Veteran British actor Sir John Hurt, Oscar-nominated for his star turn in The Elephant Man and his supporting role in Midnight Express, has died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer on Saturday. He was 77.
Hurt, who had starred in more than 200 films and television series over a career spanning six decades, revealed in 2015 that he was suffering from the early stages of pancreatic cancer and that he was receiving treatment.
Twice nominated for an Oscar for playing the tortured John Merrick in David Lynch's "The Elephant Man" and for his role as the heroin addict Max in "Midnight Express," Hurt's career spanned over 50 years. After minor television and film appearances, his breakout came in 1966 as Richard Rich in Fred Zinnemann's "A Man For All Seasons," followed by his portrayal of Caligula in the BBC miniseries "I, Claudius" in 1976.
The wiry Hurt brought gravitas to Alan Parker's 1978 film "Midnight Express," for which he received a supporting actor Oscar nomination (he lost to Christopher Walken for "The Deer Hunter") and an uneasy humor to Kane in Ridley Scott's "Alien," immortalized by his disturbing death scene, which Mel Brooks later poked fun at with Hurt's help in "Spaceballs."
"It was terribly sad today to learn of John Hurt's passing," Mel Brooks wrote on Twitter. "He was a truly magnificent talent."
Hurt is unrecognizable in perhaps his most memorable role as the lead in David Lynch's "The Elephant Man." He endured eight hours in the makeup chair daily to transform into John Merrick.
"To be quite honest, the film was misery to make because of the physical problems, so if it's working I'm jumping for joy," Hurt said in a 1980 interview. Hurt did score a lead actor Oscar nomination for the role, but lost out to Robert De Niro's performance in "Raging Bull."
Hurt was also a prolific voice actor, appearing as Hazel in the animated "Watership Down," and as Aragorn in Ralph Bakshi's "The Lord of the Rings." He also voiced The Horned King in "The Black Cauldron" and provided the narration for "Dogville."
In the "Harry Potter" films, Hurt played the wand-maker Mr. Ollivander. In recent years, he appeared in notable fare such as "Melancholia," ''Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," ''Only Lovers Left Alive" and "Snowpiercer."
As prolific as ever, Hurt recently appeared alongside his "V for Vendetta" co-star Natalie Portman in the Oscar-nominated film "Jackie" as a priest who consoles and advises the recently widowed first lady.