Sir John Hurt (1940-2017)
- Alan Bates, A Kind of Loving, 1962. "I would've loved it. I suppose I looked much too young. Also, I wasn't as handsome as Alan...I can't complain. Who can complain if you've been given Caligula to play"... on TV.
- Tom Adams, The Fighting Prince of Donegal, 1965. Among four possibilities for Henry O’Neill in the warring Irish clans, circa 1587. Hurt joined Paul Scofield in in A Man For All Seasons, instead.
- Denholm Elliott, Zulu Dawn, 1978.
Hurt lost his £30,000 role in this historic Zulu prequel when refused a visa by the South African government. "The whole thing is a complete mystery to me as well as being a big disappointment," said Hurt. No reason was ever given. His agent, Julian Belfrage said: "It is absolutely scandalous. John is a non-political animal, never involved in controversy and has never talked about South Africa or its government." Fleet Street suggested it was (a) due to having played the gay Quentin Crisp or (b) sharing a bed scene in Elephant Rock with a black actress. South Africa much later admitted it had been "a bureaucratic error" - muddling Hurt with the US actor, John Heard, once arrested during an anti- apartheid march.
- Ben Kingsley, Gandhi, 1981. "Too lofty for my talents." Then, playwright and movie scenarist Harold Pinter mentioned the Anglo-Indian Krishna Bhanji: aka Kingsley. Also in the mix: Marlon Brando, Tom Courtenay, Peter Finch, Alec Guinness, Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt… and, David Lean must have been getting desperate… Dirk Bogarde!!!
- John Wood, WarGames, 1982. All set for Falken until MGM considered director Martin Brest’s take was “too dark, too intense.” John Badham took over.
- Dean Stockwell, Dune, 1984.
- Richard Chamberlain, King Solomon's Mines, 1985. "I thanked them. But Americans only make children's pictures don't they?"
- Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, 1990.
- Jonathan Freeman, Aladdin, 1991. Disney’s voice choices for Jafar, our hero’s foe, the Sultan’s evil vizier, were Hurt, Tim Curry, Kesley Grammer, Christopher Lloyd. Plus the future X-Men foes, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Merging Boris Karloff with Vincent Price, Freeman remained in Jafar mode (for sequels and video games) for the next 20 years.
- Ken Broadhurst, The Dark Half, 1992. Hurt had to miss a cameo when George Romero directed the Stephen King chiller.
- Tim Roth, Rob Roy, 1995. Roth, most people agreed (except Roh) was the new Hurt.
- Paul McGann, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.
- Richard Farnsworth, The Straight Story, 1999. Pretentious American auteur David Lynch is not so clever. He mused on Hurt and Gregory Peck. It was Mary Sweeney, his writer-editor-producer-lover (and mother of their then seven-year-old son, Riley) - who thought The Old Grey Fox was best... to drive a motor-mower from Laurens, Iowa, to Mount Zion, Wisconsin.
- Bernard Hill, Franklyn, 2008. Eva Green’s co-stars - Hurt, Paul Bettany, Ewan McGregor - were sent into a flux by McGregor breaking a leg in a motor-cycle accident. Eva, alone, remained from director Gerald McMorrow’s original, cast.
- Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen, 2008. Not so much “Who watches the watchmen?” as Aristotle asked, but who them playeth? And in the 20 years it took for Alan Moore’s DComic-book to be filmed, directors came and went - Darren Aronofsky, Michael Bay, Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Paul Greengrass. So did their choices for Walter Kovacs aka Rorschach, the masked vigilante: Hurt, Daniel Craig, Doug Hutchinson, Simon Pegg, Sean Penn and the prerequisite outsider, Richard Hansard. Unknown then. And now.
- Gary Oldman, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, 2011. An early idea for spymaster in the re-make of the 1979 TVersion of John Le Carré’s novel. He played the OHMSS boss - the cerebral Control, dead before the credits but the reason for it all... John le Carré, who worked for MI5 and MI6 in the 50/ 60s, based Smiley on his university tutor, the Reverend Vivian Green; Sir Maurice Oldfield, ex- head of British Intelligence; and above all - “nobody who knew John and [his] work could have missed the description of Smiley in my first novel” - on his friend, colleague and mentor John Bingham, the 7th Baron Clanmorris, “a most honourable, patriotic and gifted man.” Said the writer: “Surely there can be few better tributes to a friend and colleague than to create - if only from some of his parts - a fictional character who has given pleasure and food for thought to an admiring public.”
- John Standing, Queen & Country, 2013. The 25 year gap between John Boorman’s autobiographical Hope and Glory, 1987, and this sequel was caused by the shock 1993 death of River Phoenix, Boorman’s original choice to play the National Service army days of his alter-ego, Bill Rohan. He also lost his Grandfather George when Ian Bannen died in 1999. Just as he had replaced Trevor Howard in 1987, Bannen was now subsitituted by Hurt at first, and finally by Standing.
- David Bradley, The Strain, TV, 2014. After the pilot of the series based on Guillermo del Toro/Chuck Hogan’s vampiric trilogy, Hurt passed Professor Abraham Setrakian to the equally busy UK character actor - from Harry Potter country, Game of Thrones, Broadchurch. Both Hurt and Bradley had Doctor Who connections. Hurt is known as The War Doctor and Bradley played the first Doc (William Hartnell) in the BBC’s Doctor Who 50th anniversary film of how it all happened, An Adventure in Space and Time, 2013.
John was the most sublime of actors and the most gentlemanly of gentlemen with the greatest of hearts and the most generosity of spirit. He touched all our lives with joy and magic and it will be a strange world without him. - Lady Anwen Hurt, his widow.
The actor genius… Most folks know him from Alien but I loved him as Sir Richard Rich from A Man for All Seasons - Kevin Smith.
John Hurt's Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons. a paragon of heartbreaking human weakness and model for many of character - Stephen Colbert
John Hurt. Midnight Express. Nothing better. Ever. - Jamie ee Curtis.
One of the most powerful, giving, and effortlessly real actors I've ever worked with. Remarkable human being. - Chris Evans
A gloriously talented actor, one of the best, of this or any era. - Alfred Molina
One of the reasons I am the actor I am today.An honest, inspirational figure. - Kirk Acevedo
A man who always stated true to the 'art'. -Sam Claflin
Legendary actor and good human being. - Sharon Stone
I will forever cherish the memories I have of the incomparable John Hurt. A brilliant actor and a beautiful soul - Jamie Bell
I was in a film with him and he was so mesmerising I kept forgetting to act and just watched him. A genius and a lovely man - actor David Schneider
He was a truly magnificent talent. No one could have played The Elephant Man more memorably. He carried that film into cinematic immortality. He will be sorely missed. - Mel Brooks, Elephant Man producer.