Hollywood reacts to the death of Oscar winner William Hurt

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.”

Albert Brooks, whose noble but schlumpy character contrasted with the slick but vapid Hurt’s in “Broadcast News,” reflected on their collaboration.


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. 


M. Night Shyamalan recalled working with Hurt on “The Village.”


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.”

Stephen King also chimed in as a fan and recalled that Hurt had once done a dramatic reading of one of his stories. 


Fellow Oscar-winner Russell Crowe remarked on Hurt’s process from the time working together on “Robin Hood.”


Matthew Modine, who worked with Hurt on “Too Big To Fail,” called him “a consummate professional.”

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.


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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