Best known to superhero fans as General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross in Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers Infinity War/Endgame, and Black Widow, William Hurt has died just shy of his 72nd birthday. Hurt also received an Oscar-nomination for his role in the graphic novel adaptation A History of Violence, one of four nominations in his career. (He won Best Actor for 1985’s Kiss of the Spider-Woman, which despite the title is not a comics-related film.) The actor revealed in 2018 that he had terminal prostate cancer and was taking an experimental treatment to minimize side effects.
Hurt made his debut in the sci-fi/horror hybrid Altered States, about a scientist who regresses himself first back to caveman form, and then a pure energy being. Other sci-fi and fantasy related projects included roles in Lost in Space, The Village, Until the End of the World, Michael, AI: Artificial Intelligence, and Winter’s Tale. On TV, he played Duke Leto Atreides in the Dune miniseries and King Hrothgar in a Beowulf adaptation.
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Hurt’s life was not without controversy. Ex-lover Marlee Matlin accused him in her autobiography of alcohol-fueled abuse during their time together, for which he apologized via a carefully worded statement. But perhaps his most notable role predicted many of today’s biggest controversies. In 1987’s Broadcast News, which earned him one of those Oscar nominations, his character played a newscaster without a lot of intelligence, but who succeeded on good looks and faking emotion for the camera. The movie correctly predicted that in the future, networks would value those traits more than integrity.
But audiences could always count on him to bring an integrity to his acting. Even in movies like The Village that weren’t highly regarded, he took the material seriously and could be relied upon to deliver a convincing performance.
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