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Biography
Considered one of Great Britain's most consistently brilliant players, John Hurt is at his best when playing victims forced to suffer mental, physical, or spiritual anguish. A small man with a slightly sinister countenance and a tenor voice that never completed the transition between early adolescence and manhood, Hurt is generally cast in supporting or leading roles as eccentric characters in offbeat films. The son of a clergyman, Hurt was training to be a painter at St. Martin's School of the Arts when he became enamored with acting and enrolled in London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art instead. He made his theatrical and film debuts in 1962 (The Wild and the Willing). Though he frequently appears on-stage, Hurt, unlike his many colleagues, is primarily a film and television actor. He gave one of his strongest early performances playing Richard Rich in Fred Zinnemann's A Man for All Seasons (1966). His subsequent work remained high quality through the '70s. On television, Hurt made his name in the telemovie The Naked Civil Servant and furthered his growing reputation as the twisted Caligula on the internationally acclaimed BBC miniseries I, Claudius (1976). He received his first Oscar nomination for playing a supporting role in the harrowing Midnight Express and a second nomination for his sensitive portrayal of the horribly deformed John Merrick -- but for his voice, Hurt was unrecognizable beneath pounds of latex and makeup. In 1984, Hurt was the definitive Winston Smith in Michael Radford's version of Orwell's 1984. Other memorable roles include a man who finds himself hosting a terrifying critter in Alien (1979), his parody of that role in Mel Brooks' Spaceballs (1987), an Irish idiot in The Field (1990), and in Rob Roy (1995).
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