The Hurt Locker
Across six decades and over 200 acting/narrating/animated voicing movie, TV and short-subject credits, the British subject of today’s 76th birthday celebration is a knight with a quiver full of dozens of indelible portrayals. He’s been Quentin Crisp, Caligula, Aragorn, John Merrick, Bob Champion, Stephen Ward, Garrick Ollivander, Doctor Who, Control and other fascinating characters – including an alien-disgorging space traveler – that loom large in our moviegoing and TV-viewing memories. Sir John Hurt, possessed of distinctive visage and magnificent voice, has four film projects in the pipeline for arrival this year, including summer’s big-budget adventure The Legend of Tarzan. He has overcome alcoholism and battled pancreatic cancer, which was reportedly in remission as of last fall, and managed throughout the past 15 years to star in the Gate Theater of Dublin production of Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape that earned critical raves and capacity audiences wherever it toured. Four different Hurt faces are in the Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray library. In his screen breakthrough performance as Richard Rich in the Academy Award®-winning historical drama A Man for All Seasons (1966), he cuts a forlorn and solitary figure as a weak-willed acolyte who transfers his loyalties from the principled Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield) to the crafty king’s hard-charging “fixer” Thomas Cromwell (Leo McKern) – with tragic results for More. As George Orwell’s beleaguered bureaucrat Winston Smith in the stunningly effective second big-screen version of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), he is a bracingly gaunt walking ghost plagued by suppressed emotions, awakened to the hope of human connection and hauntingly halted in his quest to escape. The espionage thriller The Disappearance (1977) provides Hurt with a brief but noteworthy role as a green assassination bureau functionary who tips contract killer Donald Sutherland about his latest target, which may be linked to his vanished wife’s whereabouts. TT’s fourth foray featuring the versatile Hurt sets up shop in March with the chilling 10 Rillington Place (1971), playing another in his gallery of real-life characters: Tim Evans, the naïve new upstairs neighbor whose life is spun into a downward spiral via the machinations of the downstairs occupant at that address, British serial killer John Christie (Richard Attenborough). Hurt received a BAFTA Best Supporting Actor nomination for his turn as the ill-fated Evans. “Hurt has not just the name but the haggard face for presiding over crazy films. Equally, he has a remarkably diverse record as a supporting, or even a lead, player,” historian David Thomson writes in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film. “In short, he is rarely dull and often playful, inventively desperate, and someone to treasure.” TT will bring more treasurable Hurt to hi-def Blu-ray in future months.