Sir John Hurt: Bafta-winning actor dies aged 77

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, had been treated for 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 tributes poured in for the star.

Despite being given the all-clear from cancer, he last year pulled out of play The Entertainer because of ill health.

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

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.”

Sir John also played the part of wand-maker Mr Ollivander in the Harry Potter films.

Author of the books, JK Rowling, tweeted: “So very sad to hear that the immensely talented and deeply beloved John Hurt has died. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

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, but dropped out. He then gained a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1960 but said he had been so hungry, he could hardly deliver his lines.

It was not until 1978 that Hurt was recognised as one of cinema’s best character actors, gaining an Oscar nomination for his performance as a heroin addict in Alan Parker’s Midnight Express.

In 1979, he then starred as Kane in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror Alien. in The death of his character 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.”

Read more about Sir John Hurt’s life here

Sir John was also known for his off-screen antics, with his drinking splashed across newspapers.

He once even lunged at a pack of paparazzi at a Bafta awards ceremony.

But he said that age had mellowed him and he admitted to being happier sitting with his painting easels than being out on the town.

Sir John was married four times. His first marriage to actress Annette Robertson lasted two years in the 1960s. In 1968 he started a relationship with the “love of his life” Marie Lise Volpeliere-Porrot – it ended 15 years later when she was killed in a riding accident.

The following year he married US actress Donna Peacock but the couple divorced four years later, although they remained good friends. He married his third wife Jo Dalton in 1990 and they had two sons. They divorced in 1995.

In 2005, he wed Anwen Rees-Myers, a former actress and classical pianist, who was with him until his death.

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

After his cancer 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.”

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

He was still working up until his death, starring in Jackie Kennedy biopic Jackie, thriller Damascus Cover and the upcoming biopic of boxer Lenny McLean, My Name Is Lenny.

He was also filming Darkest Hour, in which he starred as Neville Chamberlain opposite Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill, scheduled to be released in December.

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