Bob Hoskins dead at 71
Versatile character actor capable of menace, poignancy and Cockney charm
British actor Bob Hoskins, whose varied career ranged from noir drama Mona Lisa to animated fantasy Who Framed Roger Rabbit, has died at age 71.
A family statement released Wednesday by publicist Clair Dobbs said Hoskins died in a hospital after a bout of pneumonia. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2012.
Hoskins was a consummate actor from a working-class background "who rose to the top of British acting royalty," said Toronto filmmaker Atom Egoyan, who directed Hoskins in the 1999 drama Felicia's Journey.
"He applied himself so maniacally to this role and was so involved in this characterization of a deeply troubled man that I was just in awe," Egoyan told CBC News on Wednesday morning.
"Maybe it was nature of that particular role, and intensity of it and the particular journey that character went through, but he inhabited it so completely, and I really loved him."
A versatile character actor capable of menace, quiet poignancy and Cockney charm, Hoskins appeared in some of the most acclaimed British films of the past few decades, including gangster classic The Long Good Friday. His Hollywood roles included Mermaids and Hook.
Born in 1942 in eastern England, where his mother had moved to escape wartime bombing, Hoskins was raised in a working-class part of north London.
He left school at 15, worked at odd jobs and claimed he got his break as an actor by accident — while watching an audition, he was handed a script and asked to read.
Hoskins began getting television and film roles in the 1970s, and came to attention in Britain as star of Pennies from Heaven, Dennis Potter's 1978 TV miniseries about a Depression-era salesman whose imagination sprouts elaborate musical numbers. It was later turned into a movie starring Steve Martin.
Bob Hoskins: partial filmography
- The Long Good Friday (1980)
- The Cotton Club (1984)
- Mona Lisa (1986)
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
- The Raggedy Rawney (1988)
- Mermaids (1990)
- Hook (1991)
- Nixon (1995)
- Felicia's Journey (1999)
- David Copperfield (2000, TV)
- Enemy at the Gates (2001)
- Vanity Fair (2004)
- The Englishman's Boy (2008, TV)
- Made in Dagenham (2010)
- Neverland (2011, TV)
- Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
His movie breakthrough came in 1980 thriller The Long Good Friday, playing an East End gangster hoping to profit from redevelopment of London's docks.
It contained one of his most memorable speeches, a Cockney-accented dismissal of American culture: "What I'm looking for is someone who can contribute to what England has given to the world: culture, sophistication, genius. A little bit more than an 'ot dog, know what I mean?"
The film, which also featured Helen Mirren and a young Pierce Brosnan, is ranked 21 in the British Film Institute's list of the top 100 British films of the 20th century.
Hoskins specialized in tough guys with a soft centre, including the ex-con who chaperones Cathy Tyson's escort in Neil Jordan's 1986 film Mona Lisa. Hoskins was nominated for a best-actor Academy Award for the role.
His best-remembered Hollywood role was as a detective investigating cartoon crime in 1988 hit Who Framed Roger Rabbit, one of the first major movies to meld animation and live action.
He worked in films big and small, mainstream and independent. Some were acclaimed (U.K. underdog hit Made in Dagenham), some panned (Spice Girls vehicle Spice World).
He appeared in Francis Ford Coppola's musical The Cotton Club, starred alongside Cher in Mermaids, played pirate Smee in Steven Spielberg's Peter Pan movie Hook and was FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover in Nixon.
In 2012 Hoskins announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and was retiring from acting.
His last role was as one of the seven dwarves in Snow White & The Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart.
"We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Bob," said a statement from wife Linda and children Alex, Sarah, Rosa and Jack.
He is survived by his wife and children.
With files from CBC News