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William Hurt
History of Violence 002 (7271227040).jpg
Hurt signing autographs at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival
William McChord Hurt

(1950-03-20)March 20, 1950
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Died March 13, 2022(2022-03-13) (aged 71)
Education Middlesex School
Alma mater Tufts University (BA)
Juilliard School (GrDip)
Occupation Actor
Years active 1977–2022
Mary Beth Hurt
(m. 1971; div. 1982)

Heidi Henderson
(m. 1989; div. 1992)
Partner(s) Sandra Jennings
Marlee Matlin
Sandrine Bonnaire
Children 4

William McChord Hurt (March 20, 1950 – March 13, 2022) was an American actor. He studied at the Juilliard School and began acting on stage in the 1970s. Hurt made his film debut in 1980 as a troubled scientist in Ken Russell's science-fiction feature Altered States, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination for New Star of the Year. In 1981 he played a leading role, as a lawyer who succumbs to the temptations of a married woman played by Kathleen Turner, in the neo-noir Body Heat.

Hurt garnered three consecutive nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor, for Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), Children of a Lesser God (1986), and Broadcast News (1987), winning for the first of these.

Hurt remained an active stage actor throughout the 1980s, appearing in Off-Broadway productions including Henry V, Fifth of July, Richard II and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Hurt received his first Tony Award nomination in 1985 for the Broadway production of Hurlyburly.

After a variety of character roles in the following decade, Hurt earned his fourth Academy Award nomination for his supporting performance in David Cronenberg's crime thriller A History of Violence (2005). His later career films roles include turns in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), The Village (2004), Syriana (2005), The Good Shepherd (2006), Mr. Brooks (2007), Into the Wild (2007), Robin Hood (2010), and the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, in which he portrayed Thaddeus Ross.

Early life and education

Hurt was born March 20, 1950, in Washington, D.C., the son of Claire Isabel (née McGill; 1923–1971), who worked at Time Inc., and Alfred McChord Hurt (1910–1996), who worked for the United States Agency for International Development and State Department. He had two brothers. With his father, he lived in Lahore, Mogadishu and Khartoum. His parents divorced and, in 1960, his mother married Henry Luce III (1925–2005), a son of publisher Henry Luce.

Hurt attended the Middlesex School, where he was vice president of the Dramatics Club and had the lead role in several school plays. He graduated in 1968 and his yearbook predicted, "you might even see him on Broadway." Hurt attended Tufts University and studied theology, but turned instead to acting and joined the Juilliard School (Drama Division Group 5: 1972–1976). Two of his classmates there were Christopher Reeve and Robin Williams.


Hurt began his career in stage productions, only later acting in films. From 1977 to 1989, he was a member of the acting company at Circle Repertory Company. He won an Obie Award for his debut appearance there in Corinne Jacker's My Life, and won a 1978 Theatre World Award for his performances in Fifth of July, Ulysses in Traction, and Lulu. In 1979, Hurt played Hamlet under the direction of Marshall W. Mason opposite Lindsay Crouse and Beatrice Straight. His first major film role was in the science-fiction film Altered States where his performance as an obsessed scientist gained him wide recognition. His performance with Richard Crenna, Ted Danson and newcomer Kathleen Turner in Lawrence Kasdan's neo-noir classic Body Heat elevated Hurt to stardom, and he later also co-starred in Kasdan’s The Big Chill (1983). He appeared in the thriller Gorky Park opposite Lee Marvin. He received the Best Male Performance Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Actor for Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1985. He received three additional Oscar nominations: Best Actor for Children of a Lesser God (1986) and Broadcast News (1987; he was thus nominated for Best Actor for three consecutive years) and Best Supporting Actor for A History Of Violence (2005). Hurt also starred in Tuck Everlasting as Angus Tuck.

Often cast as an intellectual, Hurt starred in films such as Lost in Space, but was also effective in other kinds of roles, as in I Love You to Death and David Cronenberg's psychological drama A History of Violence (2005), where in less than 10 minutes of screen time he plays the creepy mob boss, Richie Cusack. Also in 2005, Hurt played a mysterious government operative in Stephen Gaghan's ensemble drama about the politics of big oil, Syriana.

Hurt was in the miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes, in a piece entitled Battleground (also notable for its complete lack of dialogue). He plays Renshaw, a hitman who receives a package from the widow of a toymaker he had killed, unaware of what is waiting inside for him. He appeared in the cast of Vanya, an adaptation of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, at the Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland, Oregon.

In June 2007, Marvel Studios announced that Hurt would portray General Thaddeus Ross in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk alongside Edward Norton, Liv Tyler and Tim Roth. Hurt reprised his role in Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019), and Black Widow (2021).

He appeared in Sean Penn's film Into the Wild, the true story of Christopher McCandless. He appeared as President Henry Ashton in the 2008 action-thriller Vantage Point. Hurt also played Mr. Brooks's alter ego in Mr. Brooks, which starred Kevin Costner.

