Sir John Vincent Hurt, CBE (22 January 1940-25 January 2017) played the War Doctor for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. He later returned to the role in a line of audio stories for Big Finish Productions.
Career[edit | edit source]
As the Doctor[edit | edit source]
Hurt's was not a conventional incarnation of the Doctor; although Hurt portrayed the ninth in chronological order, he is officially known as the War Doctor. He is also the only official incarnation of the Doctor whose tenure was entirely within another actor's tenure, his entire stay in the role being within Matt Smith's run as the lead. Despite this, by portraying the role in The Name of the Doctor, The Night of the Doctor, and The Day of the Doctor, Hurt appeared in more television stories than Eighth Doctor actor, Paul McGann. McGann still has more screen time than Hurt, however. McGann's total screen time is 65 minutes, 27 seconds, while Hurt's is only 38 minutes, 31 seconds (deleted scenes notwithstanding).
At 73 years old on his debut appearance as the Doctor, Hurt is the oldest actor to have assumed the role, his nearest rival being Richard Hurndall who was 72 when he played the First Doctor in The Five Doctors in 1983. Hurt was also the first actor to play the role since the revival to be born before the original series started, and the first since Tom Baker to be older than Carole Ann Ford, who played the Doctor's on-screen granddaughter, Susan.
In 2015, he resumed the role of the War Doctor, this time in a much more expansive venue of adventures that featured him as the chief protagonist, though as a markedly more anti-heroic version of the Doctor, in a range of Big Finish Productions audio stories.
Outside Doctor Who[edit | edit source]
He is known for portraying various iconic roles, such as Winston Smith in the film adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four, and his award winning performance of Quentin Crisp in the TV series The Naked Civil Servant. Hurt also appeared in I, Claudius alongside Derek Jacobi, and more recently in three of the Harry Potter movies as Garrick Ollivander, V For Vendetta, Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, Hellboy, and provided the voice of the dragon in the BBC Cymru series Merlin. He was also nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe (for Best Actor) for his role in David Lynch's The Elephant Man, playing the titular character John Merrick. As of 2019, he remains the only actor to play the Doctor to receive a best actor Oscar nomination.
Hurt also appeared in the Ridley Scott film Alien, portraying the character of Kane who is central to the infamous "chest-bursting" scene, regarded as one of the most famous scenes in science fiction cinema. As such it has been referenced and parodied several times, which he did himself in Spaceballs. Steven Moffat's earlier series Coupling is another such example.
Long before he was the War Doctor, Hurt played another time traveller in Frankenstein Unbound.
Hurt also played the role of Sailor John, the central antagonist of the 2015 Thomas And Friends special, Sodor’s Legend Of The Lost Treasure, along with voicing an Imperial Fists Chaplain in the inaugural Warhammer 40, 000 movie, Ultramarines.
Honours[edit | edit source]
In 2012, Hurt was presented with the BAFTA Film award for "Outstanding British Contribution To Cinema".
He was knighted for his services to drama in the 2015 New Year Honours, becoming the first knighted actor to have played the Doctor. He is currently the only "official" Doctor with any honours; although Peter Cushing received a OBE before him. Several "parody Doctors" have also been honoured, namely Clive Dunn, Lenny Henry, Rowan Atkinson and Joanna Lumley.
Personal life[edit | edit source]
In June 2015, Hurt announced that he had been diagnosed with early-stage pancreatic cancer, but he continued to work while undergoing treatment and was optimistic about a satisfactory outcome. He ultimately lost his life to the cancer on 25 January 2017.
Legacy[edit | edit source]
Issue 510 of Doctor Who Magazine paid special tribute to the late Doctor Who actor. This "John Hurt tribute issue" included interviews with David Tennant, Steven Moffat, and various people he worked with at Big Finish: Nicholas Briggs, Jason Haigh-Ellery and David Richardson.
Executive producer Steven Moffat is quoted in this issue as having said:
- "It doesn't need saying – John Hurt was one of the greatest actors who ever lived. That's not even controversial, that's just a fact. I only met him a handful of times, but I can confirm the other thing that everyone else has been saying about him: he was also incredibly nice. Now, nice doesn't seem like much of a compliment, but you have to remember that this man was, quite rightly, worshipped by everyone he met. Worship has been known to go to people's heads – but not John's. If a man can remain humble and kind and warm as the world basically genuflects around him, then that is no ordinary man. The Doctor would be proud to be John Hurt – and for one very special day, he was."
In 2018, Steven Moffat also dedicated The Day of the Doctor novelisation to John Hurt;
- "In memory of Sir John Hurt, who saved the Day"
Credits[edit | edit source]
Television[edit | edit source]
Doctor Who[edit | edit source]
Mini-episodes[edit | edit source]
Audio[edit | edit source]
The War Doctor[edit | edit source]
- Only the Monstrous
- Internal Devices
- Agents of Chaos
- Casualties of War
[edit | edit source]
Footnotes[edit | edit source]
- Sir John Hurt: Bafta-winning actor dies aged 77. BBC News (28 January 2017). Retrieved on 28 January 2017.
- Obituary: John Hurt. BBC News (28 January 2017). Retrieved on 28 January 2017.
- Sommer, Tim (31 January 2017). John Hurt: January 22, 1940-January 25, 2017. Observer. Retrieved on 4 March 2017.
- Graham, Chris (28 January 2017). Sir John Hurt, legendary British actor, dies aged 77 after battle with pancreatic cancer. The Telegraph. Retrieved on 28 January 2017.
- DWM 510