- Category : Actor
- Type : GP
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Distraction 2
John Vincent Hurt, CBE (born 22 January 1940) is an English actor. Among other honours, he has received two Academy Award nominations, a Golden Globe Award, and four BAFTA Awards, with the fourth being a Lifetime Achievement recognition.
Hurt is known for his leading roles as John Merrick in The Elephant Man, Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Mr. Braddock in The Hit, Stephen Ward in Scandal, Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant and An Englishman in New York, and Caligula in I, Claudius. Recognisable for his distinctive rich voice, he has also enjoyed a successful voice acting career, starring in films such as Watership Down, the animated The Lord of the Rings and Dogville, as well as the BBC television series Merlin. He portrayed an incarnation of the Doctor in the 2013 Doctor Who episodes "The Name of the Doctor" and "The Day of the Doctor".
Hurt initially came to prominence for his role as Richard Rich in the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons, and has since appeared in films such as: Alien, Midnight Express, Rob Roy, V for Vendetta, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the Harry Potter film series, the Hellboy films, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Hurt is one of Britain's best-known, most prolific and sought-after actors, and has had a versatile film career spanning six decades. He is also known for his many Shakespearean roles. His character's final scene in Alien is consistently named as one of the most memorable in cinematic history.
John Hurt was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, where his father was vicar of Shirebrook. He is the son of Phyllis (née Massey), an amateur actress and engineer, and Arnould Herbert Hurt, a mathematician who became an Anglican clergyman. Hurt has an older brother, Br. Anselm (born Michael), a Roman Catholic convert who became a monk and writer at Glenstal Abbey, to whose books his younger brother John has contributed. Hurt also has an adopted sister, Monica.
Hurt's father was a vicar at St John's Church in Sunderland. In 1937, he moved his family to Derbyshire, where he became Perpetual Curate of Holy Trinity Church. When Hurt was five, his father became the vicar of St Stephen's Church in Woodville, Derbyshire and remained there until 1952. In 1945, Hurt's father founded 1st Woodville (St Stephen's) Scout Group which is still going strong today.
Hurt had a strict upbringing: the family lived opposite a cinema, but he was not allowed to see films there. He was also not permitted to mix with local children because in his parents' view they were "too common." Hurt's mother died in 1975, and his father died in 1999 at the age of 95.
At the age of eight, Hurt was sent to the Anglican St Michael's Preparatory School in Otford, Kent, where he eventually developed his passion for acting. He decided he wanted to become an actor, and his first role was that of a girl in a school production of The Bluebird (L'Oiseau Bleu) by Maurice Maeterlinck. While he was a pupil at the school, he was abused by Donald Cormack (now deceased), then Senior Master of the school and later Head Teacher (until his retirement in 1981). Hurt described how Cormack would remove his two false front teeth and put his tongue in the boys' mouths, and how he would rub their faces with his stubble. Hurt said that the experience affected him hugely.
Hurt's father moved to Old Clee Church in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire. Hurt (then aged 12) became a boarder at Christ's Hospital School (then a grammar school) in Lincoln, because he had failed the entrance exam for admission to his brother's school. Hurt often accompanied his mother to Cleethorpes Repertory Theatre, but his parents disliked his acting ambitions and encouraged him to become an art teacher instead. His headmaster, Mr. Franklin, laughed when Hurt told him he wanted to be an actor, telling him that he "wouldn't stand a chance in the profession". Aged 17, Hurt enrolled in Grimsby Art School (now the East Coast School of Art & Design), where he studied art. In 1959, Hurt won a scholarship allowing him to study for an Art Teacher's Diploma (ATD) at Saint Martin's School of Art in Holborn. Despite the scholarship, paying for his studies was financially difficult, so he persuaded some of his friends to pose nude and sold the portraits. In 1960, he won a scholarship to RADA, where he trained for two years. He was then cast in small roles on TV.
Hurt's first film was The Wild and the Willing (1962), but his first major role was as Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons (1966). His portrayal of Quentin Crisp in the 1975 TV play The Naked Civil Servant gave prominence and earned him the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor. The following year, Hurt played the Roman emperor Caligula in the BBC drama serial, I, Claudius. In 1978, he appeared in Midnight Express, for which he won a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (the latter of which he lost to Christopher Walken for his performance in The Deer Hunter). Hurt played Hazel, the heroic rabbit leader of his warren in the film adaptation of Watership Down and later played the major villain, General Woundwort, in the animated television series version.
His roles at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s included Kane, the memorable first victim of the title creature in the film Alien (a role which he reprised as a parody in Spaceballs); would-be art school radical Scrawdyke in Little Malcolm; and "John" Merrick in the Joseph Merrick biography The Elephant Man, for which he won a BAFTA and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actor. In 1978, he lent his voice to Ralph Bakshi's animated film adaptation of Lord of the Rings, playing the role of Aragorn. He also had a starring role in Sam Peckinpah's critically panned but moderately successful final film, The Osterman Weekend (1983). Also in 1983 he starred as the Fool opposite Laurence Olivier's King in King Lear. Hurt also appeared as Raskolnikov in the 1979 BBC TV mini-series adaptation of Crime and Punishment.
