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John Hurt, Oscar-Nominated Actor of ‘Alien’ and ‘The Elephant Man,’ Dies at Age 77

John Hurt On The Red Carpet - The 8th Rome Film Festival
Getty Images

John Hurt, the legendary British actor, has reportedly died at the age of 77, according to British newspaper the Mirror.

According to the British paper, the actor had battled both pancreatic cancer and an intestinal complaint in the past. In June of 2015 the actor announced he had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing treatment.

Hurt was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire on January 22, 1940. His first film role in 1962’s The Wild and the Willing and he gained recognition in 1966 for Fred Zinnemann’s A Man for All Seasons. He had a long career spanning six decades. Hurt is most remembered for iconic roles such as Kane in Ridley Scott’s Alien, the deformed John Merrick in David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, wandmaker Ollivander in the Harry Potter series, the tyrannical Chancellor in V for Vendetta, and a heroin addict in Midnight Express.

The British performer also appeared in notable small screen roles including the voice of the dragon on Merlin, the titular politician on The Alan Clarke Series, and the War Doctor on Doctor Who. Hurt, who was knighted in 2015, was a two-time Oscar nominee for Midnight Express and The Elephant Man and won four BAFTAs, including a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The actor’s death comes just five days after his 77th birthday, and at an interesting time for one of his film roles. Hurt played the lead in Michael Radford’s film adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Big Brother in a 2009 stage production. Just this week the classic dystopian George Orwell novel rose to the top of the Amazon best-seller list in the United States, a bump in sales followed by an interview with Kellyanne Conway where the advisor to Donald Trump used language many have drawn parallels to the themes and ideas of Orwell’s book. Hurt lived the book on screen and even lived to see people of modern day culture compare the political climate to Orwell’s dystopian world.

Hurt still had an active career up until his death. His most recent performances were in Bong Joon-ho’s SnowpiercerThe Journey, and a touching supporting role as a priest in Pablo Larrain’s Jackie alongside Natalie Portman. Hurt still has a handful of upcoming performances including A.K.A. Nadia, The Final Reel, That Good Night, Damascus Clover, My Name Is Lenny, and his portrayal of Neville Chamberlain in Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour.

In The Guardian‘s 2005 profile of the legendary actor, Hurt reminisced on his Australian western The Proposition, set in the outback during the bleak 1880s. “We are all racing towards death,” he told the paper. “No matter how many great, intellectual conclusions we draw during our lives, we know they’re all only man-made, like God. I begin to wonder where it all leads. What can you do, except do what you can do as best you know how.”

Whether it was an alien bursting through his chest, watching the Boy Who Lived His get chosen by his wand, or bellowing orders in the Wachowskis’ political thriller, Hurt spent his life doing what he does best, performing.

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