William Hurt Biography

Film Actor, Actor, Theater Actor(c. 1950–)
William Hurt is an Academy Award-winning actor known for his intense dramas and challenging roles in films such as Broadcast News and A History of Violence.

Synopsis

Born in 1950 in Washington, D.C., William Hurt won an Academy Award for best actor for his performance in Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), as well as Oscar nominations for his roles in Children of a Lesser God and Broadcast News. Often returning to the stage, he won an Obie Award and a Theatre World Award for My Life (1977), and a Tony Award nomination for Hurlyburly (1984–5). Later films include Dark City (1998) and A History of Violence (2005), for which he won an Oscar nomination (best supporting actor).

Early Life

Born on March 20, 1950, in Washington, D.C., William Hurt is most famous for such 1980s films as Body Heat, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Children of a Lesser God and The Accidental Tourist. He spent his early years abroad as the son of a state department employee. After his parents divorced, Hurt lived in New York City with his mother. He visited his father in different parts of the world during his school vacations.

When he was 10 years old, Hurt was sent to boarding school after his mother remarried. There, he developed an interest in acting. At Tuft University, Hurt continued to explore this interest while majoring in theology. He and his future wife Mary Beth Supinger met at the school and later married. The pair moved to London for a time and then to New York City, where Hurt enrolled at the Juilliard School.

Top Film Star

Hurt started out as a stage actor, first appearing in a regional Shakespearean festival. He then joined the Circle Repertory Company in New York. After appearing in numerous productions, Hurt won an Obie Award for his performance in My Life in 1977. In 1980, he made his film debut in Altered States. Hurt plays a scientist who experiments on himself with disturbing results.

The following year, Hurt proved himself as a more traditional leading man type in the crime thriller Body Heat. He co-starred opposite Kathleen Turner in the film, which helped make both of them stars. In 1983, Hurt appeared in the popular ensemble dramatic comedy The Big Chill. The movie follows a group of former college friends who reunite for a funeral. The cast also includes Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum and Kevin Kline.

Two years later, Hurt gave one of the most remarkable performances of his career in Kiss of the Spider Woman. In the film, he plays Luis, a homosexual drag queen who is imprisoned in a South American jail. Raul Julia plays his cellmate, a political prisoner. Luis tells stories to try to escape from his dreary existence. To prepare for the role, Hurt studied with a dance teacher and developed his own approach to the character. After some struggling, Hurt decided that Luis "really is a woman. He's just caught in a man's body," he told NPR in a radio interview. All his hard work paid off. Hurt won raves for his work on Kiss of the Spider Woman, and even won the 1986 Academy Award for best actor.

Hurt's film career continued to thrive with a string of impressive performances. In 1986, he received another Academy Award nomination for his turn as a teacher at a deaf school in Children of a Lesser God. His character in the film becomes involved with a deaf woman, played by Marlee Matlin. The following year, Hurt starred in the drama Broadcast News with Holly Hunter, which earned him another Oscar nomination. He went on to give another great performance in The Accidental Tourist (1988), starring alongside Geena Davis.

In the 1990s, Hurt worked steadily on a range of projects. He worked with Woody Allen on the 1990 romantic comedy Alice, starring Mia Farrow, and then starred in Wim Wenders's futuristic tale, Until the End of the World, in 1991. In 1996, Hurt starred in a film adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre with Charlotte Gainsbourg and Anna Paquin. He also appeared in the big screen version of the popular science-fiction television series Lost in Space in 1998.

In his later years, Hurt has drifted away from his leading man status. He has tackled character and supporting roles in a number of films. In the 2005 political drama Syriana, Hurt plays a former CIA operative. That same year, he earned yet another Oscar nomination—this time for best supporting actor—for his short turn in A History of Violence. In the film, Hurt plays a crime boss who catches up with his brother and tries to settle old score.

Recent Projects

While primarily a film actor, Hurt appeared on the television show Damages with Glenn Close in 2009; for his portrayal of a corporate whistleblower on the legal drama, he earned an Emmy Award nomination. In 2011, Hurt starred in two television movie projects: as the legendary Captain Ahab in the miniseries Moby Dick, based on Herman Melville's literary classic, and as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in Too Big to Fail. Also featuring James Woods, Paul Giamatti and Cynthia Nixon, Too Big to Fail explores the 2008 economic crisis on Wall Street.

Back on the big screen, Hurt starred in the French language film J'enrage de son absence in 2012. Around the same time, he was cast in The Host (2013), a film adaptation of a sci-fi novel by Stephenie Meyer.

In early 2013, it was announced that Hurt had been cast as Frank Hamer, the Texas ranger who tracked down infamous criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, in  a TV movie which aired on the Lifetime, A+E and History networks that December.

Personal Life

Hurt divorced actress Mary Beth Hurt in the early 1980s. Around this time, he became involved with dancer Sandra Jennings. She later sued him for support, claiming that their relationship was actually a common-law marriage. The couple had one child together.

During the making of Children of a Lesser God, Hurt became involved with his co-star, Marlee Matlin. Matlin later claimed that it was an abusive relationship, and that they both had substance abuse issues while together. After breaking up with Matlin, Hurt married to Heidi Henderson, daughter of bandleader Skitch Henderson. He and Henderson had two children together. Hurt also has a daughter from his later relationship with French actress Sandrine Bonnaire.

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!