In showcasing his vast versatility, Hurt has starred in major and varied roles for both television and film, from the groundbreaking TV portrayal of Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant, through his title role in The Elephant Man, and last year to his brief incarnation as The Doctor in BBC One’s Doctor Who.
Perhaps one of his most memorable scenes is the heart-stopping moment Sir John met his end in Alien as a critter burst from his chest, and then their was his noteable role as Winston Smith in the film adaptation of George Orwell’s dark dystopian novel ‘1984’.
The 74-year-old, the son of a clergyman, developed an interest in acting at school but was discouraged by his parents and headteacher, and instead went to art college with an eye to becoming a teacher.
However, he went on to land a scholarship for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and picked up TV and film roles until he had his major breakthrough, appearing in A Man For All Seasons as Richard Rich.
Sir John’s profile grew by starring in the film 10 Rillington Place as Timothy Evans who was wrongly executed for the crimes of serial killer John Christie, and as Caligula in BBC drama I, Claudius.
His distinctive voice graced a chilling Aids awareness ad campaign in the 1980s and the character of Hazel in animated film Watership Down. Other roles have included occasional appearances as wand-maker Mr Ollivander in the Harry Potter films.