Sir John Hurt: Bafta-winning actor dies aged 77

Sir John Hurt

           Veteran actor Sir John Hurt has died aged 77, his agent has said.

The Bafta-winning star, known for his roles in Alien and The Elephant Man, continued working despite being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015.

He recently starred as Father Richard McSorley in Jackie, the biopic of President John F. Kennedy’s wife.

US director Mel Brooks described Sir John as “cinematic immortality“, as tribuytes poured in for the star.

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      A look back at the career of Sir John Hurt

He was given the all-clear in October 2015 but last year pulled out of play The Entertainer due to ill-health.

Sir John decided not to perform as Billy Rice in Sir Kenneth Branagh’s production on the advice of his doctors.

John Hurt in The Elephant ManHurt in the role of Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man

Brooks paid tribute to Sir John, who had starred in his comedy Spaceballs, saying on Twitter: “No one could have played The Elephant Man more memorably.”

He added: “He carried that film into cinematic immortality. He will be sorely missed.”

Stephen Fry praised Sir John for being “great on the stage, small screen and big”.

Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood said: “It was such an honor to have watched you work, sir.”

British actor Alfred Molina said Sir John was “a gloriously talented actor, one of the best, of this or any era.”


Obituary: ‘The mulberry of my mind’

John Hurt was one of Britain’s best-known and most versatile actors.

He was born on 22 January, 1940 in Chesterfield in Derbyshire. Over six decades, he appeared in more than 120 films as well as numerous stage and television roles.

He went to St Martin’s School of Art in London before gaining a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1960.

The death of his character in the film Alien has often been voted as one of cinema’s most memorable moments.

The film critic and historian Geoff Andrew once asked Hurt how he managed to regularly turn in such memorable performances.

The only way I can describe it is that I put everything I can into the mulberry of my mind and hope that it is going to ferment and make a decent wine,” he said.

“How that process happens, I’m sorry to tell you I can’t describe.”


Sir John was knighted in 2015 for his services to drama.

After his diagnosis the same year, he told the Radio Times: “I can’t say I worry about mortality, but it’s impossible to get to my age and not have a little contemplation of it.

“We’re all just passing time, and occupy our chair very briefly.”

He has performed as the deformed Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man as well as wand-maker Mr Ollivander in the Harry Potter films.

In 2013 he appeared in Doctor Who as the War Doctor, a hitherto unseen incarnation of the character.

He has been married to Anwen Rees Meyers, a former actress and classical pianist, for 12 years.

Hurt with his wife Anwen Rees Meyers at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in 2009Hurt with his wife Anwen Rees Meyers at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in 2009
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