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Private eyes, gangsters, working class toughs - English actor Bob Hoskins excelled at them all during an international stage and screen career that concurrently showcased the everyman's ability to pass as American, Italian or even Russian. His breakout leading role in the gritty British thriller "The Long Good Friday" (1980) established Hoskins' streetwise charm, and from there, the following he had acquired on British television and the stages of London's West End spread internationally. A New York mobster in Francis Ford Coppola's "Cotton Club" (1984), Hoskins lent an emotional depth to the ex-con he portrayed in Neil Jordan's "Mona Lisa" (1986), earning a Golden Globe Award for his performance and returning to the ceremony two years later as a nominee for one of the era's most inventive comedies, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988). For a man who self-deprecatingly referred to himself as "5 foot six and cubic," Hoskins was perpetually booked, disappearing chameleon-like into portrayals of world leaders and charismatic self-starters like the role that earned him an Academy Award nomination opposite Judi Dench in "Mrs. Henderson Presents" (2005). Hoskins' gregarious charm and ability to bring...
Private eyes, gangsters, working class toughs - English actor Bob Hoskins excelled at them all during an international stage and screen career that concurrently showcased the everyman's ability to pass as American, Italian or even Russian. His breakout leading role in the gritty British thriller "The Long Good Friday" (1980) established Hoskins' streetwise charm, and from there, the following he had acquired on British television and the stages of London's West End spread internationally. A New York mobster in Francis Ford Coppola's "Cotton Club" (1984), Hoskins lent an emotional depth to the ex-con he portrayed in Neil Jordan's "Mona Lisa" (1986), earning a Golden Globe Award for his performance and returning to the ceremony two years later as a nominee for one of the era's most inventive comedies, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988). For a man who self-deprecatingly referred to himself as "5 foot six and cubic," Hoskins was perpetually booked, disappearing chameleon-like into portrayals of world leaders and charismatic self-starters like the role that earned him an Academy Award nomination opposite Judi Dench in "Mrs. Henderson Presents" (2005). Hoskins' gregarious charm and ability to bring humanness to heavies made him a much-loved player in both Hollywood and his native U.K. His death from pneumonia on April 29, 2014, two years after he retired from acting due to Parkinson's Disease, brought tributes from fellow actors and directors across the entire film industry.
Born Oct. 26, 1942, in Suffolk, Hoskins was raised in North London by his cook mother and clerk father. Hoskins was a self-proclaimed rebellious youth who left school at 15 and set off to explore the world, holding a variety of odd jobs along the way, studying accounting and working as a circus fire eater. The fearless and energetic charmer fell into acting entirely by accident one evening when he was mistaken at a bar as an actor queuing up for a play audition within the building. When he was given a script and informed that he was up next, Hoskins went with the flow and landed the lead. His natural instincts were obvious to the agent eager to sign him, but he lacked a technical acting education, so he built up his skills on the regional theater circuit in Shakespeare, comedies and musicals. At Britain's National Theater, Hoskins played the failed crook in Sam Shepard's ''True West'' and Nathan Detroit in ''Guys and Dolls" while also appearing in movie theaters in "The National Health" (1973) and on the 1974 sitcom, "Thick as Thieves."
A scene-stealing stage role as an electrician in "Veterans" caught the eye of a television producer who cast him in the lead in the British comedy series, "Pennies from Heaven" (1978), where Hoskins played a sheet-music salesman prone to fantasy. He was a delight as the pioneering filmmaker in the series "Flickers" (ATV, 1980) and delivered an outstanding performance as a doomed London mobster in "The Long Good Friday" (1980). A prestigious BAFTA nomination and a Best Actor Award from the Evening Standard British Film Awards for his performance significantly raised Hoskins' profile, and in quick succession he appeared as Iago in a BBC TV version of "Othello" (1980), as a rock and roll manager in "Pink Floyd's The Wall" (1982), and as a heartless South American policeman in "Beyond the Limit" (1983). Hoskins was introduced to American audiences with his performance as American gangster Owen Madden in Francis Ford Coppola's major misfire, "The Cotton Club," (1984) as well as his portrayal of fascist leader Mussolini in the HBO miniseries "Mussolini and I" (1985).
Alan Alda's film industry send-up "Sweet Liberty" (1986), featuring Hoskins as a neurotic screenwriter, was disappointing but Hoskins turned around to give one of the most critically hailed performances of his career in Neil Jordan's "Mona Lisa" (1986). His nuanced performance as an ex-con who lands a job driving a beautiful call girl (Cathy Tyson) only to get drawn into her personal life proved Hoskins as a believable romantic lead, earning him a Best Actor Academy Award nomination and a win at the Golden Globe Awards. Further trading on his newfound status as a romantic lead, he appeared opposite Maggie Smith in "The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne" (1987). The following year Hoskins gave his most widely recognized performance as private eye Eddie Valiant in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988), carrying the live action/animation hybrid with his convincing interactions with a goofy talking rabbit and a sultry cartoon sex symbol and in the process, earning a Golden Globe for his efforts.
