley Scott’s Alien– the character at the centre of the infamous ‘chest-burster’ scene.

Like so many British actors of his generation, Hurt was given a role in the Harry Potter films: in the memorable part of wand-maker Ollivander. He appeared in 2001’s Philosopher’s Stone, and reprised the part a decade later in Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2.

He starred in an assortment of other mainstream films, including Hellboy, V for Vendetta and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He voiced the Dragon in BBC’s Merlin, and appeared in a 2013 episode of Doctor Who. In 2015, he starred in the Sky drama The Last Panthers. Hurt’s most recent role is that of The Priest in Pablo Larraine’s Oscar-nominated drama Jackie (which this writer only watched last night).

It’s hard to overstate the depth and breadth of Hurt’s work in film and television: few British actors have had as long and as varied a career. His face alone is one of cinema’s most iconic. It won’t be long before the world starts to notice his absence from the movies, and miss his understated charisma and wisdom dearly.

This entry was posted in: Movies


Lucien writes on film, television and politics at and co-hosts the podcasts Above All Else and The 99%.

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