Remembering John Hurt

Actor John Hurt at the 2006 Edinburgh International Film Festival
Actor John Hurt at the 2006 Edinburgh International Film Festival. Colin McPherson/Contributor/Getty Images.

Legendary British actor Sir John Hurt has passed away, aged 77.

John Hurt’s career spanned six decades, across film, television and theatre.

Before his turn as Mr Ollivander in the Harry Potter films, the BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated actor was perhaps best known internationally for his role as Kane in Alien and his performance as John Merrick in David Lynch’s The Elephant Man – not to mention 1984 and Midnight Express.

On television he earned critical acclaim as Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant – a role he reprised decades later in An Englishman in New York – and as the sadistic Roman Emperor Caligula opposite Derek Jacobi in I, Claudius.

In 2013 he took on another massive science fiction role, as The War Doctor in the 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who alongside David Tennant and Matt Smith.

Of course, to Harry Potters fans John Hurt will always be known as Mr Ollivander – the curious wandmaker famous for the line, ‘The wand chooses the wizard.’

His scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – the iconic moment Mr Ollivander hands Harry his own wand – is a crucial one for the story. Ollivander remembers Harry’s parents, he knows everything about every wand he’s ever sold – he just knows things, and Hurt captured the enigmatic strangeness book readers loved about that character so beautifully

Hurt appeared as Garrick Ollivander in three of the eight Harry Potter films: Philosopher’s Stone, and both parts of Deathly Hallows.

J.K. Rowling said on Twitter: ‘So very sad to hear that the immensely talented and deeply beloved John Hurt has died. My thoughts are with his family and friends.’

Stephen Fry also paid tribute to the actor. He said, ‘What terrible news. We've lost John Hurt as great on the stage, small screen and big.’

Harry Potter actress Bonnie Wright added, ‘What an acting legend. Rest in peace dear Sir. Wand shopping won't be the same without you.’

John Hurt
1940 - 2017

Actor John Hurt at the 59th Berlin Film Festival
Actor John Hurt at the 59th Berlin Film Festival. Sean Gallup/Staff/Getty Images.