John Hurt, the man who played the missing regeneration of the Doctor, the War Doctor, was one of the most respected actors of his generation. Over a 50 year career, he played some of the most memorable characters in British Film and television, dominating the profession with his rich voice entrancing audiences. His career earnt him two Academy Award nominations, a Golden Globe Award, as well as four BAFTA Awards.
John Hurt was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire on 22nd January 1940. He trained at the Grimsby Art School, before winning a scholarship allowing him to study at Saint Martin's School of Art in London. In 1960, he won a scholarship to RADA, where he trained for two years.
His first film was The Wild and the Willing but he made his mark in Fred Zinnemann's A Man for All Seasons playing Richard Rich. His portrayal of Timothy Evans, in 10 Rillington Place, the true story of an innocent man hanged for murder, earnt him his first BAFTA nomination.
He won a BAFTA playing Quentin Crisp in the TV play The Naked Civil Servant, produced by ex-Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert, a role he would reprise in the 2009 film An Englishman in New York. He won further plaudits in the 1976 series I Claudius playing the psychotic Roman emperor Caligula.
In 1978 he won his first Acadamy nomination for Midnight Express, losing out to Christopher Walken, but for which he won a Golden Globe and a second BAFTA. His unique voice graced the animated films Watership Down and Lord of the Rings. In 1980 he played John Merrick in The Elephant Man earning him his second Acadamy nomination. The same year he came to a gruesome end as Kane in Alien, and four years later he played Winston Smith in the film adaptation of the Orwell classic set in that year Nineteen Eighty-Four.
He had roles in the Harry Potter films and the Merlin TV series and played the MP Alan Clark in The Alan Clark Diaries. Hurt recently starred in Oscar-nominated biopic of President John F. Kennedy's widow, Jackie, which is currently showing in cinemas.
In 2013, at the age of 73 he made his debut in Doctor Who, playing The War Doctor, a character invented by show-runner Steven Moffat to fill the gap in the series 50th Anniversary story, The Day of the Doctor, when it became apparent that Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston did not wish to take part.
Moffat later told Radio Times
I remember saying to Marcus [Wilson, producer], What if there was an incarnation of the Doctor none of us knew about? And, coincidentally, he was played by the most famous actor in the world? Specifically, someone who might have been cast as the Doctor during the long hiatus. For instance, John Hurt...Hurt accepted the offer almost immediately, giving him a place in the series history as one of the rare breed of actor to have played The Doctor.
He was quite insistent, saying to me and to others: “So I am properly Doctor Who now. I am a Doctor Who.I can say it?” He loves the fact that he’s Doctor Who. Only having to stay in Cardiff for three weeks, he gets to be Doctor Who.Hurt would return to the role for Big Finish in 2015
In 2015 Hurt received a knighthood from Her Majesty The Queen for services to drama, to add to the CBE he received in 2004.
John Hurt was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 but was later given the all clear. In an interview last year he said he had no fear of death.
I hope I shall have the courage to say, ‘Vroom! Here we go! Let’s become different molecules! I can't say I worry about mortality, but it's impossible to get to my age and not have a little contemplation of it. We're all just passing time, and occupy our chair very briefly.John Hurt was married four times. He is survived by his wife of 12 years Anwen Rees-Myers, and his two sons Alexander and Nicholas.