Hurt played Winston Smith in the 1984 adaptation of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In 1985, he starred in Disney's The Black Cauldron, voicing the film's main antagonist, the Horned King. In 1986, Hurt provided the voiceover for AIDS: Iceberg / Tombstone, a public information film warning of the dangers of AIDS. In 1988 he played the title role, the on-screen narrator, in Jim Henson's The StoryTeller TV series. He had a memorable supporting role as "Bird" O'Donnell in Jim Sheridan's 1990 film The Field, which garnered him another BAFTA nomination. In 2001, he played Mr. Ollivander, the wand-maker, in the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. He returned for the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, though his scenes in that film were cut. He also returned for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2. In 1999, Hurt provided narration on the British musical group Art of Noise's concept album The Seduction of Claude Debussy. During this time, he narrated a four-part series on the Universe which was released on DVD in 1999. In the 2006 film V for Vendetta he played the role of Adam Sutler, leader of the Norsefire fascist dictatorship. In May 2008, he appeared in Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Harold Oxley. He is also the voice of The Great Dragon Kilgharrah, who aids the young warlock Merlin as he protects the future king Arthur, in the BBC television series Merlin.
In 2008, 33 years after The Naked Civil Servant, Hurt reprised the role of Quentin Crisp in An Englishman in New York. This film depicts Crisp's later years in New York.
In June 2009, Hurt played the on-screen Big Brother for Paper Zoo Theatre Company's production of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The theatre production premiered at the National Media Museum, in Bradford and will be touring during early 2010. Hurt said, "I think Paper Zoo thought it would be quite ironic to have the person who played Winston having risen in the party. From the Chestnut Tree Cafe, he's managed to get his wits together again, now understanding that 2 and 2 make 5, and becomes Big Brother. So it tickled my fancy, and of course I looked up Paper Zoo, and they seem to me to be the sort of company that’s essential in the country as we know it, and doing a lot of really good stuff."
Hurt is due to appear alongside Ben Kingsley in a film entitled Broken Dream, to be directed by Neil Jordan. At the 65th British Academy Film Awards Hurt won the award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema.
In the 2013 Doctor Who episode "The Name of the Doctor", Hurt appeared as an unknown incarnation of the Doctor. Hurt will reprise the role in the show's 50th anniversary special later in the year.
In 1962, Hurt's father left his parish in Cleethorpes to become headmaster of St Michael's College in the Central American country of British Honduras. In that same year, John Hurt first performed on the London stage and married actress Annette Robertson. The marriage ended in 1964. In 1967 he began his longest relationship, with French model Marie-Lise Volpeliere-Pierrot, sister of fashion photographer Jean-Claude Volpeliere-Pierrot. The couple had planned to get married after fifteen years, when events took a tragic turn on 26 January 1983: Hurt and Volpeliere-Pierrot went horse riding early in the morning near their house in Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire. Volpeliere-Pierrot was thrown off her horse and suffered a tragic fall. She went into a coma and died later that day.
Hurt married his old friend the Texan actress Donna Peacock at a local Register Office on 6 September 1984. The couple moved to Kenya. They divorced in early January 1990.
On 24 January 1990, Hurt married American production assistant Joan Dalton, whom he had met while filming Scandal. With her he had two sons: Sasha John Vincent Hurt (born 6 February 1990) and Nick Hurt (born 5 February 1993), who are currently residing in County Waterford, Ireland. Nick has gone to acting school in England and wishes to follow in his father's footsteps. This marriage ended in 1996 and was followed with a seven-year relationship with Dublin-born presenter and writer Sarah Owens. The couple moved to County Wicklow, where they settled close to their friends, director John Boorman, and Claddagh Records founder and Guinness heir The Hon Garech de Brún. In July 2002 the couple separated. In March 2005, Hurt married his fourth wife, advertising film producer Anwen Rees Meyers. He now lives near Cromer in Norfolk.
In 2004, Hurt was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
In January 2002, Hurt received an honorary degree from the University of Derby and in January 2006 received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Hull.
In 2007, Hurt took part in the BBC genealogical television series Who Do You Think You Are?, which investigated part of his family history. Prior to participating in the programme, Hurt had harboured a love of Ireland and was enamoured of a 'deeply beguiling' family legend that suggested his great-grandmother had been the illegitimate daughter of Irish nobleman the Marquess of Sligo. The genealogical evidence uncovered seemed to contradict the family legend, rendering the 'suggestion' doubtful. Coincidentally, the search revealed that his great-grandmother had previously lived in Grimsby at a location within a mile of the art college at which Hurt had once enrolled.
Since 2006, John Hurt has been a patron of Project Harar, a UK-based charity working in Ethiopia for children with facial disfigurements.
Since 2009, he has been patron of QUAD, an arts centre in Derby. On 25 September 2009, Hurt visited QUAD and took part in a Q&A directly preceding a screening of the film The Night Train as part of the festivities, celebrating the first birthday at QUAD (opened on 26 September 2008). The day after, 26 September, John Hurt was guest of honour at Derby County vs Bristol City and went on the pitch at Pride Park at half time to oversee a prize draw.
In 2012 he was appointed the first Provost of Norwich University College of the Arts.
On 23 January 2013, he was made an Honorary Doctor of Arts by the University of Lincoln, England at Lincoln Cathedral. Hurt has been announced as patron of Norwich Cinema City in March 2013.