Bob Hoskins dead at 71: Hoskins’ best movies included ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ & ‘Mona Lisa’
Bob Hoskins, who died at age 71 in London yesterday, April 29, from pneumonia (initially reported as “complications of Parkinson’s disease”), was featured in nearly 70 movies over the course of his four-decade film career. Hoskins was never a major box office draw – “I don’t think I’m the sort of material movie stars are made of – I’m five-foot-six-inches and cubic. My own mum wouldn’t call me pretty.” Yet, this performer with attributes similar to those of Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, and Lon Chaney had the lead in one of the biggest hits of the late ’80s.
In 1988, Robert Zemeckis’ groundbreaking Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which seamlessly blended animated and live action footage, starred Hoskins as gumshoe Eddie Valiant, investigating the murder of a cartoon character. Also featuring the voices of veterans Mel Blanc and June Foray, in addition to Body Heat and Prizzi’s Honor femme fatale Kathleen Turner (voicing femme fatale Jessica Rabbit), Who Framed Roger Rabbit collected $156.45 million in North America – or about $303 million today – in addition to $173.35 million internationally. The Zemeckis-Hoskins collaboration became the second highest-grossing 1988 release in the U.S. and Canada, trailing only Barry Levinson’s eventual Best Picture Academy Award winner Rain Man, starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. (See also: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit Turns 25.”)
Despite generally good reviews for his performance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Bob Hoskins failed to be shortlisted for that year’s Academy Awards. He did, however, receive a Best Actor Oscar nod for his portrayal of a tough ex-con hired by Michael Caine to chauffeur high-class sex worker Cathy Tyson in Neil Jordan’s well-regarded Mona Lisa (1986), set in the rotting Great Britain of Margaret Thatcher (whom Hoskins abhorred). Hoskins lost the Best Actor Oscar to Paul Newman in Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money, but he did take home that year’s Best Actor BAFTA and shared Best Actor honors with Michel Blanc (for Bertrand Blier’s Ménage / Tenue de soirée) at the Cannes Film Festival.
Bob Hoskins & Judi Dench
Bob Hoskins was also a good (and odd) match for Judi Dench; they were a sort of British Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in Stephen Frears’ perfectly watchable – if much too safe and sanitized – Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005), in which Dench plays the manager of London’s risqué Windmill Theatre, where all-nude revues were all the rage during World War II. As the irascible stage director Vivian Van Damm, Hoskins is Dench’s helper, foe, and eventual paramour.
Among Hoskin’s other notable movie roles were those of gangland boss Harold Shand in John Mackenzie’s thriller The Long Good Friday (1980), which earned him a Best Actor BAFTA nomination; J. Edgar Hoover in Oliver Stone’s Nixon (1995), starring Anthony Hopkins in the title role; Mario Mario in Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton’s box office bomb Super Mario Bros. (1993); and Nikita Khrushchev in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s political war drama Enemy at the Gates (2001), set during the Battle of Stalingrad, and starring Jude Law, Ed Harris, and Joseph Fiennes.
Bob Hoskins on television
Bob Hoskin’s notable television roles include highly imaginative sheet music salesman Arthur Parker in Dennis Potter’s widely acclaimed musical drama Pennies from Heaven (1979); Iago in Jonathan Miller’s production of Othello (1981), with Anthony Hopkins in the title role; Benito Mussolini in Alberto Negrin’s Mussolini and I (1985), with Hopkins as the “I” in the title, and also featuring Susan Sarandon and Annie Girardot (Hoskins once described himself as “short, fat and bald, the only actor who had to diet and wear lifts to play Mussolini”); and Micawber in Simon Curtis’ version of David Copperfield (1999), with Daniel Radcliffe as the young David.
Bob Hoskin’s last movie appearance was in Rupert Sanders’ dark fantasy Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, and Sam Claflin. In this reimagining of the Snow White fairy tale, Hoskins played Muir, one of the seven dwarves.
Regarding his memorable movie villains, Bob Hoskins told the New York Times:
If people remember the heavies, it’s because what I try and do is make the audience understand them. If you just show a bad man, that’s rubbish, that’s cartoon time. [Holocaust co-organizer Adolf] Eichmann used to take flowers home to his wife and was a good father; and, if you were playing him, you’d have to show that as well as the perpetrator of Nazi atrocities.
Image of Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit with Jessica Rabbit, voiced by Kathleen Turner: Walt Disney Studios.