John Hurt, RIP


John Hurt, the first Chancellor of the Norwich University of the Arts, was a talented, versatile and prolific character actor. His superb portrayals of John Merrick, the Elephant Man, Max in Midnight Express and Caligula in the BBC’s I, Claudius immediately spring to mind. There are many, many others in a career spanning six decades. But for me, it was his role as Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant which resonated the most. It was 1975 and I was 15 and fretful. The film was a revelation. Not because I wanted to do a Crisp by slapping on, dragging up and renting myself out for a few shillings. No, because I suddenly realised that if Quentin could live an unabashed life during the most hostile of times, then my own coming out might not be so traumatic. Apparently, John Hurt was strongly advised against taking the part. It would be career suicide, he was told. Hurt ignored the doomsayers and I’m so glad he did. And despite a few initial wobbles, my step from the closet turned out just fine.

9 thoughts on “John Hurt, RIP

  1. He was better than a film star. He was a great actor. I met him once. Driving through Cornwall, I stopped for lunch at a pub in Dartmeet and he was standing next to me in the bar. I said “Goodness me, what are you doing here?” He said, “I am making a film down the road and I have to eat same as you.”


  2. Such a good actor, I was also very taken with his performance as Quentin Crisp and very happy when Quentin and his ghost writer Donald Carroll (later to be a Bodrum resident and dear friend, but I didn’t know it in the late 70s) came to Birmingham university and gave a fantastic talk. I wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t watched John Hurt’s wonderful portrayal.


Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.