Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
Legendary British thespian John Hurt passed away on January 27th, 2017 at the age of 77 years old. Born in a small coal mining town in Derbyshire, England to former actress Phyllis Massey and Anglican Minister and Mathematician Arnould Hurt. An apathetic student, he would later find his true passion was acting. He was admitted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and would make his stage debut in 1962. He only really began to rise to prominence though, with his performance as the conniving Richard Rich in A Man For all Seasons in 1966.
From then on he worked pretty much constantly. Indeed his career which spanned over six decades would include over 120 film roles not to mention dozens of television appearances. Here are a few highlights. In 1976 his performance as English heroin addict Max in Midnight Express for which he won a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. In 1979, he played Kane in Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien and was nominated for another BAFTA. In 1980, he played the titular character in The Elephant Man and was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, and also won—another BAFTA. In 1984 he played Winston Smith in 1984, which won Best British Film of the Year at the Evening Standard British Film Awards. In 1997, he starred as crusty old civil engineer Chuck Langer in the award winning The Climb. He was creepy wand-maker Mr. Ollivander in the Harry Potter franchise, kindly, wise, old Professor Broom in Hellboy, totalitarian fascist leader Adam Sutler in V for Vendetta, and ancient vampire Christopher Marlowe in Only Lovers Left Alive.
One of his most recent appearances was that of rebel leader and mysterious mentor figure Gilliam in 2013’s Snowpiercer. The last film he was featured in before his death was Jackie alongside Natalie Portman as Father Richard McSorley. But fans will still have another chance to see him as Neville Chamberlain in the upcoming British war drama Darkest Hour directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice) opposite Gary Oldman and Ben Mendelsohn.
God speed John Hurt. You truly were an Actor for All Seasons.
Top photo from Bigstock: John Hurt attends The 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festival on May 25, 2013 in Cannes, France.
Remember, remember the Fifth of November/Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot/I see no reason/Why gunpowder treason/Should ever be forgot. Those immortal lines commemorate the British tradition of remembering an attempted attack on Parliament with an annual celebration of bonfires and fireworks. In solidarity with our friends across the pond consider commemorating the occasion by watching one of the following.
Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot (2004) This BBC mini-series directed by Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (The Escapist, Hideous Kinky) is loosely based on the lives of Mary Queen of Scots (French actress Clemence Poesy of In Bruges, and War and Peace) and her son James VI of Scotland (the one and only Robert Carlyle of Trainspotting, The Fully Monty, and Once Upon A Time. Catherine McCormack of Braveheart, Dangerous Beauty, and Shadow of the Vampire plays Elizabeth I and a young Michael Fassbender made one of his earliest appearances in the role of Guy Fawkes himself.
The Gunpowder Plot: Exploding the Legend(2005) This television series hosted by Richard Hammond and designed to coincide with the 400th year anniversary of the plot actually recreates elements of the Gunpowder Plot itself. The Houses of Parliament are reconstructed as they were in 1605, using period methods whenever possible. The “Houses” were then stocked with mannequins representing, commoners, nobles, and of course the King. Then they actually blow it up using the gunpowder materials in the original plot to see how the plan would have worked. The next part of the program has Hammond going into a counterfactual speculation of the effect on British history had the plot succeeded.
V for Vendetta (2006) This dystopian political thriller directed by James McTeigue (The Raven, Sense8) and was written by the Wachowski siblings (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas, Sense8). Based on the Alan Moore limited comic series it imagines an alternative future where Great Britain has been taken over by a neo-Fascist regime. Hugo Weaving (Lord of the Rings, The Matrix) is spellbinding as mysterious anarchist V who wears a Guy Fawkes mask and seeks to ignite a revolution against the current regime that will begin with his plans to blow up Parliament on Guy Fawkes Day the following year. V enlists the unwitting Evey (young Natalie Portman) to his cause all the meanwhile being investigated by Detective Finch (Stephen Rea). You also get memorable turns by John Hurt, Stephen Fry, and Rupert Graves among many others and some great use of the 1812 overture.
