'He touched all our lives with joy and magic' - Sir John Hurt's widow leads tributes to Chesterfield actor

The widow of Chesterfield-born actor Sir John Hurt has said it will be a 'strange world' without the veteran actor following his death at the age of 77.

Saturday, 28th January 2017, 10:01 am
Updated Saturday, 28th January 2017, 10:12 am
Anwen Hurt has led the tributes to her late husband Sir John Hurt, who passed away on Wednesday from pancreatic cancer
Anwen Hurt has led the tributes to her late husband Sir John Hurt, who passed away on Wednesday from pancreatic cancer

Anwen Hurt said that the Oscar-nominated star died at his home on Wednesday after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

In a statement released today she said: "It is with deep sadness that I have to confirm that my husband, John Vincent Hurt, died on Wednesday, January 25 at home in Norfolk.

Sir John Hurt passed away on Wednesday from pancreatic cancer

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"John was the most sublime of actors and the most gentlemanly of gentlemen with the greatest of hearts and the most generosity of spirit. He touched all our lives with joy and magic and it will be a strange world without him."

Born in Chesterfield, Sir John was well known for roles including Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant, the title role in The Elephant Man and wand merchant Mr Ollivander in the Harry Potter films.

Tributes have begun to pour in for the beloved actor.

Welsh actor Luke Evans, who starred alongside Sir John in Hollywood film Immortals in 2011, said he would "never forget" the memories they shared.

Sir John Hurt passed away on Wednesday from pancreatic cancer


He said: "We shared a trailer and we would sit in our loincloths and he would tell me story after story of the good old (crazy!) times of filmmaking.

"I was so new to the business but he spoke to me like an equal, with a kindness and a dignity only a man of his generation possessed."

He added: "RIP Mr Hurt and thank you for that special memory."

Oscar-winning American actress Octavia Spencer worked alongside the veteran actor on post-apocalyptic thriller Snowpiercer and recalled similar memories of his storytelling.

She wrote on Instagram: "John Hurt was the craft at its finest.

"It was an honour and a great joy to work with him on Snowpiercer.

"To wile the time away on set, @lucapasqualino #jamieBell #TildaSwinton and I would play a crazy card game called shithead. It's English... and yes it's real.

"Anyway, though John and #ChrisEvans would never play, we'd all convene at our table in base camp and listen to John recount tales of his varied sets throughout the years.

"I was in awe of him because he always looked regal even though we played unwashed rebels in a post apocalyptic film. I can't explain it. Maybe it was the way he held his cigarette, or that English accent. Or, perhaps the kindness he showed us all allowed his nobility to radiate even beneath the layers of grimey makeup and tattered clothes.

"He was such an interesting man! Miss you, John."

Actress Clare Higgins, who worked with Sir John on Doctor Who, said he was "the perfect actor" and a "beautiful gentleman".

Speaking on BBC Breakfast she said he was acknowledged by all actors as one of the "greatest".

"He was simply the most brilliant complete actor. He gave himself to his role.

"John had a real tenderness and gentleness which is quite rare in a male actor."

She revealed she had spent three days with Sir John at a Doctor Who convention in Los Angeles last year in one of his last public appearances.

"What was so touching and lovely about John was that this wasn't an actor talking to fans, this was a person talking to a person.

"It was very moving and lovely to watch."

Figures from across film, music and sport also remembered the award-winning actor, including Hollywood stalwart Mel Brooks who wrote on Twitter: "It was terribly sad today to learn of John Hurt's passing. He was a truly magnificent talent.

"No one could have played The Elephant Man more memorably. He carried that film into cinematic immortality. He will be sorely missed."

Walking Dead actor David Morrissey tweeted: "I loved John Hurt. I worked with him many times. A generous, funny and intelligent man. Brilliant actor. Great storyteller. Going to miss him."

Actor John Barrowman posted: "Sir John Hurt showed us that your career can be diverse as the characters you play. So many wonderful performances."

Richard E Grant wrote: "So so sad to have lost such an extraordinary talent and friend. Sir John Hurt. R. I. P."

Film-maker Kevin Smith tweeted: "Rest in Peace to the actor genius #JohnHurt. Most folks know him from ALIEN but I loved him as Sir Richard Rich from A Man for All Seasons."

Stephen Fry said: "Oh no. What terrible news. We've lost #JohnHurt as great on the stage, small screen and big. A great man & great friend of Norfolk & #NCFC"

Sharon Stone said: "God speed to John Hurt, a legendary actor and good human being."

Elijah Wood tweeted: "Very sad to hear of John Hurt's passing. It was such an honor to have watched you work, sir."

Billy Elliot actor Jamie Bell tweeted: "I will forever cherish the memories I have of the incomparable John Hurt. A brilliant actor & a beautiful soul."

Comic actor David Schneider wrote: "Sad re John Hurt. I was in a film with him and he was so mesmerising I kept forgetting to act and just watched him. A genius & a lovely man."

Footballer Stan Collymore said: "Rest In Peace John Hurt. What a wonderful actor and gentleman. Thank you for the memories."

Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash tweeted: "RIP John Hurt. One of my all time favorite actors."

True Blood actor Stephen Moyer wrote: "So so sad to hear the news about #JohnHurt.

"An absurdly gifted, brilliant actor and a very funny beautiful man RIP John x."

Queen guitarist Brian May said: "What a fabulous actor, splendid voice and venerable human being. How sad to lose him. RIP John Hurt."

Hunger Games actor Sam Claflin tweeted: "Such sad news to start the day with. Sir John Hurt, r.i.p. An honest, inspirational figure. A man who always stayed true to the 'art'."

Norwich City Football Club also paid tribute to the actor, who was a supporter of the club.

In a post on Twitter alongside a photo of Sir John they said: "Bafta-winning actor, British icon of stage and screen, Norwich City supporter. Rest in peace, Sir John Hurt."

Sherlock actor and writer Mark Gatiss posted on Twitter: "The crumpled grandeur of John Hurt was always a joy to behold. That voice, those eyes - an almost painful sensitivity. So many wonders. RIP."

The British actor was nominated for two Academy Awards, for The Elephant Man and Midnight Express, and won four Bafta Awards, including a lifetime achievement accolade in recognition of his outstanding contribution to British cinema in 2012.

Author of the Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, tweeted of Sir John: "So very sad to hear that the immensely talented and deeply beloved John Hurt has died. My thoughts are with his family and friends."

Childline founder and president Dame Esther Rantzen hailed Sir John, who was a fundraiser for the children's charity, saying he had an "extraordinary career".

Dame Esther said she approached him after a London theatre performance, some 30 to 40 years after first meeting him when he was a young actor, and he "immediately agreed" to help the organisation.

She said: "He understood it was a unique way for children to seek help.

"There was something in his own past which made him connect with vulnerable children - I believe it happened when he was in school.

"From then on he never turned us down, he spoke at events for us, telling stories of some of the children we had helped, and took part in carol services for us.

"Because he was such a great artist, I remember writing for him and he gave it so much more strength because of the way he told it.

"He will be a great loss to the children in this country."

Sir John told the Press Association of his diagnosis in June 2015.

He said: ''I have always been open about the way in which I conduct my life and in that spirit I would like to make a statement.

''I have recently been diagnosed with early stage pancreatic cancer. I am undergoing treatment and am more than optimistic about a satisfactory outcome, as indeed is the medical team.

''I am continuing to focus on my professional commitments and will shortly be recording Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell (one of life's small ironies!) for BBC Radio 4.''

He later told the Radio Times: "I can't say I worry about mortality, but it's impossible to get to my age and not have a little contemplation of it.

"We're all just passing time, and occupy our chair very briefly. But my treatment is going terrifically well, so I'm optimistic."

Sir John enjoyed a big hit with sci-fi horror Alien in 1979 and his character Kane's final scene, in which the xenomorph creature bursts from his chest, has been frequently named as one of the most memorable in cinematic history.

He recently found new fans when he starred as a "forgotten" incarnation of the Doctor, known as the War Doctor, in Doctor Who.

He was knighted by the Queen for services to drama at an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle in 2015.

Earlier this year Sir John pulled out of a production of John Osborne's play The Entertainer on medical advice, as he recovered from an intestinal complaint.

He had been due to play Billy Rice in the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company production, directed by Rob Ashford.

However, he continued to work at a prodigious rate, starring in Jackie Kennedy biopic Jackie, thriller Damascus Cover and the upcoming biopic of boxer Lenny McLean, My Name Is Lenny.

He was also filming Darkest Hour, in which he starred as Neville Chamberlain opposite Gary Oldman's Winston Churchill.

The film focuses on Churchill's charge against Adolf Hitler's army in the early days of the Second World War and is due to be released on December 29.

Sir John, who played Caligula in the celebrated BBC drama I, Claudius, also racked up film hits in V For Vendetta, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, John le Carre adaptation Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (again alongside Oldman) and Hercules.

Other celebrated roles included his performance as Stephen Ward - a key figure in the Profumo affair - in Scandal and a reprisal of his role as Crisp in An Englishman In New York in 2009, 34 years after his original portrayal of the flamboyant figure.

Sir John's distinctive voice has been used several times as narrator, and accompanied a chilling Aids awareness advertising campaign in the 1980s. He also voiced the roles of Hazel in Watership Down, and Aragorn in Ralph Bakshi's animated adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings.

Born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, Sir John went to art college before he studied at Rada (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) and picked up TV and film roles until he had his major breakthrough, appearing in A Man For All Seasons as Richard Rich.

Sir John achieved further prominence in the film 10 Rillington Place as Timothy Evans, who was wrongly executed for the crimes of serial killer John Christie, played by Sir Richard Attenborough.