Less than a week after celebrating his 77th birthday, award-winning actor John Hurt has passed away. THR reported on his passing, which came after a 2015 diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, but more importantly, after nearly 55 years of acting on the big and small screens. Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest condolences go out to Hurt’s family, friends, and loved ones.
In 1962 at the age of 22, Hurt began his acting career with bit parts in the TV series Z Cars and Probation Officer, made his London stage debut in Infanticide in the House of Fred Ginger, and starred in his first film, The Wild and the Willing. Things really took off for Hurt in the 70s, during which he starred as the indulgent emperor Caligula in 1976’s TV mini-series I, Claudius, and landed an Oscar-nominated turn in the Oscar-winning film Midnight Express, followed by perhaps his most memorable role as Kane in Ridley Scott‘s Alien. Not to be overlooked, however, were Hurt’s voice acting roles in the 1978 animated films Watership Down (in which he voiced Hazel) and The Lord of the Rings (in which he voice Aragorn).
1980 brought an Oscar-nominated role for Hurt as John Merrick, the title character of David Lynch‘s The Elephant Man. Though this would be the last of Hurt’s Oscars nods, some of his most iconic pop culture characters were still to come. He played Winston Smith, the protagonist of 1984, before flipping to the antagonistic role of oppressive overlord Adam Sutler in V for Vendetta years later; S.R. Hadden, an influential scientist and billionaire in Contact; the wand scholar Olivander in the Harry Potter franchise; Professor Trevor Broom in the Hellboy movies; an addled professor in the most recent Indiana Jones film; the voice of the Dragon in the excellent TV series Merlin; and resistance leader Gilliam in Snowpiercer, just to name a very few.
Hurt continued to work right up until his death. Keep an eye out for his final roles in 2017, including Eric Styles‘ drama That Good Night, Daniel Zelik Berk‘s thriller Damascus Cover, Ron Scalpello‘s sports drama My Name Is Lenny, and Joe Wright‘s biographical drama picture Darkest Hour, in which he’ll play Neville Chamberlain opposite Gary Oldman‘s Winston Churchill.
Hurt’s loss will be felt particularly strongly within TV and film culture circles, but his legacy will live on forever. The legendary actor himself once joked that he might hold the record for the most on-screen deaths, which were assembled into a YouTube video that now acts as a bittersweet memorial to his storied career: