John Hurt, Star of Dystopian Films 1984 and V for Vendetta, Dies at 77
Well this is both sad and depressingly timely: Academy Award-nominated actor Sir John Hurt has died, aged 77. Hurt is most recognizable to young audiences as wand-maker Mr. Ollivander in the Harry Potter films, and most revered for A Man For All Seasons, The Elephant Man, and Alien; but in a strange twist, his most relevant roles at the time of his death might have been from two films depicting authoritarian, nationalist regimes.
Hurt is considered the definitive on-screen Winston Smith, from the 1984 adaptation of George Orwell‘s novel 1984. That book was back in the headlines this week, when it became the number 1 best-seller on Amazon after Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway described the president’s proveable falsehoods as “alternative facts.” Many quickly pointed out the phrase sounded like Orwell’s imagined “newspeak” or “doublethink.”
Over 20 years later, Hurt went from playing the victim of a totalitarian regime to the leader of one in V for Vendetta. He portrayed Adam Sutler (Susan in the book), head of the fascist Norsefire Party, in the 2005 adaptation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd‘s graphic novel. In the film, America is ravaged by a second civil war and Britain has placed anyone who is not white, Christian, heterosexual, and/or politically conservative in concentration camps.
It’s unclear what the cause of death was, though Hurt was treated for pancreatic cancer last year.
He continued working almost up until his death; Hurt can currently be seen alongside Natalie Portman in Jackie, and next year as British prime minister Neville Chamberlain in Darkest Hour, and as a terminally ill playwright That Good Night.