For many actors, there is no such word as "retirement." While there are big names who slip away from the movie business to do other things, or simply enjoy time off as they head into their twilight years -- Gene Hackman and Peter O'Toole being among the recent examples -- those feel like the exception, rather than the rule. But unfortunately, the great British character actor Bob Hoskins has been forced to step away from the limelight.
The actor, who started out in the theater before working for thirty years in the movies both at home and in Hollywood, announced yesterday that, sadly, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease last fall, at the age of 69, and is now stepping away from acting in order to spend time with his family. As it stands, this summer's "Snow White & The Huntsman" is his last film.
Hoskins was never of the physical type to be an A-lister, and yet had an extraordinary amount of success for a London-raised lad who left school at 15. Tackling comedy and tragedy, heroes and villains, megabudget blockbusters and microbudget indies, he never gave a performance anything less than his all. He'd steal scenes in supporting parts, and when he played the lead, he'd knock it out of the park more often than not. To commemorate the outstanding career of Bob Hoskins, we've picked out five of our favorite peformances by the actor. Check them out below.
To this day, the high watermark of the British crime movie, despite the many knock-offs that have come since, remains John Mackenzie's terrific 1980 film "The Long Good Friday." Hoskins plays Harold Shand, a London gangster sitting at the top of the tree, who looks to become legitimate with a huge property development in the Docklands era of East London, in the hope that it might serve as the site for a future Olympics. But he's under attack from an unknown enemy (the IRA, it would seem), causing the U.S. Mafia to pull out of the agreement, and leaving Harold desperate to salvage his deal. It's firmly a film that sums up its era -- timed perfectly to the arrival of Margaret Thatcher in government, with Harold as the kind of figure who would have flourished under her. But political subtext aside, it's also simply a gripping thriller, with a star-making performance from Hoskins, showing both the peaceful, honorable man Shand wants to be, and the psychotic thug that lies underneath. His final scene, as he's confronted by an IRA hitman (Pierce Brosnan, in his first screen role) is something of an acting masterclass. It was Hoskins' first major screen role (he’d been seen a couple of years earlier alongside Peter O’Toole and Burt Lancaster in “Zulu Dawn”), and the one that paved the way for everything that came after.
Neil Jordan's career is fascinating, but arguably a very patchy one. However one early indisputable crown jewel is the unlikely romantic crime drama "Mona Lisa" largely due in part by Bob Hoskins, who in an intriguing flip-side to the role that made his name six years earlier, plays as a good-hearted, but meek underling just getting out of prison. Having covered for his old mob boss (Michael Caine), Hoskins' George is still a flunkie doormat with few options allowing him to go straight , but eventually, is given a cushy job as a chauffeur for a high-class black prostitute (Cathy Tyson). As George becomes friendlier with Simone, affections begin to bloom and George becomes entangled in her life when she pleads him to track down one of her abused friends from her shady past. Hoskins' range has illustrated that he can playing raging boils or soft-hearted patsys, and in "Mona Lisa," he convincingly plays a low-level stooge with soft devotion in a wonderfully minor key. He’s a man lost in an England he no longer recognizes, and even among a strong cast (Caine, somewhat against type, is a great villain), Tyson should have gone on to better things than she did, and you can spot early appearances from Robbie Coltrane as well as future “The Wire” star Clarke Peters), he dominates; quite rightly, he won Best Actor at Cannes, and was nominated for an Oscar. Larry Clark was planning a remake a few years ago with Mickey Rourke and Eva Green. One breathes a sigh of relief that somehow never came to pass...