John Hurt
John Vincent Hurt
Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England, UK
Birth date
(1940-01-22)January 22, 1940
Died date
January 27, 2017(2017-01-27) (aged 77)
Actor, voice actor
Active Years

John Vincent Hurt (22 January 1940 – 27 January 2017) was an English actor, was known for his leading roles as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man, Winston Smith in 1984 and Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant and An Englishman in New York. Also was recognizable for his distinctive rich voice, he had also enjoyed a successful voice acting career in films such as Watership Down, The Lord of the Rings and Dogville, as well as BBC television series Merlin.

Hurt initially came to prominence for his role as Richard Rich in the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons, and appeared afterward in such popular motion pictures as: Ridley Scott's Alien, Midnight Express, Rob Roy, three Harry Potter movies (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Part 1 and Part 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), V for Vendetta, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the Hellboy film series. Hurt was one of England's best-known, most prolific and sought-after actors, and had a versatile film career spanning six decades. He was also known for his many Shakespearean roles. Hurt received multiple awards and honours throughout his career including three BAFTA Awards and a Golden Globe, as well as two Academy Award nominations. His character's final scene in Alien is widely regarded as one of the most memorable in cinematic history.


Hurt's first film was 1962's The Wild and the Willing, but his first major role was as Richard Rich in 1966's A Man for All Seasons. However, it was his portrayal of Quentin Crisp in the 1975 TV play, The Naked Civil Servant, that shot him to fame and earned him the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor. The following year, Hurt played the Roman emperor Caligula in the BBC drama serial, I, Claudius. In 1978, he appeared in Midnight Express, for which he won a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (the latter of which he lost to Christopher Walken for his performance in The Deer Hunter).

He subsequently developed a successful film career, with his best known roles including Kane, the memorable first victim of the title creature in the film Alien (a role which he reprised as a parody in Spaceballs); would-be art school radical Scrawdyke in Little Malcolm; and "John" Merrick in the Joseph Merrick biography The Elephant Man, for which he won a BAFTA and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actor. He also had a starring role in Sam Peckinpah's critically panned but hugely successful final film, The Osterman Weekend. Also in 1983 he starred as the Fool opposite Laurence Olivier's King in King Lear. Hurt also appeared as Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment in the BBC series of that name in 1980.

Hurt took roles in famous political allegories, first playing the hero in an early production and then the tyrannical villain in a later work. For instance, he played Winston Smith in the 1984 adaptation of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and then assumed the role of a Big Brother-esque leader of a fascist Great Britain in the 2006 film V for Vendetta, a movie that drew many parallels to the world of Orwell's 1984. Similarly, Hurt played Hazel, the heroic rabbit leader of his warren in the film adaptation of Watership Down and later played the major villain, General Woundwort, in the animated television series.

In 1986, Hurt provided the voiceover for AIDS: Iceberg / Tombstone, a public information film warning of the dangers of AIDS. He had a memorable supporting role as "Bird" O'Donnell in Jim Sheridan's 1990 film The Field, which garnered him another BAFTA nomination. In 2001, he played Mr. Ollivander, the wand-maker, in the first Harry Potter film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. He returned for the adaption of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. His scenes in that film were cut. In 1999, Hurt provided narration on the British musical group Art of Noise's concept album The Seduction of Claude Debussy. He was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in June 2004. In May 2008, he appeared in Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Harold Oxley. He was also the voice of The Great Dragon in the BBC television series, Merlin.

In 2008, 33 years after The Naked Civil Servant, Hurt reprised the role of Quentin Crisp in An Englishman in New York. This film depicts Crisp's later years in New York. In June 2009, Hurt played the on-screen Big Brother for Paper Zoo Theatre Company's production of Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty Four. The theatre production premiered at the National Media Museum, in Bradford and toured during early 2010. Hurt said, "I think Paper Zoo thought it would be quite ironic to have the person who played Winston having risen in the party. From the Chestnut Tree Cafe, he's managed to get his wits together again, now understanding that 2 and 2 make 5, and becomes Big Brother. So it tickled my fancy, and of course I looked up Paper Zoo, and they seem to me to be the sort of company that’s essential in the country as we know it, and doing a lot of really good stuff." Hurt returned to his role of Ollivander, the wand-maker, in the last two Harry Potter films (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2).

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Stream the best stories.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Get Disney+