Ever since I first saw him in a British TV movie about Quentin Crisp (one of the first, or at least most notorious gay Englishman to totally "come out”) called something like THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT, and then in one of my all time favorite movies about the Irish, THE FIELD, let alone as THE ELEPHANT MAN, John Hurt has been one of the film actors I admire most.
Just to see the three entirely different characters he plays in the films mentioned above is enough to mark him as extraordinary. And he keeps going.
I was reminded of that when my friend “K” (from the jimsonweed blog) and more recently Doug Lang (douglangsdcpoetryblog) recommended the Australian “Western” THE PROPOSITION. Hurt has a secondary role in the flick, and totally kicks ass in it as an aging, Irish-hating Brit bounty hunter in the outback.
His performance is mesmerizing. He completely rivets your attention, or at least he did mine, every second he was on screen—this little mousey looking guy with the high raspy voice uses his size and physical qualities to invest the weaselyness of his character with a disarming kind of reverse charm that totally works.
You can Google him for his other credits, but the films mentioned here, especially if seen back to back over a period of successive days, will convince anyone, I think, of John Hurt’s prowess as a screen actor.
And THE PROPOSITION is worth seeing for itself, as well. If you can surrender to the slow rhythm of the film, as well as its stark style, you will be rewarded. And like I said, it’s worth it just for Hurt’s small role in it. (Guy Pearce, Ray Whitstone, Danny Huston and Emily Watson are no slouches in it either.)