Movies | March 13, 2022 6:09 pm

William Hurt, Oscar-Winning Actor, Dead at 71

He worked with an astonishing array of filmmakers

William Hurt
William Hurt in "Until the End of the World," 1991.
Impress Own/United Archives via Getty Images

On Sunday, news broke that actor William Hurt had died at his Portland, Oregon home. His son Will confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter. Hurt was 71, and had spent several decades having an unpredictable and thoroughly singular career, whether he was playing an obsessed researcher or a reclusive crime boss. Over the course of his career, Hurt won the 1985 Academy Award for Best Actor for his work in Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Hurt’s career included several collaborations with director Lawrence Kasdan, beginning with the 1981 thriller Body Heat and also including the likes of The Big Chill and The Accidental Tourist. Hurt fit the bill of a conventionally handsome leading man — a quality that led to memorable work in 1988’s Broadcast News — but he could also vanish into sinister supporting roles. In Stephen Spielberg’s A.I. and David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, Hurt plays twisted authority figures with equal parts affability and menace.

Hurt’s first onscreen role came in 1980’s Altered States, where he plays a scientists whose search for transcendence threatens to cost him his humanity; it neatly combined his leading-man charisma and his penchant for cult films. (See also: his roles in Dark City and Until the End of the World.) The list of acclaimed directors with whom he worked reads like a filmmaking hall of fame — Wim Wenders! Nora Ephron! Chantal Akerman! His was a staggeringly great career.

Revisiting Hurt’s filmography — as many are likely to do in the coming days and weeks — has the potential to be exponentially rewarding. Whether it’s the humanistic drama of Smoke or the science fiction road movie of Until the End of the World — or something entirely different — Hurt embodied characters who are hard to forget in films that share that quality.