Attack the Block (2011) This delightful sci-fi, comedy, horror adventure film was written and directed by Joe Cornish (Hot Fuzz, Ant Man.) Starring John Boyega (Finn from Star Wars), Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) it takes place in a South London council estate. On Guy Fawkes night a young local street gang suddenly have to defend themselves from an alien invasion. Fortunately the young gang members in question turn out to be very tough and very resourceful indeed. It became a massive cult hit with a 90% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
Gunpowder 5/11: The Greatest Terror Plot(2014) Adam Kemp (Churchill’s First World War) wrote, directed, and produced this dramatization using the actual words of Thomas Wintour (Jamie Thomas King of The Tudors, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) Guy Fawkes (Jamie MacLachlan of Maleficent and EastEnders) and other interrogators. It tells of the events from Wintour’s recruitment of Guy Fawkes and his brother to their capture and final days.
With Dr. Strange coming out Friday, (the buzz says that it’s the trippiest Marvel movie yet), inevitably the mind turns to other magicians, wizards, witches, and sorcerers supreme who’ve dazzled us on screen. As the following examples show mastering the Dark Arts is a veritable cinematic tradition.
The Wizard of Oz(1939) This technicolor, musical-comedy-drama-fantasy, based on the beloved Frank L. Baum masterpiece, represents the best of Golden Age Hollywood with Judy Garland in the performance that made her an icon. While (spoiler alert) the titular wizard is a fraud, the powers of Elphalba the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda the Good Witch are very real and propel much of the events of the plot. It was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture but lost to Gone With the Wind. Initially something of a box office disappointment, it would later go on to become one of the best known films in American history and a cultural landmark.
Excalibur(1981) Directed, produced, and co-written by John Boorman (Deliverance and The Tailor of Panama) Excalibur retells the classic legend of King Arthur primarily from the viewpoint of Merlin played with grandeur by Nicol Williamson (Hamlet, Inadmissible Evidence). From the days of Uther Pendragon (Gabriel Byrne in the role that launched his career) to Arthur’s final showdown with Mordred, Merlin steals the show. And this is among a truly great cast including Nigel Terry as King Arthur, Helen Mirren as Morgana Le Fay, Nicholas Clay as Sir Lancelot, Cherie Lunghi as Gwenevere, a young Patrick Stewart as King Leondegrance, Liam Neeson as Sir Gawain, and Corin Redgrave as the Duke of Cornwall. It was all filmed in Ireland, and holds up as one of the best Arthurian adaptions of all time.
The Witches of Eastwick (1987) Directed by George Miller of Mad Max fame and based on the John Updike novel of the same name. Alexandra (Cher), Jane (Susan Sarandon), and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer), are three women all living in Eastwick, Rhode Island who share two things in common. One, they’re all single having lost their husbands. Secondly, unbeknownst to them, they are all witches, and wittingly they start a coven and start practicing spells. Soon the mysterious Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) comes to town and that’s when things start to get freaky. It was nominated for two Academy Awards and holds an over 70% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) Directed by Chris Columbus. No such list would be complete without including the movie based on the best-selling book series that kicked off one of THE most successful film franchises in history. It helped that to do justice to Rowling’s vision they put together an all-star cast as well including Maggie Smith, John Hurt, Robbie Coltrane, and the dearly departed Alan Rickman. Billions of dollars later, Hogwarts has become a cultural landscape that all children secretly dream of being invited to attend, Dumbledore and Snape are now household names, and it launched Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe’s careers into the stratosphere.
The Witch (2015) Newcomer Robert Eggers wrote and directed this historical period supernatural horror tale that came seemingly out of nowhere to become an indie hit that grossed $40 million on a $3 million dollar budget. A puritan family is banished from their old settlement and builds a new farm by the woods. But beginning with the disappearance of their youngest child infant Samuel it soon becomes clear they are being terrorized by a powerful witch. It has an over 90% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and Stephen King said the movie “scared the hell out of me.”