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John Hurt is one of Britain’s best-known, most critically acclaimed, and most versatile actors. He has given a host of memorable performances in all mediums over the past several decades.
Mr. Hurt attended schools in Kent and Lincoln before working as a stagehand with the Lincoln Repertory and studying art at St. Martin’s School in London. He won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), and his acting career was soon launched.
He made his West End stage debut in 1962, and went on to take the 1963 Critics’ Award for Most Promising Actor, in Harold Pinter’s The Dwarfs. Mr. Hurt has since appeared onstage in productions of Mr. Pinter’s The Caretaker; Sean O’Casey’s Shadow of a Gunman; Tom Stoppard’s Travesties, for The Royal Shakespeare Company; Ivan Turgenev’s A Month in the Country; Brian Friel’s Afterplay, for which he and Penelope Wilton shared the Variety Club Award for Outstanding Performance in a Stage Play; and Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. The latter performance was also recorded for television, under the direction of Atom Egoyan.
Also for television, he notably played Caligula and Raskolnikov, respectively, in the miniseries I, Claudius and Crime and Punishment; and Quentin Crisp in Jack Gold’s telefilm The Naked Civil Servant, based on Mr. Crisp’s autobiography of the same name. The latter portrayal earned Mr. Hurt a BAFTA Award; 33 years later, Mr. Hurt again played Mr. Crisp, in Richard Laxton’s An Englishman in New York. That feature recently world-premiered at the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival.
Mr. Hurt has twice been nominated for Academy Awards, for his performances in Alan Parker’s Midnight Express and David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, which brought him his second and third BAFTA Awards, respectively; Midnight Express also earned him a Golden Globe Award.
A trio of movies collectively garnered him the Evening Standard Award for Best Actor of 1984; Stephen Frears’ The Hit, Michael Radford’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and John Irvin’s Champions. His dozens of other films include Fred Zinnemann’s multi-Academy Award-winning A Man For All Seasons, opposite Paul Scofield; Richard Fleischer’s 10 Rillington Place, for which he received his first BAFTA Award nomination; Ridley Scott’s Alien, for which he was again a BAFTA Award nominee; Jim Sheridan’s The Field, alongside Richard Harris; John Boorman’s short film Two Nudes Bathing, for which he received a CableACE Award; Michael Caton-Jones’ Scandal, Rob Roy, and Beyond the Gates (a.k.a. Shooting Dogs); Richard Kwietniowski’s Love and Death on Long Island and Owning Mahony; Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; and Dead Man, which was Mr. Hurt’s first collaboration with Jim Jarmusch.