Profile: John Hurt
Name: John Hurt
Born: 22 June 1940, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK
Background: The third child of a vicar and an actress (yes, really), Hurt followed a strict Catholic education at a local prep school with an escape to London to study art at St Martins. From there, he switched to acting at RADA and aged 22 made his professional stage and screen debuts. Twelve years later he got his big break playing homosexual raconteur Quentin Crisp in the BBC adaptation of The Naked Civil Servant (which celebrated role he reprised at Christmas in An Englishman in New York). Oscar nominations for Midnight Express and The Elephant Man gave Hurt’s self-evident talent the film industry stamp of approval. Although his subsequent film career has included its fair share of clunkers his choices have usually been interesting failures. Moreover, Hurt has managed to switch between mainstream and independent projects, in the US and UK, with increasing success as he has grown into a genuine national treasure (quite an achievement given he was for many years a hell raiser in the company of Oliver Reed and Peter O’Toole). Thus, he followed Hellboy with Alex de la Iglesia’s The Oxford Murders and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control and will soon be seen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and a 1960s-set remake of Brighton Rock.
What’s he up to now? Squeezing in promotional duties for one of the half dozen films the hard-working septuagenarian wrapped last year. That’s 44 Inch Chest, a foul-mouthed London gangster film written by the blokes wot wrote Sexy Beast and co-starring hard-men Ray Winstone and Ian McShane, in which he plays a grizzled lag named Old Man Peanut.
On 44 Inch Chest: ‘Ray [Winstone] gave me the script while we were filming Indiana Jones – for five months! I loved Sexy Beast, of course, and like that film I thought the script for 44 Inch Chest was pure poetry, albeit very profane poetry.’
Interesting fact: Hurt’s personal favourite film of his own is the little seen US indie Love and Death on Long Island.
44 Inch Chest is out now on general release.