William Hurt, who rose to prominence in the 1980s, winning an Oscar for ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman’ in 1985 and starring in ‘The Big Chill’ and ‘Body Heat’, died of natural causes on Sunday. He was 71 years old. death was confirmed at Variety by his friend, Gerry Byrne.
His son Will said in a statement: “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, a week before his 72nd birthday. He is passed away peacefully, among family, of natural causes.
Hurt has been nominated for four Oscars over his long career, scoring two Best Actor nominations for ‘Broadcast News’ and ‘Children of a Lesser God’ and a supporting actor nodding for less than 10 minutes on screen. in “A History of Violence.” He was one of the most heralded entertainers of the 1980s, becoming something of a cerebral sex symbol and a reluctant, albeit bankable, movie star. Hurt then moved on to character roles in the 1990s and successfully alternated between big screen and TV projects. , scoring Emmy nominations for his work as a whistleblower in “Damages” and his portrayal of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in “Too Big to Fail.”
More recently, Hurt became well known to a younger generation of moviegoers with his portrayal of General Thaddeus Ross in 2008’s ‘The Incredible Hulk’. He later reprized the role in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and ‘Avengers: Infinity War”, “Avengers: Endgame” and “Black Widow”.
Hurt was born March 20, 1950 in Washington, D.C. His mother, Claire Isabel, worked at Time Inc., and his father Alfred Hurt (1910–1996), was a career bureaucrat, working for the United States Agency for international development and the State Department His parents separated when he was 6 and his mother remarried Henry Luce III, the son of Time Magazine editor Henry Luce.
Raised in relative privilege, Hurt then attended Tufts University, where he studied theology, before moving to Juilliard to study acting. After appearing onstage, Hurt landed a starring role in “Altered States,” playing a troubled scientist in the eccentric film, a notable entry into the body horror genre. But a year later, Hurt hit a new level of notoriety, appearing alongside Kathleen Turner in “Body Heat,” a raunchy noir that updated the kind of betrayal and double-crossing seen in the likes of “The Big Sleep” and “Double Indemnity” with a sexuality invigorating. It turned the two performers, who positively ignited on screen, into major stars. Hurt followed that with another starring role in “Gorky Park” and was part of the set of “The Big Chill,” a drama about a group of friends reuniting that became a touchstone for the baby boomer generation.
It all led to one of the most astonishing periods of dominance ever by a movie star. From 1986 to 1988, Hurt was nominated for three consecutive Best Actor Oscars, winning for his portrayal of a gay window dresser in Hector Babenco “The Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Roger Ebert, writing in the Chicago Sun Times, praised Hurt’s work, crediting him with creating “…a character utterly unlike any other he has ever played – a frankly theatrical character, exaggerated and mannered – and yet he never seems to seek effects.” His Oscar-nominated work in “Children of a Lesser God” and “Broadcast News,” playing a teacher at a school for the deaf and an affable, slightly dimwitted reporter, showcased his The commercial and critical success of those films propelled Hurt onto A-list, but he didn’t seem to enjoy fame.
“It’s not fair that my privacy is invaded to the extent that it is,” Hurt told The New York Times in a 1989 interview. “I’m a very private man, and I have the right to be. I never said that because I was an actor, you can have my privacy, you can steal my soul.
It’s perhaps this aversion to notoriety that led Hurt to starring in major films during his career, with the actor passing on acting opportunities in movies like “Jurassic Park” and “Misery.” with a period of personal problems for the actor, a period during which he struggled with drugs and alcohol.
“I was completely miserable and ultimately I’d been miserable enough, long enough, and I said, ‘I’m done, I can’t hack it, I can’t do it,'” said Hurt at the Washington Post in 1989, reminiscing about the time before he went to rehab.
A relationship with Marlee Matlin, his ‘Children of a Lesser God’ co-star, has been troubled. Matlin later wrote in a memoir that Hurt was emotionally and physically abusive towards her. In a statement at the time, Hurt, through a spokesperson, said: “I remember we both apologized and we both did a lot to heal our lives. Of course, I apologized and apologize for any pain I’ve caused. And I know we’ve both grown. I wish Marlee and her family nothing but well.
The 1990s proved to be a less successful time for Hurt professionally. He won acclaim for his work in “The Doctor” as an arrogant surgeon who changes his mind after experiencing health problems, but d other films such as “Second Chances” and “Until the End of the World” didn’t get much attention. A rare attempt at popcorn entertainment with the 1998 big-screen adaptation of ‘Lost in Space’ was a modest success, but didn’t make enough money to spawn a franchise and Hurt looked miserable during the movie.
He also appeared in the TV miniseries version of “Dune”, in Steven Spielberg’s “AI Artificial Intelligence” and in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village”.
By dawn, Hurt, his thinning blonde hair, seemed to be settling into life in supporting roles, scoring set-stealing tricks as a courteous spy in ‘The Good Shepherd’, a demanding father in ‘Into the Wild” and, most memorably, as the sinister mob boss in “A History of Violence.” His role in the latter film, in which he confesses to his hitman brother that “when mommy brought you home from the hospital, I tried to strangle you in your crib,” was a masterclass done a lot. with some screen time.
Hurt was married to actress Mary Beth Hurt from 1971 to 1982 and was married to Heidi Henderson from 1989 to 1991.
Launch gallery: the life and career of William Hurt in photos
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