Hurt and Anthony Hopkins star in one of David Lynch's best movies
Sir John Hurt's movie career spanned 55 years and 141 films but he was only nominated for an Oscar twice: for Turkish-prison drama Midnight Express (1978) and for The Elephant Man (1980), the second feature film directed by cult movie legend David Lynch.
Hurt stars as a 19th century Englishman who suffered from a severe physical deformity and was rescued from a side show by a crusading doctor (Anthony Hopkins).
It's a very moving and humane period movie, filmed in black and white with an appropriately for a Stygian vision of Victorian London, with touches of Lynchian surrealism.
Time Out Australia interviewed John Hurt in 2010 and asked him for his recollections of making the film.
"My strongest recollection was making it with David Lynch who, at that time, was not David Lynch, if you see what I mean," Hurt said. "I remember him struggling to be taken seriously in England. I remember, metaphorically, having to hold his hand. Because people weren’t quite ready for him.
"I can remember the make-up, when we first did it, taking 12 hours. We finally got to the set, where the director was waiting to see it, and the rest of the cast were there and they’d been waiting for ages, and I can remember thinking, 'if anybody laughs, that’s the end of the movie'. But fortunately there was a stunned silence. And it was out of that silence, I think, that the whole film became a possibility. The seminal moment."
Hurt died on January 25 from pancreatic cancer. Three dollars from every ticket sold to the Orpheum's tribute screening of The Elephant Man will go to cancer research.