William Hurt dead at age 71: Our appreciation of the Oscar winner as a great character actor and leading man

Oscar-winning actor William Hurt, who rose to fame as one of the most notable leading men on the big-screen in the 1980s, died on March 13, 2022 – one week before his 72nd birthday. According to his family, “He died peacefully, among family, of natural causes.”

A three-time nominee for Best Actor at the Academy Awards, he won the prize for his cross-dressing role in 1985’s “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” His first big-screen role was in the 1980 sci-fi horror film “Altered States,” which earned him a Golden Globe nomination. He would become a very versatile male lead. He was comfortable doing neo-noirs such as “Body Heat” and “Eyewitness” as well as romantic comedies like “Broadcast News” and “The Accidental Tourist” and dramas such as “Children of a Lesser God.”

Besides claiming a trophy for “Kiss of a Spider Woman,” Hurt garnered two other consecutive nominations — Best Actor for 1986’s “Children of a Lesser God” and for 1987’s “Broadcast News.” He also was a one of the stand-outs in the ensemble of 1983’s “The Big Chill.” His last Academy Award nomination was for 2005’s “A History of Violence,” in which he played a creepy mob boss with only 10 minutes on the screen. That same year, he also starred in “Syriana”

Hurt also was active on the stage early in his career, appearing in such off-Broadway productions of “Henry V,” Fifth of July” and “Richard II.” He earned his first Tony Award nomination in 1985 for the Broadway production of “Hurlyburly.”  Like many actors, he was recruited to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008 when he portrayed General  Thaddeus “Thunderbolt”  Ross in “The Incredible Hulk.” He would also reprise his role in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016), “Avengers Infinity War” (2018), “Avengers Endgame” (2019) and “Black Widow” (2021).

In 2009, Hurt became a series regular on the FX series “Damages,” when he played a corporate whistleblower opposite his “The Big Chill” co-star Glenn Close and Marcia Gay Harden. He earned a supporting actor Emmy nomination for his role. As producer Alan Ladd, Jr. said of Hurt in a Rolling Stone cover story, “He’s a great character actor, but let’s face it, he is a leading man.”

Albert Brooks, who memorably co-starred as Hurt’s romantic rival in “Broadcast News,” tweeted on Sunday: R.I.P. William Hurt. So sad to hear this news. Working with him on ‘Broadcast News’ was amazing. He will be greatly missed.”

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