British actor Sir John Hurt, whose illustrious career spans six decades, has sadly passed away at the age of 77. The gravelly voiced man of many roles was perhaps best known for his classic movies such as Alien, Harry Potter and The Elephant Man. Publicist Charles McDonald confirmed the death late Friday. According to CNN, no cause of death is given.
John Hurt made a name for himself playing tormented characters. And he was actually known as an actor who most often times died on screen. Throughout his many projects, he had 47 death scenes. Perhaps no more memorable than when he introduced the world to the iconic Chestburster in Ridley Scott's 1979 classic Alien, where a baby xenomorph came ripping through his chest during a dinner scene inside a spaceship mess hall.
John Hurt's first role was in the 1962 TV show Z cars, and he has worked steadily ever since. His career spans TV, movies and voice over work, with his time split evenly between England and the United States. His most recent on screen appearance was opposite Natalie Portman in Jackie, a biopic of Jacqueline Kennedy that saw him playing a priest. About taking on so many roles, he had this to say.
"I'm very much of the opinion that to work is better than not to work. There are others who'd say, 'No, wait around for the right thing', and they will finish up a purer animal than me. Of course, I don't do everything by any means. I do turn lots of stuff down, because it's absolute crap. But I usually find something interesting enough to do."
John Hurt came from modest beginnings, growing up in the coal mining village of Shirebrook in Derbyshire, England. His father was an engineer and his mother was an actress turned mathematician. He originally wanted to be a painter, but was accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he quickly took to the stage in the early 1960s. His first movie role was in the 1962 drama Young and Wild, but it was 1966's A Man for All Seasons that really catapulted him forwarded as an actor to watch out for.
In 1978, John Hurt took on one of his most memorable roles, playing a Turkish prison inmate in Midnight Express. He followed that up with his role as disfigured John Merrick in the 1980 biopic The Elephant Man directed by David Lynch. Both roles earned him an Oscar nomination, and he won the Golden Gold for best supporting actor in Midnight Express.
John Hurt wasn't just a serious dramatic actor either. He was able to show off his comedic timing for the first time in Mel Brooks' History of the World: Part I, where he played a very funny version of Jesus. In more recent years, he appeared in the first two Harry Potter movies playing wand maker Garrick Ollivander and returned for the final installment Harry Potter And the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
Throughout the course of his life, Hurt was married four times. He is survived by his current wife Anwen Rees-Myers. He will next be seen in the drama That Good Night, which he headlines alongside Sofia Helin, Max Brown, and Charles Dance. He also has a role in the upcoming spy thriller Damascus Cover starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Also coming out later this year is the British movie My Name Is Lenny about Britain's most notorious bare-knuckle fighters, Lenny McLean. And his final film is Darkest Hour which follows Winston Churchill as he leads a charge against Adolf Hitler's army in the early days of World War II. It co-stars Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James, Gary Oldman, and Kristin Scott Thomas.