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Biography
One of the top leading men of the '80s, William Hurt is notable for his intensity and effective portrayals of complex characters. Although born in Washington, D.C., Hurt had already seen much of the world by the time he was grown, as his father worked for the State Department. His early years spent in the South Pacific near Guam, Hurt moved to Manhattan with his mother after his parents divorced when he was six years old. He spent the summers with his father, vacationing in a variety of international locales, including Sudan. At the age of ten, Hurt's life again changed dramatically when he became a stepson to Henry Luce III, the heir to the Time-Life empire. His mother's second marriage indirectly led to Hurt's initial involvement with the theater: sent away to a boarding school in Massachusetts, he found comfort in acting. After going on to Tufts University to study theology for three years at his stepfather's urging, Hurt married aspiring actress Mary Beth Supinger and followed her to London to study drama. Upon their return to the U.S., Hurt studied drama at Juilliard. By this time, under the realization that his marriage was failing, Hurt divorced his wife, got a motorcycle, and headed cross country for the Shakespeare festival in Ashland, OR, where he made his professional debut in a production of Hamlet. He later joined New York's Circle Repertory Company, and went on to receive critical acclaim for his work on the New York stage. Hurt made his feature film debut in Ken Russell's Altered States in 1980, but it was not until he appeared opposite Kathleen Turner in Body Heat (1981) that he became a star and sex symbol. Four years later, he won Best Actor Oscar and British Academy awards as well as a similar honor at Cannes for his sensitive portrayal of a gay prisoner in Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985). He was again nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his two subsequent films, Children of a Lesser God (1986) and Broadcast News (1987). Further success followed in 1988 when he starred in The Accidental Tourist. As bright as his star shone on stage and screen, by the end of the '80s, a darker side of Hurt was exposed when he was sued by his former live-in love and mother of his daughter Alex, ballet dancer Sandra Jennings, who claimed to be his common-law wife. Despite his personal problems, Hurt continued to stay relatively busy, beginning the new decade with a fine turn in Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World (1991). He subsequently appeared in such acclaimed films as Smoke (1995), Jane Eyre (1996), One True Thing (1998), and Dark City (1998). In 1998, Hurt appeared as the patriarch of one of televisions most beloved sci-fi families in the big-budgeted remake of Lost in Space, and as a gubernatorial candidate with a shadowy past in George Hickenlooper's political drama The Big Brass Ring (1999). Still alternating between stage and screen into the new millennium, Hurt stuck mainly to the small screen in the next few years. After lending his voice to the animated portrayal of the life of Jesus Christ in The Miracle Maker, appearing in the mini-series Dune, and taking the title role of The Contaminated Man in 2000, Hurt returned to features with his role in director Steven Spielberg's long anticipated (post-mortem) collaboration with the late Stanley Kubrick, A.I. As the well-intending scientist who sets the story of an artificial boy capable of learning and love into motion, Hurt's character seemed to provide the antithesis of the regressive experiments his previous character had flirted with in Altered States.
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