William Hurt, an Oscar winner who was one of the most successful leading men of the '80s, has died at 71.
His death, reportedly from natural causes, comes about three years after he confirmed he had terminal prostate cancer that had spread.
Will, the actor's son, said in a statement, “It is with great sadness that the Hurt family mourns the passing of William Hurt, beloved father and Oscar winning actor, on March 13, 2022, one week before his 72nd birthday. He died peacefully, among family, of natural causes. The family requests privacy at this time.”
Hurt was born on March 20, 1950, in Washington, D.C., but lived abroad in various locales, including Mogadishu, due to his dad's work in the U.S. Agency for International Development.
He studied at Tufts University, then at Juilliard, where he learned his craft as an actor among peers including Christopher Reeve (1952-2004) and Robin Williams (1951-2014).
Hurt cut his teeth as a stage actor, working first with Circle Repertory Companyy. He won an Obie for My Life (1977) and a Theatre World Award for his work in Fifth of July, Ulysses in Traction and Lulu (all 1978).
He debuted on TV on a two-part episode of Kojak (1977). His first film was the trippy sci-fi flick Altered States (1980). After appearing with Sigourney Weaver (b. 1949) in 1981's Eyewitness, he and Kathleen Turner (b. 1954) became household names starring in the steamy neo-noir thriller Body Heat (1981).
One of his biggest hits was the dramedy The Big Chill (1983), a pop cultural touchstone, and he went on to receive three Oscar nominations in a row for Best Actor: Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), Children of a Lesser God (1986) and Broadcast News (1987). In a surprise, he won for Kiss of the Spider Woman, in which he played a gay man imprisoned with a leftist revolutionary (Raúl Juliá, 1940-1994) in Brazil under its military dictatorship.
It was the first time an actor won for an explicitly gay role.
The Accidental Tourist (1988), Alice (1990), Lost in Space (1998), One True Thing (1998), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), Changing Lanes (2002), Tuck Everlasting (2002), A History of Violence (2005 — Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for less than 10 minutes on-screen), Syriana (2005), Into the Wild (2007), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Robin Hood (2010) and four appearance as Thaddeus Ross, in Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019) and Black Widow (2020).
His final film appears to be 2022's The King's Daughter, and at the time of his death he was providing a voice to the TV series Pantheon.
He was also remembered for his work on TV's Damages (2009).
As an actor, he was absolutely revered. Upon hearing of his passing, many peers took to social media to express their grief, including Mark Ruffalo, who wrote, "Wow, another Major loss to the acting community. Great actor. Great mind. RIP."
Topher Grace wrote, "Grateful that I had the opportunity to work with William Hurt. I admired his acting so much and watching his commitment in person was remarkable. My thoughts are with his family."
Still, Hurt was also remembered for a tumultuous relationship with his Children of a Lesser God co-star Marlee Matlin, one she explicitly defined as abusive. In her 2009 book I'll Scream Later, Matlin — who was 19 when she met Hurt, who was 35, wrote that he belittled her acting abilities on the night she won the Oscar for their film together, that they got into violent arguments that left her bruised and with cuts, and that he attacked her sexually once while drunk.
Hurt said in a statement at the time, "My own recollection is that we both apologized and both did a great deal to heal our lives. Of course, I did and do apologize for any pain I caused. And I know we both have grown. I wish Marlee and her family nothing but good.”
He is survived by his four children.