Piling on the unpolished but irresistible charm, he shone again as the lover of a flamboyant small town single mom (Cher) in "Mermaids" (1990) and provided humorous support as the henchman Smee in "Hook" (1991), Steven Spielberg's retelling of the Peter Pan story. In 1988, Hoskins made his co-writing and co-directing debut with "The Raggedy Rawney." The film about a WWI soldier (Dexter Fletcher) who encounters a band of gypsies led by Hoskins received a mixed reception, with some complaining of the shift in tones from whimsical to serious, while others praised the acting and camera work. Moving into the early 1990s, the seemingly stalled actor churned out a few commercial vehicles that were decidedly unworthy of his talents, i.e., "Passed Away" (1992) and "Super Mario Bros." (1993). His wicked turn as a decidedly gay J. Edgar Hoover in Oliver Stone's sprawling "Nixon" (1995) put him back at the top of Hollywood's character want-list, and he held that position with his amusing performance as a tabloid editor in search of an angel in "Michael" (1996).
When Hoskins' second filmmaking effort, the children's film "Rainbow" (1996), was greeted with less enthusiasm than his first, he teamed with British director Shane Meadows to give a memorable performance as the scrappy owner of a local boxing club who tries to make a difference in the lives of disaffected youth in "TwentyFourSeven" (1997). In another surprising choice of roles, Hoskins co-starred as a pornographer in "Live Virgin" and rejoined Meadows for a cameo as a teacher in "A Room for Romeo Brass" (1999). Director Atom Egoyan made the most of Hoskins' versatility when he cast him as a strangely genial serial killer in "Felicia's Journey" (1999), in which the actor turned in a remarkable, complex performance that earned a number of award nominations. From villainous to a more likable role, Hoskins played Sancho Panza, the right hand man of John Lithgow's "Don Quixote" (2000), in the TNT production. Without skipping a beat he gave an inspired turn as the notorious Panamanian dictator in "Noriega: God's Favorite" (2001) for Showtime and inhabited a different kind of leader when he portrayed Nikita Khrushchev in the World War II drama, "Enemy at the Gates" (2001).
Hoskins returned to working class territory as a fatherly butler in the Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy "Maid in Manhattan" (2002), but fared better co-starring with Brenda Blethyn in the 1920s-set romance "The Sleeping Dictionary" (2003). Hoskins and Blethyn paired up again in actor Kevin Spacey's directorial debut, "Beyond the Sea" (2004), in which Hoskins played the brother-in-law and father figure of ailing singer Bobby Darin. Unfortunately, Spacey's labor of love failed to spark an interest with critics and audiences. Hoskins went on to execute an amusing turn as the idiosyncratic Sir Pitt Crawley opposite Reese Witherspoon in Mira Nair's witty adaptation of "Vanity Fair" (2004), which thankfully overshadowed his supporting role in the abysmal sequel, "Son of the Mask" (2005), less than a year later. He then did a turn as cruel Uncle Bart, a British gangster who cruelly raises a young man (Jet Li) to be a cold-blooded fighter in Luc Besson's "Unleashed" (2005). The combination of martial arts and blunt sentimentality earned plenty of critical kudos, especially for Li.
However kudos were few for Marc Forster's pretentious psychological thriller "Stay" (2005), in which Hoskins played a blind psychiatrist, but the actor next earned a Golden Globe nomination for co-starring with Judi Dench in "Mrs. Henderson Presents" (2005), Stephen Frears' story of the famed Windmill Theatre in London, a 1930s' establishment known for its seminude reviews. Richard LaGravanese cast Hoskins and Fanny Ardant as a married couple role-playing on the seedy side of town in the "Pigalle" segment of "Paris Je T'aime" (2006), an anthology of short films about Paris that was a minor success on the art house circuit. Hoskins did first-time film director Allen Coulter a favor with his charismatic portrayal of early MGM studio brass Eddie Mannix in the George Reeves (Ben Affleck) biopic, "Hollywoodland" (2006), as well as putting his timeless quality to further good use in family classics "Pinocchio" (ION, 2008) and "A Christmas Carol" (2009), Robert Zemeckis' big budget holiday event starring Jim Carrey as Dickens' holiday grump and Hoskins as his underling Mr. Fezziwig.
Hoskins returned to screens the following year in such U.K.-produced films as the fact-based drama "Made in Dagenham" (2010), in which he played a machinists union representative negotiating a 1968 female auto workers strike, in addition to a supporting role in the inspirational sports drama "Will" (2011). For the second time he portrayed Hook's sniveling factotum, Smee, in the TV miniseries "Neverland" (Syfy, 2011), a reimagining of the Peter Pan fable, then returned to more realistic environs in the comedy-drama "Outside Bet" (2012), about group of friends in London looking to change their luck with a large bet on a single horserace. More mainstream fare came with Hoskins' appearance as Muir the Dwarf in the blockbuster fantasy "Snow White and the Huntsman" (2012), starring Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth in the title roles, alongside Charlize Theron as the evil queen, Ravenna. Then, in August 2012, industry contemporaries and fans were saddened by the news that Hoskins, who boasted an acting career spanning more than four decades, was officially retiring after having been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease the previous year. In a press release through his agent, the actor stated that he looked forward to spending time with his family in a quiet retirement, asking only that the press respect his privacy in the matter. Bob Hoskins died of pneumonia on April 29, 2014.
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