Saturday, January 28, 2017

R.I.P. John Hurt

His film career goes back more than 40 years and includes 2 Oscar nominated performances (Midnight Express and The Elephant Man) and roles in an array of prestige projects (I, Claudius, The Naked Civil Servant, The Field) and big box office hits (Alien, the Harry Potter franchise, V for Vendetta). Here are three that stand out for me...

First his performance as Winston Smith in Michael Radford's film version of Nineteen Eighty-Four. I'm not sure why the movie wasn't better received by critics. I suspect the fiasco over the dueling scores (the studio commissioned original music from Eurythmics that the director wanted no part of. Radford wanted composer Dominic Muldowney's score but lost out in the end) is a good indication that the Radford lacked a strong advocate within the studio. Radford withdrew the film from BAFTA consideration (okay, it's starting to come together--director and studio didn't get along, that's rarely a good starting point for critics awards). Which is a shame: I thought Richard Burton would earn an posthumous Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor (Ralph Richardson received a posthumous nomination for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes instead) and thought the art direction, visual effects, sound and editing were better than at least 2 nominees in each of those categories. I recall the cinematography being memorable but only realized it was one of the first films by my cinematography boyfriend Roger Deakins just a few years ago. So it's got that going for it too!!!


Next is a quirky 90s indie film update of Death in Venice, changing the setting to Long Island, and the supreme beauty from 14-year old boy to one of the stars of Hotpants College II. Hilarity, as you might imagine, ensues. But like a very dry hilarity. Jason Priestly gamely plays the star of the movie within the movie. Nothing else matters but these 2: Hurt's obsessive adoration and Priestly's affable cluelessness.


And finally, 2014's Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch's vampire tale/love letter to the bleak urban landscape of modern day Detroit. Hurt, Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are centuries-old vampires hiding identities of historic significance (Hurt plays Christopher Marlowe and within the film is revealed to be the writer of most of Shakespeare's plays--his story unfolds in Tangiers, a strange companion to the Detroit story line).


I am surprised to find no EGOT credentials aside from his 2 Oscar nominations.

Rest in peace, dude.

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