It Hurt(s) to say goodbye for real
Italked to him just last year, at length, about death. Seldom had an actor died so well, or so often, in so many movies, I said, and he agreed.
Over the course of his long career, John Hurt had been bottled and speared, shot and burnt, stabbed and blown up, strangled and drowned.
He had been electrocuted and hanged. A thug had beaten him to blancmange with a baseball bat. Someone else flung him over the parapet of a castle on to the jagged rocks below.
There was another particularly splendid death when that vile critter burst out of his chest in Alien. He had even managed to expire as a little fluffy bunny in Watership Down.
Someone collated all of the actor’s dramatic demises. Interested parties are directed to a YouTube clip called The Many Deaths of John Hurt ,in which our hero karks it 40 times.
‘‘Yes, it’s true!’’ said Hurt, in a glorious posh voice that made me think of port and pipe tobacco. I pictured him sitting in the sort of elegantly appointed London drawing room where a single antique roll-top desk was worth more than my entire house.
‘‘I have died in so many spectacular ways, and I remember shooting them all, too. I imagine all those deaths will flash in front of me when I’m on my deathbed, faced with the real thing.’’
Whether that happened, I couldn’t say. But the venerable British actor has finally gone to meet his maker for real.
John Hurt died on Saturday, January 28, aged 77. I was shocked to hear the news. He struck me as a deeply gifted and mischievous soul, and the world is a little poorer for his loss.
When I spoke to him, death was a hot topic. I suggested Hurt was perhaps the ‘‘most killed’’ actor of his generation. He chuckled and agreed that this might well be true.
‘‘Ha, yes! That’s entirely possible. My surname certainly suggests a man whose destiny has always been injury.’’
Hurt was born in Derbyshire, the son of a devout vicar, and his decision to become an actor was a great disappointment to his parents, who wanted him to become an art teacher.
Alien, Midnight Express, The Naked Civil Servant, The Elephant Man .He established his reputation with a brace of key films made in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but also shone in bigbudget franchise flicks such as Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and Hellboy. He was still busy last year, and told me he felt lucky to be working at all after surviving pancreatic cancer in 2015. ‘‘That was a very scary period, but fortunately, I’m now in full remission.’’
Four times married, Hurt was once a notorious drinker and womaniser; he’d been turfed out of some of the most exclusive boozers in London alongside old mates Peter O’Toole and Oliver Reed.
But the self-described ‘‘old drunk’’ had stopped drinking. His greatest pleasure these days was painting.
‘‘I started doing it as a young man. It’s incredibly tantalising and incredibly difficult at the same time.’’ Hurt had never exhibited his work, ‘‘but that day may well come’’.
I suggested he’d better pull his finger out, given that he was already 76. ‘‘Yes, that’s true. It’s hard to know how much time I have left.’’
Not much, as it transpired. John Vincent Hurt will be missed, on our screens and in the lives of those who loved him. And I hope those paintings might finally see the light of day.
'I imagine all those deaths will flash in front of me when I'm on my deathbed, faced with the real thing.' John Hurt