William Hurt, who won an Oscar for Kiss Of The Spider Woman and who earned a reputation as an intense, skilled actor, has died. He was 71.
Born William McChord Hurt in Washington, DC in 1950, his early years were spent in Guam and Hawaii as his father worked for the State Department’s Agency for International Development.
His parents divorced when he was six, and the young Hurt moved to New York with his mother. Theatre was his initial gateway to performing, appearing in plays at the Middlesex School in Massachusetts. Following his studies in Theology at Tufts University, he studied theatre in England with then-wife Mary Beth Hurt, and, upon his return to America, scored acceptance to the prestigious Juilliard school, where classmates included Christopher Reeve, Robin Williams and Mandy Patinkin.
Hurt’s first film role was a memorable one, playing an obsessed psychologist in Ken Russell’s Altered States. Noir thriller Body Heat followed, establishing him as a solid talent in lead roles, while 1983’s The Big Chill proved he could also impress in ensembles. It also forged a solid working relationship with director Lawrence Kasdan.
Yet it was his portrayal of Luis Molina, a transvestite window dresser locked in a South American jail cell with a militant warrior (Raul Julia) in 1985’s Kiss Of The Spider-Woman that saw him win the Academy Award, the film itself becoming an arthouse sensation.
And he continued to do excellent work, ending up nominated again for Children Of A Lesser God in 1986 and Broadcast News in 1987.
In a long, impressive career, Hurt appeared in many great films, including Dark City, A.I., A History Of Violence (for which he earned his fourth Oscar nom) and The Proposition.
Marvel fans, will of course know him as one the MCU’s longest-serving supporting players, having played General (later Secretary of State Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross) in a number of films since The Incredible Hulk.
“I never explain my movies — it just ruins the emotion,” Hurt once told The Washington Post. “I love saying that line. There is a point to explaining what I do, but at some point you just have to do it. The work is the best that I have to offer. That’s what I want to be eloquent at.” There’s no denying he was.