William Hurt: A Remarkable, Eccentric, Oscar-Winning Actor

From a Washington Post obit by Travis M. Andrews headlined “Fans and colleagues mourn the death of William Hurt, ‘a remarkable, eccentric, interesting actor'”:

Movie fans spent Sunday night mourning the death of William Hurt — and celebrating his remarkable career. The Oscar-winning actor, cemented into film history for roles in “Broadcast News,” “Body Heat,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “The Big Chill,” among others, died at 71.

“It is with great sadness that the Hurt family mourns the passing of William Hurt, beloved father and Oscar winning actor, on March 13, 2022, one week before his 72nd birthday,” his son Will said. “He died peacefully, among family, of natural causes.”

The D.C. native’s career spanned almost five decades and more than 100 acting credits, which included high-minded Oscar fare, erotic thrillers, comedy and a role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With a square jaw, classic good looks and Juilliard training, Hurt became both a sex symbol and a highly lauded actor.

“William Hurt was a remarkable, eccentric, interesting actor, both in his ’80s-leading-man period and in countless good character roles after that,” tweeted author and journalist Mark Harris. “A true loss.”

In the 1980s, he joined the small club of actors who were nominated for the best actor Oscar in three consecutive years: 1986 for “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” which he won; 1987 for “Children of a Lesser God”; and 1988 for “Broadcast News.”…

As news of Hurt’s death spread, fellow actors shared their experiences working with him. “Great actor. Great mind,” tweeted Mark Ruffalo. “Grateful that I had the opportunity to work with William Hurt. I admired his acting so much and watching his commitment in person was remarkable,” wrote Topher Grace.

“So sad to hear this news,” tweeted Albert Brooks. “Working with him on Broadcast News was amazing. He will be greatly missed.”…

Others described their favorite performances from Hurt’s career, with many highlighting his work in “Broadcast News,” “A History of Violence” and “Body Heat.”

Novelist Don Winslow tweeted: “Honestly, I never saw a bad performance from William Hurt. Not once. But if I had to pick one performance. Just one from a remarkable career. It would be Broadcast News.” Film critic Adam Nayman also praised his acting in James L. Brooks’s 1987 satire of the network news industry, writing that his performance “stands with the greatest seriocomic acting; a shallow man reaching for depth but ultimately just going low. He was great in lots of other stuff too.”

In a lengthy Twitter thread, film critic Scott Weinberg called Hurt “one of the most reliable actors in Hollywood.”

“Big role or small, bad movie or good, if William Hurt was on hand, you knew you’d get something good. I love what he did in Dark City and AI and A History of Violence; Marvel fans will know the man as Thunderbolt Ross,” Weinberg tweeted. “Next time you watch Broadcast News, take note of how William Hurt seems like he’s about to play a typical ‘dumb blonde’ newscaster. but James Brooks doesn’t do ‘typical,’ which means there’s some actual heart and humanity behind the character’s egotism.”

Screenwriter and Variety journalist Jenelle Riley recalled attempting to interview the famously private Hurt, saying: “Knowing he rarely does interviews, I expected a no. I did not expect a lovely note saying he wasn’t doing press at the time, but wanted me to know he had great respect for the publication and hoped we would speak in the future.”…

Others shared touching anecdotes about their brief interactions with Hurt. “This man, who I did not know but whose work I always admired, grabbed me at the Emmys the year after my father died and talked to me for 15 minutes about him and the importance of recognizing fatherhood in this life,” tweeted sports and news broadcaster Keith Olbermann. “I am still moved.”

Travis M. Andrews is a features writer for The Washington Post. He is also the author of “Because He’s Jeff Goldblum,” a rumination on the enigmatic actor’s career and an exploration of fame in the 21st century.”
Also see the New York Times obit by Lew Serviss and Neil Genzlinger headlined “William Hurt, Oscar-Winning Leading Man of the 1980s, Dies at 71.” The opening grafs:

William Hurt, who became a hot Hollywood commodity with his performance as a hapless lawyer in “Body Heat” in 1981 and within a few years had won the best-actor Oscar for the 1985 film “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” in which he portrayed a gay man sharing a Brazilian prison cell with a revolutionary, died at his home in Portland, Ore., on Sunday….

Mr. Hurt, tall, blond and speaking in a measured cadence that lent a cerebral quality to his characters, was a leading man in some of the most popular films of the 1980s, including “The Big Chill”(1983), “Children of a Lesser God” (1986), “Broadcast News” (1987) and “The Accidental Tourist” (1988).

“Children of a Lesser God” and “Broadcast News” earned him best-actor Oscar nominations as well, meaning he had the heady distinction of being nominated for that award in three consecutive years.

In later years, Mr. Hurt transitioned from leading man to supporting roles; he was nominated for another Academy Award, as best supporting actor, for “A History of Violence” (2005).

Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times in 1985 of the “brilliant achievement” of Mr. Hurt and his co-star, Raul Julia, in “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

“Mr. Hurt won a well-deserved best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for a performance that is crafty at first, carefully nurtured and finally stirring in profound, unanticipated ways,” she wrote. “What starts out as a campy, facetious catalog of Hollywood trivia becomes an extraordinarily moving film about manhood, heroism and love.”

Before he broke into films, Mr. Hurt was an in-demand stage actor, working frequently at Circle Repertory in New York, among other theaters. In 1985 he was nominated for a Tony Award for best featured actor in a play for his work in “Hurlyburly,” a David Rabe play directed by Mike Nichols with a loaded cast that included Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, Harvey Keitel and Jerry Stiller….

In recent years he had worked more in television, including the FX series “Damages” and the British sci-fi drama “Humans.” He was also in the 2013 television movie “The Challenger Disaster,” which in a 2015 interview prompted The Guardian to ask him if he was interested in space travel.

“I’m interested in all horizons and what’s on the other side of them,” he said. “We know less about the ocean than we do about space. I like to swim, float and fly.”…

William McChord Hurt was born on March 20, 1950, in Washington, the son of Alfred Hurt, a career diplomat, and Claire Isabel (McGill) Hurt, who worked at Time Inc. When Bill was 6, his parents separated, and his mother married Henry Luce III, the son of Time magazine’s founder….

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