William Hurt of 'Body Heat,' 'Kiss of the Spider Woman,' Dies at 71
Oscar-winning actor William Hurt has died at 71 over three years after announcing he had terminal prostate cancer that had spread to his bones.
Hurt's death was reported by his son, Will, who said in a statement, “It is with great sadness that the Hurt family mourns the passing of William Hurt, beloved father and Oscar winning actor, on March 13, 2022, one week before his 72nd birthday. He died peacefully, among family, of natural causes. The family requests privacy at this time.”
Born March 20, 1950, in D.C., Hurt lived abroad, including in Mogadishu, thanks to his father's role in the U.S. Agency for International Development. He studied theology at Tufts University, then acting at Juilliard among peers like Christopher Reeve and Robin Williams.
From 1977, Hurt was an esteemed stage actor, working with Circle Repertory Company and winning an Obie for "My Life" (1977) and a Theatre World Award for his work in "Fifth of July," "Ulysses in Traction," and "Lulu" (all 1978).
Hurt made his TV debut on the cop series "Kojak" (1977) and his film debut in the high-concept sci-fi movie "Altered States" (1980). After appearing with Sigourney Weaver in 1981's "Eyewitness," he and Kathleen Turner became household names starring in the steamy neo-noir thriller "Body Heat" (1981).
He starred in the baby boomer dramedy "The Big Chill" (1983), a pop cultural touchstone, and received three Oscar nominations in a row for Best Actor: "Kiss of the Spider Woman" (1985), "Children of a Lesser God" (1986) and "Broadcast News" (1987). In a surprise, he won for "Kiss of the Spider Woman," in which he played a gay man imprisoned with a leftist revolutionary in Brazil during its military dictatorship.
It was the first time an actor won for an explicitly gay role.
R.I.P. William Hurt. So sad to hear this news. Working with him on Broadcast News was amazing. He will be greatly missed.
Other films included "The Accidental Tourist" (1988), "Alice" (1990), "Lost in Space" (1998), "One True Thing" (1998), "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" (2001), "Changing Lanes" (2002), "Tuck Everlasting" (2002), "A History of Violence" (2005 — Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for less than 10 minutes on-screen), "Syriana" (2005), "Into the Wild" (2007), "The Incredible Hulk" (2008), "Robin Hood" (2010) and four appearance as Thaddeus Ross, in "Captain America: Civil War" (2016), "Avengers: Infinity War" (2018), "Avengers: Endgame" (2019) and "Black Widow" (2020).
His final film appears to be this year's "The King's Daughter" (2022), and at the time of his death he was providing a voice to the TV series "Pantheon."
Less prolific on TV, he was fondly remembered for his work on "Damages" (2009).
As an actor, he was revered. Upon hearing of his passing, many peers took to social media to express their grief, including Mark Ruffalo, who wrote, "Wow, another Major loss to the acting community. Great actor. Great mind. RIP."
Topher Grace wrote, "Grateful that I had the opportunity to work with William Hurt. I admired his acting so much and watching his commitment in person was remarkable. My thoughts are with his family."
But Hurt was also remembered for a tumultuous relationship with his "Children of a Lesser God" co-star Marlee Matlin, one she explicitly defined as abusive. In her 2009 book "I'll Scream Later," Matlin — who was 19 when she met Hurt, who was 35, wrote that he berated her acting abilities on the night she won the Oscar for their film together, that they got into violent arguments that left her bruised and with cuts, and that he attacked her sexually once while drunk.
Hurt said in a statement at the time, "My own recollection is that we both apologized and both did a great deal to heal our lives. Of course, I did and do apologize for any pain I caused. And I know we both have grown. I wish Marlee and her family nothing but good.”