We regret to bring you the news that beloved British character actor Bob Hoskins – a showbiz veteran of more than four decades – has passed away at age 71. The Oscar-nominated thespian, whose career work ranged from gritty indie dramas to family-friendly Hollywood blockbusters, announced his retirement from acting in 2012, after revealing that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Robert William “Bob” Hoskins, Jr. was born on October 26th, 1942 in Bury St Edmunds, West Suffolk in England, though he was largely brought up in Finsbury Park, London. Hoskins came from a lower-income class family and left school at age 15, despite having a real passion for literature and the arts in general. He aspired to a theater acting career, even while he made ends meet by working various manual labor jobs over the following decade.
Things famously changed for Hoskins in 1969, when he accompanied his friend Roger Frost to an audition at the now-defunct Unity Theatre in London and was mistaken for being one of the actors trying out; he ended up getting the lead role, as Frost said “Bob was a natural. He just got up on stage and was brilliant.” Beginning in 1972, Hoskins made the jump from the stage to television, appearing in more than a dozen mini-series and shows in a supporting capacity, before he landed his first major TV role on the educational series On the Move in the mid-1970s.
Hoskins was quick to demonstrate his versatility as a leading man, earning critical kudos for performances ranging from often-frustrated sheet music salesman Arthur Parker in the 1978 Pennies from Heaven mini-series to the scheming and jealous Iago in the BBC Television Shakespeare production of Othello in 1981. During that same period, Hoskins emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the crime drama genre, with his BAFTA-nominated turn as gangster Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday in 1980.
Throughout the 1980s, Hoskins appeared in future cult titles like Pink Floyd The Wall and Terry Gilliam’s sci-fi dystopia tale Brazil, while further establishing his legacy as a master at playing hard-edged, yet subtly melancholy criminal types with his Oscar-nominated turn in Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa in 1986. (The latter type of roles, combined with his naturally stocky build and hairy figure, show that Hoskins could’ve made for a great Wolverine in the X-Men movie than never was.)
Hoskins then combined his knack for poignance with comedy, through his turn as alcoholic detective Eddie Valiant in Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988 – a role that permanently endeared Hoskins to a generation of moviegoers (and will surely continue to do in the future), as the actor made the Noir-inspired character yet another memorable grouchy tough guy with a sincere and warm emotional center.
He went on to portray lovable grumps in such films as the campy video game movie Super Mario Bros. and 1990s kids ‘toon Balto, while also putting his comedy skills to work in Passed Away, Mermaids and Steven Spielberg’s Hook (where Hopkins’ plays a charming Smee opposite Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook). Hoskins didn’t stray away from more challenging dramatic fare during the first half of the ’90s either, as he also appeared in such films as the politically-charged KGB agent drama The Inner Circle.
Over the last twenty years, Hoskins continued to demonstrate his range as a character actor, varying from kindly, if troubled souls to curmudgeonly men with a soft underbelly and vicious brutes, with roles in such films as Oliver Stone’s Nixon, Michael, Enemy at the Gate, Maid in Manhattan, Unleashed (a.k.a. Danny the Dog), Mrs. Henderson Presents, and Hollywoodland, among others. He once again played Mr. Smee in in the 2011 mini-series Neverland, before completing his final onscreen role as the blind and wizened dwarf Muir in Snow White and the Huntsman.
No matter if he was playing a hard-drinking crook or the equivalent of a zany cartoon character in the real world, Hoskins was just one of those actors whose innate likability and sympathetic nature always shined through, making him a pleasure to watch – and ensuring he will continue to have a place in many of our hearts, long after his passing.
From everyone here at Screen Rant, we would like to express our most heartfelt and sincere condolences to Bob Hoskins’ loved ones, family, and friends during this sad and difficult time.
R.I.P. Robert William “Bob” Hoskins, Jr.: October 26th, 1942 – April 29th, 2014