Sir John Hurt

  1. 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.   (Saw John on-stage in London’s West End  that year in John Osborne’s  Inadmissible Evidence, with Nicol Williamson).
  2. Tom Adams, The Fighting Prince of Donegal, 1965.     The young turks of the hour – Hurt, Ray Brooks, David Hemmings – were in the Disney frame for Henry O’Neill, best buddy of Peter McEnery’s titular hero. Hurt joined Paul Scofield in  in A Man For All Seasons, instead.

  3. 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 something of     “a bureaucratic error”  – muddling Hurt with the US actor, John Heard, once arrested during an anti- apartheid  march.

  4.  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!!!
  5. 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.
  6. Dean Stockwell, Dune, 1984.
  7. Christopher Gable, Doctor Who #135: The Caves of Androzani, TV, 1984.     Mixed signals about Sharez Jek… Rock idols like David Bowie, Roger Daltrey, Mick Jagger and the rockerish Tim Curry – or actors Patrick Allen, Nicholas Ball,   Steven Berkoff, Brian Cox, Christopher Gable, Michael Gambon, Julian Glover, John Hurt, Derek Jacobi,   Martin Jarvis, Michael Jayston, Oliver Tobias.
  8. Martin Jarvis, Doctor Who # 138: Vengeance on Varos, TV, 1984.   Hurt, Jarvis, George Baker, Keith Barron, Brian Blessed, John Carson, Frank Finlay, Julian Glover, John Hallam, Terrence Hardiman, Derek Jacobi, Michael Jayston, Dinsdale Landen, Ian McKellen, Anthony Valentine, and David Warner were the 16 choices for the beleaguered Governor of Varos. a kind of Pontius Pilate. Hurt became The War Doctor 29 years later in #239: The Name of the Doctor and #240: The Day of the Doctor, 2013.
  9. Richard Chamberlain,  King Solomon’s Mines, 1985.  “I thanked them. But Americans only make children’s pictures don’t they?”
  10. Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, 1989.

  11. Robert Joy, The Dark Half, 1990. Misery was by Richard Bachman. But that cat was out of the bag. Stephen King owned up, killed off Bachman and used all that, two books later, in this tale of a college professor and serious author in Maine (no!), with a strong wife (no!), bringing home the bacon with  pulp horror (no!) as George Stark… the twin brother ingested by his body when they were in the uterus.  It worked better on the page despite (or because) George Romero was directing the 38th of King’s staggering 313 screen credits. But why he craved two great Brit characters (Hurt and Michael) as Maine guys, is beyond me.  And, apparently, them.

  12. 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.

  13. Brad Dourif, Chaindance (US video:Common Bonds), 1991.  Despite a lowly budget, the touching movie required some star appeal. Nick Nolte and Hurt  were talked of. But things worked out how Ironside obviously intended.  He was, after all, the co-writer and producer, and perfect for a career-changing role of a hardass jailbird seconded into a hospital programme to aid a superb Brad Dourif as a cerebral palsy patient. 
  14. Ken Broadhurst,  The Dark Half,  1992.    Hurt had to miss a cameo when George Romero directed the Stephen King chiller –  the author’s 38th of his staggering 313 screen credits.
  15. Tim Roth, Rob Roy, 1995.   Roth, most people agreed (except Roth)  was the new Hurt.
  16.  Paul McGann, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.    
  17. Richard Farnsworth, The Straight Story, 1999.   Pretentious American auteurDavid Lynch is not so clever. He mused on Hurt, Jack Lemmon 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 Foxwas best… to drive a motor-mower from Laurens, Iowa, to Mount Zion, Wisconsin to see his dying brother.Farnsworth, veteran stuntman turned veteran actor, was  terminally ill with metastatic prostate cancer, spreading to his bones and paralyzing his legs. He astonished the unit with his tenacity during the shoot… and, indeed, at the 1999 Cannes festival. Due to the pain of his illness, he committed suicide in 2000 at age 80.
  18. Peter O’Toole, Venus,2005. “Don’t see the point of juggling yoghurt with this mad fucker any longer… I think he is genuinely crazed. It’s like dealing with a six-year-old. He is clearly under the illusion that he is a genius. Alas, his last good film was 20 years ago.” Notting Hilldirector Roger Michell’s diary notes about Peter O’Toole’s final film. He interferred with the script and the castingand “made the whole process… as miserable as possible from practically the first moment,” said Michell, who even discussed replacing him with Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Michael Caine or Michael Gambon. Shooting was delayed when O’Toole cracked a rib and contracted a chest infection, returning to work as “a very doddery O’Toole, who was knackered, ill, slow and fragile. But I must finish the film before he croaks [He looked like a corpse on the poster], breaks a bit more of himself or contracts MRSA” End result: O’Toole’s eighth and final Oscar nomination. He never won any of them.  Not even for Lawrence of Arabia.
  19. Malcolm McDowell, Halloween,2007.  In the 1977 original, John Carpenter  made the shrink Dr Samuel Loomis a Brit and wanted (obviously) Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee and very happy with  Donald Pleasence.  For the reboot, horrorsmith Rob Zombie stayed British with McDowell. Despite him ruining numerous takes by causing on-set laughter.  Zombie called him back to kill Loomis off in  Halloween II,2008, and then gave him top billing in 31, 2016.
  20. 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.

  21. Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen, 2008.  Not so much “Who watches the watchmen?” as Juvenal 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 and  Paul  Greengrass to, ultimately, the lesser  Zack Snyder.    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, Glen Hansard, more known for music than sctingt.
  22. 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.”
  23. 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.
  24. 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 was 2013’s 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.
  25. Ronald Pickup, Darkest Hour, 2017.   Chosen for the UK’s pre-WWII Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, dying of cancer, Hurt had to miss a read-through of the Winston Churchill film. He nevcr shot a scene and died, also from cancer, during the filming.. which was deducatd to him. Pickup was Churchill’s father, husband of Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill, TV, 1974. 
  26. Jonathan Pryce,The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, 2017.  
  27. Ian McShane, Hellboy,  2018.   McShane took over Dr Broom from an ailing Hurt in the reboot (David Harbour was no Ron Perlman).  Hurt and McShane  had debiuted  toghether in Ralph Thomas’ 1961 Rank Organisation production,  The Wild and the Willing (aka Young and Willing)  – and shared two others in the 2000s.

    >>>>> Tributes

    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 SeasonsKevin 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 Lee 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

    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.




 Birth year: 1940Death year: 2017Other name: Casting Calls:  27