Versatile British actor Hoskins dies at 71
LONDON — Bob Hoskins never lost his Cockney accent, even as he became a global star who charmed and alarmed audiences in a vast range of roles.
Short and bald, with a face he once compared to “a squashed cabbage,” Hoskins was a remarkably versatile performer. As a London gangster in “The Long Good Friday,” he moved from bravura bluster to tragic understatement. In “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” he cavorted with a cast of animated characters, making technological trickery seem seamless and natural.
A family statement released Wednesday said Hoskins had died in a hospital the night before after a bout of pneumonia. He was 71 and had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2012.
Helen Mirren, who starred alongside Hoskins in “The Long Good Friday,” called him “a great actor and an even greater man. Funny, loyal, instinctive, hard-working, with that inimitable energy that seemed like a spectacular firework rocket just as it takes off.”
“I personally will miss him very much, London will miss one of her best and most loving sons, and Britain will miss a man to be proud of,” Mirren said.
The 5'6” Hoskins, who was built like a bullet, specialized in tough guys with a soft center, including the ex-con who chaperones Cathy Tyson's escort in Neil Jordan's 1986 film “Mona Lisa.” Hoskins was nominated for a best-actor Academy Award for the role.
His breakout Hollywood role was as a detective investigating cartoon crime in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” a tribute to hardboiled 1940s entertainment that was one of the first major movies to meld animation and live action. The 1988 Robert Zemeckis film was a huge global success that won three Oscars and helped revive animated filmmaking.
Born in 1942 in eastern England, where his mother had moved to escape wartime bombing, Hoskins was raised in a working-class part of north London. He left school at 15, worked at odd jobs including circus fire-eater and claimed he got his break as an actor by accident — while watching a friend audition, he was handed a script and asked to read.
“I got the lead in the play,” Hoskins told the BBC in 1988. “I've never been out of work since.”
Hoskins initially worked in theater, but began getting television and film roles in the 1970s. He came to attention in Britain as star of “Pennies from Heaven,” Dennis Potter's 1978 TV miniseries about a Depression-era salesman whose imagination sprouts elaborate musical numbers. It was later turned into a movie starring Steve Martin.
His movie breakthrough came in 1980 thriller “The Long Good Friday,” playing an East End gangster hoping to profit from redevelopment of London's docks. It contained one of Hoskins' most memorable speeches, a Cockney-accented dismissal of American culture: “What I'm looking for is someone who can contribute to what England has given to the world: culture, sophistication, genius. A little bit more than an 'ot dog, know what I mean?”
The film, which also featured a young Pierce Brosnan, is ranked 21 in the British Film Institute's list of the top 100 British films of the 20th century.
Hoskins worked in films big and small, mainstream and independent. Some were acclaimed, including the factory worker story “Made in Dagenham” or “Last Orders,” a bittersweet portrait of aging that reunited him with Mirren.
Others were panned, such as the limp Spice Girls vehicle “Spice World” and video game-based dud “Super Mario Bros,” which Hoskins described as his worst film experience.
He appeared in Francis Ford Coppola's musical “The Cotton Club,” starred alongside Cher in “Mermaids,” played pirate Smee in Steven Spielberg's Peter Pan movie “Hook” and was FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover in “Nixon.”
He never lost his down-to-earth quality, once saying that he would never accept a knighthood.
He told The Guardian in 2010 that acting allowed him “to act out all the feelings and emotions that you shouldn't have. If I didn't get rid of it all, I'd be in a terrible state.”
Yet he was famously funny and self-deprecating. Hoskins once recalled how he was put on standby to play Al Capone in Brian De Palma's “The Untouchables,” until Robert De Niro agreed to take the role. The director sent Hoskins a check for 20,000 pounds to thank him for his time.
“I phoned him up and I said, ‘Brian, if you've ever got any other films you don't want me in, son, you just give me a call,'” Hoskins said.
In 2012 Hoskins announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and was retiring from acting.
His last role was as one of the seven dwarves in “Snow White & The Huntsman,” starring Kristen Stewart.
He is survived by his wife Linda and children Alex, Sarah, Rosa and Jack. They said in a statement: “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Bob.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh hires consultant, former Wisconsin police captain as chief
- Trac Fabrication all-terrain wheelchairs open world for disabled
- Retail theft suspect takes off, leaves baby at Rostraver Township Walmart
- Unlike years past, strength of 2014 Steelers could be offense
- Steelers Lookahead: Previewing Sunday’s game vs. Cleveland
- Tomlin: Steelers preparing to face both Browns QBs
- Bethel Park mortgage broker pleads guilty
- More pipelines proposed to carry Marcellus gas to southeast markets
- Wedding aboard Pittsburgh’s Gateway Clipper ends in arrests
- Parking Authority settles suit over kiosks
- Tuesday- Sept. 2, 2014