Death of William Hurt, subtle and demanding actor

Handsome, tall, blond, he looked like a Hollywood star. But William Hurt, who died on Sunday March 13 at the age of 71, had little taste for this celebrity acquired in the 1980s, which culminated with the prize for male interpretation at Cannes in 1985 and the Oscar the following year. , for his ambivalent role in Kiss of the Spider Womanbehind closed doors in a Brazilian jail during the dictatorship.

His slow and precise diction earned him a – well-deserved – reputation as a cerebral actor whom he preferred to put at the service of the theatre, “the language I speak better than English “, he confides to the New York Times in 1990. The young William, born into a Boston upper class family in 1950, had studied theology in London and Boston, then comedy at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York.

He went on stage at the end of the 1970s and then made his big screen debut in a fantastic film by iconoclast Ken Russell, Beyond reality (1980). But it’s the seedy lawyer blinded by the passion of body fever (1981), sulphurous thriller by Lawrence Kasdan, which reveals it to the general public. He then shoots, with the same filmmaker, a bittersweet comedy, Friends first (1983).

Aura of gifted and demanding actor

His strong and subtle compositions as a sensitive teacher in The Children of Silence (1986) and charismatic presenter of the JT in Broadcast News (1987) earned him Oscar nominations and the aura of a gifted and demanding actor. “The art of comedy requires as much solitude as that of writing”he pleaded.

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His career slowed down in the 1990s. Is this due to his aversion to notoriety – he notably refuses Jurassic Park – or his difficult temper and addictions to drugs and alcohol? Probably a bit of both.

He still plays Aliceby Woody Allen (1990), Smokeby Wayne Wang (1994), A sofa in New York, by Chantal Akerman (1996). He then alternates between big productions (The villageby M. Night Shyamalan, in 2004) and auteur films including A History of Violenceby David Cronenberg (2005): ten minutes of performance so impressive that he was again nominated for an Oscar.


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