John Hurt — RIP

In 1998’s Love and Death on Long Island, John Hurt’s novelist explained how and to what degree forebears like Thomas Mann appreciated teen meat Jason Priestly as muses and bottoms. Erudite and expert, Hurt risked embarrassment; his rock-hewn features collapsed on learning how his homosexual crush regarded him. Like the previous generation of British actors, Hurt didn’t mind appearing in Hollywood crap if he could inject his particular kind of concentrated intensity. I’ll remember him for camping through Midnight Express, enduring stomach pains in Alien, suffering soulfully through prosthetics in The Elephant Man, and breathing the mephitic fumes of a dying Richard Burton in 1984, but he loved tugging the strings of a malice that came as naturally to him as the way he tugged at vowels. Criterion did us a favor by releasing 1984’s The Hit, in which he plays the coldest murderer of the last forty years. Appearances in Snowpiercer, Only Lovers Left Alive, and Jackie underscored his continual employability as an actor who could embody kooky British realism. Only Ralph Fiennes hints at replacing him, yet I can’t imagine him confessing his love for a callow, dense, unworthy object of desire like Hurt did.

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