John Hurt was an actor of such versatility — not to mention his indefatigable work ethic — that most of us must have a favorite Hurt cameo (even if it’s not among his ‘best’ performances).
In Memoriam: ￼￼🕯️John Hurt 1940 – 2017￼🕯️ ￼:“We’re all just passing time, and occupy our chair very briefly.”https://t.co/cofcXEX7Wc
— Cassandra Chaya Khan (@silvergrrrrl) January 28, 2017
A lovely memoir from Buzzfeed‘s Patrick Strudwick, “John Hurt Saved My Life”:
Dusk, in a sparse restaurant in Haraar, eastern Ethiopia. John Hurt is sitting across the table performing lines to me from The Naked Civil Servant.
His voice – that brandy and gravel baritone, the same one that in 1987 boomed out on AIDS public information adverts on TV warning people not to die from ignorance – reverberates around the restaurant…
… As the words slip from his mouth, now cradled by wrinkles, he conjures the defiance and vulnerability of Crisp so beautifully that my eyes fill. Hurt keeps going. He can see what this means to me. He has seen it a thousand times. Gay men would often approach him in the street to tell him how transformative it was for them to watch Crisp alive in Technicolor, in full, brazen mauve, sashaying down the street, all scarves and rouge, waving at sailors and giving bigots the middle finger.
The fact that most gay men are not fabulously camp was not the point. Hurt brought to life a template for defiance that saved people, including me…
To convey both the courage and vulnerabilities of outcasts takes an extraordinary person. During the week I spent with Hurt in Ethiopia I saw the extraordinary in him all day, every day. We were there because he was patron of a charity called Project Haraar, which sends doctors and surgeons to Ethiopia to perform surgery on children with severe facial disfigurements.
The head of the charity, who never forgot Hurt in The Elephant Man, approached him to become a patron, not thinking for a moment he would accept. Hurt agreed immediately.
I was sent by a newspaper to shadow Hurt and report on what we saw at the charity’s hospital in Addis Ababa, as well as at the convalescence clinic in the nearby countryside… What neither of us were expecting was what the true horror would be. Hurt, his beloved wife Anwen, and I were taken round the hospital to meet the children. Some had holes in their cheeks, destroyed by a flesh-eating infection called noma, through which they had to push their food in order to eat. Some were simply tiny, growth stunted by malnutrition not because they did not have access to food but because their disfigurements were so extreme that they physically could not eat properly. The smell from facial infections, in some of the cubicles, was almost overwhelming.
But it wasn’t any of this that hit John, Anwen, and me like a boxer’s punch. Watching Hurt meet those children, and how he interacted with them, revealed precisely what it was that knocked him back: their loneliness.
To see Hurt reach out and clasp their hands, to see their faces react with caution, bafflement, and then deep relief – the medicine of human touch – was to know that he was a great actor because his empathy ran so deep.
He did not talk much. In the entire week he did not show any signs of ego, narcissism, or histrionics – precisely what one might expect of a movie star – because he was too busy connecting with others. He watched those children with kindness. He sat and played with them. He laughed with them.