William Hurt: Marvel star and Oscar-winning actor dies at 71

William Hurt, the Oscar-winning actor whose career spanned cult classics, acclaimed dramas and Marvel blockbusters, has died aged 71.

By Gary Flockhart
Monday, 14th March 2022, 7:58 am
Updated Monday, 14th March 2022, 8:01 am
William Hurt, the Marvel Comic Universe actor has died aged 71.
William Hurt, the Marvel Comic Universe actor has died aged 71.

The Washington-born star died a week before his 72nd birthday, peacefully and of natural causes, according to a statement.

Marvel Studios led the tributes to Hurt, its official account tweeting: “Rest In Peace to an amazing talent William Hurt, beloved Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross in our Marvel Cinematic Universe,”

Hurt first played Ross opposite Edward Norton in the 2008 movie Incredible Hulk, then later reprised the role for performances in Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame and Black Widow.

But it was his efforts decades earlier which brought him critical acclaim – he was nominated for the best actor Oscar three years running for Kiss Of The Spider Woman in 1985, Children Of A Lesser God in 1986 and Broadcast News in 1987.

He won the best actor Oscar and Bafta for Kiss Of The Spider Woman in 1985.

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Ben Stiller said he hoped Hurt, who befriended Stiller’s father Jerry in 1984 when the pair starred together in the original Broadway production of David Rabe’s Hurlyburly, was “having a laugh somewhere now” with Stiller’s deceased parents Jerry and Anne Meara.

“He was so kind to my sister and I. He spent time at our apartment, and came to visit my parents up in Nantucket. He would talk to us about acting, and the crest or process. He talked to us as if we were adults, not kids of his friend. He made a huge impact on both of us,” Stiller tweeted.

“Watch his movies if you can and see a different kind of movie star, for whom the work was more important than status. He did great work. I hope he and Anne and Jerry are having a laugh somewhere now.”

Other members of the industry described the death as a “major loss” and shared personal experiences of working with Hurt.

Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo wrote it was “another Major loss to the acting community. Great actor. Great mind”, while fellow Marvel alumni Kat Dennings tweeted: “Ughggghhh I love William Hurt WHY.”

Hurt’s fellow best actor Oscar-winner Russell Crowe reflected on his experience starring as the titular hero in Sir Ridley Scott’s 2010 film Robin Hood alongside the American.

“On Robin Hood, I was aware of his reputation for asking character based questions, so I had compiled a file on the life of (Hurt’s character) William Marshall,” Crowe tweeted.

“He sought me out when he arrived on set. I handed him the stack. Not sure if I’ve ever seen a bigger smile. RIP.”

Comedian Patton Oswalt said Hurt was “a beyond brilliant film and stage actor”.

“Then he went and guested on @TheKOQ and was so deadpan, low-key hilarious. ‘This is good cake. And I’m not a cake guy.’ RIP.” he wrote.

US actor Albert Brooks, who appeared alongside him in Broadcast News, wrote: “RIP William Hurt. So sad to hear this news.

“Working with him on Broadcast News was amazing. He will be greatly missed.”

Actress Bryce Dallas Howard, who starred alongside Hurt in M Night Shyamalan’s 2004 film The Village, said Hurt’s “undeniable presence on screen broke the mould a thousand times over”.

In a post on Instagram, she added that the actor was “someone who gave everything and went out of his way to support me and others. I’ll always remember his generosity of spirit and his love of stories and truth — that passion ignited the same love of stories for me.”

Scottish star Alec Newman, who starred in the Dune miniseries adaptation in 2000, tweeted: “Absolutely heartbroken to learn that William Hurt has passed away. I cannot begin to express how much I learned from the great man. He was extraordinary and I was so lucky to have worked with him and spent time. Go well Sir. Thankyou so much.”

Steven Spielberg’s TV and film production company, Amblin, tweeted: “We are deeply saddened to report that actor William Hurt, who played Prof. Hobby in Steven Spielberg’s A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (2001), has passed at 71. Thank you, William, for consistently showing us through your work where dreams are born: the heart.”

The Juilliard School graduate was again nominated for an Oscar – this time as best supporting actor – for his performance in crime thriller A History Of Violence in 2005.

Hurt was accused of physical and verbal abuse by his ex-partner Sandra Jennings in 1989 and of the same by Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin, his girlfriend in the mid-1980s, in her 2010 memoir I’ll Scream Later.

The actor replied to Matlin with a statement issued to Access Hollywood at the time, stating: “My own recollection is that we both apologised and both did a great deal to heal our lives. Of course, I did and do apologise for any pain I caused. And I know we both have grown.”

Star Trek star Jonathan Frakes appeared to acknowledge Hurt’s history as he described him as a “complicated, compelling, brilliant actor”.

Hurt revealed in 2018 he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer which had spread to his bones.

His family requested privacy following the death.

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