William Hurt, the award-winning actor best known for a slew of 1980s prestige projects like “The Big Chill,” “Body Heat,” and “Broadcast News,” and a side player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, died on Sunday at the age of 71.
He won the Oscar for Best Actor for “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and received two other nominations in that category for “Children of the Lesser God” and “Broadcast News,” and a later Best Supporting Actor nod for “A History of Violence.” The cause of death was complications from pancreatic cancer.
The Juilliard graduate, who worked in New York theater before making his first substantial film in 1980, “Altered States,” had a career most performers can only dream about, and as such worked with nearly every big name in Hollywood. Many took to social media after news spread of his passing.
Mark Ruffalo, who worked with Hurt on “The Incredible Hulk” and other Marvel projects, reflected that he was a “great actor” with a “great mind.”
Wow, another Major loss to the acting community. Great actor. Great mind. RIP https://t.co/aKu8NWLgaz
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) March 13, 2022
Albert Brooks, whose noble but schlumpy character contrasted with the slick but vapid Hurt’s in “Broadcast News,” reflected on their collaboration.
R.I.P. William Hurt. So sad to hear this news. Working with him on Broadcast News was amazing. He will be greatly missed.
— Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks) March 13, 2022
Antonio Banderas, an admirer who never worked with Hurt on film (unless the IMDb “advance search” is missing something), voiced his appreciation and found a youthful photo of the late performer.
A great actor has left us.
RIP William Hurt 🙏 pic.twitter.com/rg3PmXOmFd
— Antonio Banderas (@antoniobanderas) March 13, 2022
M. Night Shyamalan recalled working with Hurt on “The Village.”
I’m so sad to hear of the passing of William Hurt. I had the privilege of directing him in The Village. He was a master of his acting craft. Every take was new and revealing. #rip
— M. Night Shyamalan ⌛ (@MNightShyamalan) March 13, 2022
George Takei said that Hurt “broke the mold” and also gave a shout-out to one of his lesser-remembered (and terrific) pictures, “The Accidental Tourist.”
Saddened to hear of the passing of actor William Hurt. He broke the mold in his Oscar-winning role in Kiss of the Spider Woman, broke smiles in Broadcast News, and broke our hearts in The Accidental Tourist. A great loss to the world. Rest among the stars now, good sir.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) March 13, 2022
Stephen King also chimed in as a fan and recalled that Hurt had once done a dramatic reading of one of his stories.
Very sorry to hear about the passing of William Hurt. He was a fine actor, an Academy Award winner. He also did a classic reading of my story "Low Men in Yellow Coats," from HEARTS IN ATLANTIS. I loved hitchhiking on his immense talent.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) March 13, 2022
Fellow Oscar-winner Russell Crowe remarked on Hurt’s process from the time working together on “Robin Hood.”
William Hurt has passed. On Robin Hood, I was aware of his reputation for asking character based questions, so I had compiled a file on the life of William Marshall. He sought me out when he arrived on set. I handed him the stack. Not sure if I’ve ever seen a bigger smile. RIP.
— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) March 13, 2022
Matthew Modine, who worked with Hurt on “Too Big To Fail,” called him “a consummate professional.”
I had the great pleasure of working beside William Hurt in Too Big To Fail. Bill was a consummate professional. Continually searching for greater truth and human understanding. Blessings to his family and friends. RIP. pic.twitter.com/hOJPtPbVf9
— Matthew Modine (@MatthewModine) March 13, 2022
Social media was also awash with commentary from film fans as well as critics (this writer suggests you find time for the 280-minute version of “Until The End of the World” as soon as possible). Critic Sheila O’Malley shared a lengthy and remarkable story from her days as a theater actor. If you have a moment for a long thread with some twists and turns, click through.
So it's obvi I'm not really on here anymore. But today I had to pop on to re-share my William Hurt story. I will never and I mean ever forget the tears on his face as he applauded us in that empty theatre. RIP. My heart is full. https://t.co/Welstl1PQV
— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) March 14, 2022
It is worth noting, however, that Hurt’s glowing career did not come without much off-screen darkness. He and his “Children of a Lesser God” co-star Marlee Matlin had a two-year relationship in the mid-1980s, when Matlin was 19 and Hurt was 35. In Matlin’s 2009 memoir, “I’ll Scream Later,” she wrote a vivid depiction alleging that Hurt had raped her, and detailed other instances of physical abuse. Hurt, who at the time of his relationship with Matlin was also struggling with sobriety, later responded to Matlin’s claims, saying, “We both apologized and both did a great deal to heal our lives. Of course, I did and do apologize for any pain I caused.”
On the red carpet at the Critics Choice Awards on Sunday, a reporter from Entertainment Tonight asked for Matlin’s reaction to the news. Through an ASL translator, she said, “You’re the first person to ask me about him,” with some surprise. She then said, “We’ve lost a really great actor, and working with him on set in ‘Children of a Lesser God’ will always be something I remember very fondly.” She added, “he taught me a great deal as an actor and he was one-of-a-kind.”
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