Theatre News

John Hurt dies aged 77

The legendary actor started his career on stage in London before becoming one of the country’s most celebrated film actors

Award-winning actor John Hurt has died at the age of 77.

Hurt had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, but continued working. He was due to appear in Kenneth Branagh's production of The Entertainer as Archie Rice last year, but pulled out due to ill health.

Tributes have been made to Hurt by people including JK Rowling, Elton John, Mel Brooks, Stephen Fry and many more.

John Hurt and Mel Brooks
John Hurt and Mel Brooks
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Hurt first began acting after gaining a scholarship to RADA in 1960. He worked in film almost immediately, and then began to work on stage.

It was in 1966 that he took a role in a film which pushed him a little into the spotlight. He played Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons, a biopic of Thomas More, which won six Oscars. In 1975 he won a Bafta for his portrayal of Quentin Crisp, a man he had known briefly in his past, in a TV adaptation of The Naked Civil Servant.

Hurt's most recognised film roles include Ridley Scott's groundbreaking sci-fi film Alien, where he played Kane and starred in one of the most famous scenes in British horror after the alien bursts from his stomach.

He starred in David Lynch's black and white film The Elephant Man in 1980 where he played the historical figure of Joseph Merrick, a man with severe facial disfigurements. Hurt had to wear prosthetic make up, which took eight hours to apply.

In 1984 he starred as Winston Smith in a dramatisation of George Orwell's novel 1984. More recently he played Mr Ollivander in the Harry Potter series, and took parts in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008, and in the Oscar-nominated spy film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in 2011.

In 2013 he starred in an episode of Doctor Who as the War Doctor.

He was recognised with a Lifetime Achievement Bafta in 2015, and over his career he recieved two Oscar nominations, four Bafta awards and a Golden Globe award. He was knighted in 2015.

Rowling, along with the theatre and film industry, paid tribute to the actor on Twitter

— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 28, 2017

— Luke Evans (@TheRealLukevans) January 28, 2017

— Viola Davis (@violadavis) January 28, 2017

— Omid Djalili (@omid9) January 28, 2017