In 2009, Hurt became a series regular on the FX series Damages playing a corporate whistleblower opposite Glenn Close and Marcia Gay Harden. For his role in the series, he earned a 2009 Primetime Emmy Award nomination in the "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series" category. Hurt's 2009 Sundance film The Yellow Handkerchief was released in theaters on February 26, 2010, by Samuel Goldwyn Films. He was in the Thailand-based 2011 thriller Hellgate alongside Cary Elwes and Paula Taylor, directed by John Penney.

In September 2010, Hurt played United States Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson in the HBO film Too Big to Fail, an adaptation of Andrew Ross Sorkin's book. He also starred as Captain Ahab in the 2011 television adaptation of Herman Melville's novel Moby-Dick. In 2018, Hurt was cast as the lead in The Coldest Game (2019), but after he was injured in an off-set accident, he was replaced by Bill Pullman.

Hurt had been set to appear in the series Pantheon and films The Fence, Men of Granite, and Edward Enderby before his death in March 2022. It is currently unknown if he ever finished or filmed these roles.

Personal life

Hurt was married to Mary Beth Hurt from 1971 to 1982. In 1981, while he was still married, Hurt and Sandra Jennings began a relationship in Saratoga Springs, New York. Jennings became pregnant in the spring of 1982, which led to Hurt's divorce from Mary Beth Hurt, after which Hurt and Jennings relocated to South Carolina, a state that recognized common-law marriages.

Hurt and Jennings remained officially unmarried and later separated. Jennings sued him in New York, seeking recognition of their relationship as a common-law marriage under South Carolina law. The New York court did not recognize common-law marriage, was reluctant to recognize a common-law marriage originating in South Carolina, and found in Hurt's favor that no common-law marriage existed.

Hurt dated Marlee Matlin for one year, and they cohabited for two years.

Hurt had four children: one with Jennings, two with Heidi Henderson, and one with French actress, film director and screenwriter Sandrine Bonnaire.

Hurt was a private pilot and owner of a Beechcraft Bonanza. He was fluent in French and maintained a home outside Paris.

It was announced in May 2018 that Hurt had terminal prostate cancer that had already metastasized to the bones. Hurt died from complications of the disease on March 13, 2022, at the age of 71, at his home in Portland, Oregon.



Year Title Role Director Notes Ref(s)
1980 Altered States Edward Jessup, ProfessorProfessor Edward Jessup Ken Russell Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best New Actor – Motion Picture
1981 Eyewitness Daryll Deever Peter Yates
Body Heat Ned Racine Lawrence Kasdan
1983 Big Chill, TheThe Big Chill Nick Carlton Lawrence Kasdan
Gorky Park Arkady Renko Michael Apted
1985 Kiss of the Spider Woman Luis Alberto Molina Héctor Babenco Academy Award for Best Actor
BAFTA Award for Best Film Actor in a Leading Role
Cannes Film Festival – Best Male Interpretation
David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actor
London Film Critics Circle Award for Actor of the Year
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor (tied with Raul Julia)
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated – National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
Nominated – New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
1986 Children of a Lesser God James Leeds Randa Haines Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
1987 Broadcast News Tom Grunick James L. Brooks Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated – New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
1988 Time of Destiny, AA Time of Destiny Martin Larraneta Gregory Nava
Accidental Tourist, TheThe Accidental Tourist Macon Leary Lawrence Kasdan Golden Horse Award for Best Foreign Actor
1990 I Love You to Death Harlan James Lawrence Kasdan
Alice Doug Tate Woody Allen
1991 Until the End of the World Sam Farber, alias Trevor McPhee Wim Wenders
Doctor, TheThe Doctor Jack MacKee, Dr.Dr. Jack MacKee Randa Haines Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
1992 The Plague Bernard Rieux, DoctorDoctor Bernard Rieux Luis Puenzo
1993 Mr. Wonderful Tom Anthony Minghella
1994 Second Best Graham Holt Chris Menges
Trial by Jury Tommy Vesey Heywood Gould
1995 Smoke Paul Benjamin Wayne Wang
1996 Couch in New York, AA Couch in New York Henry Harriston Chantal Akerman
Michael Frank Quinlan Nora Ephron
Jane Eyre Edward Fairfax Rochester Franco Zeffirelli
1997 Loved K.D. Dietrickson Erin Dignam
1998 Lost in Space John Robinson, ProfessorProfessor John Robinson Stephen Hopkins
Dark City Frank Bumstead, InspectorInspector Frank Bumstead Alex Proyas
One True Thing George Gulden Carl Franklin
1999 The 4th Floor Greg Harrison Josh Klausner
Sunshine Andor Knorr István Szabó Nominated – Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Big Brass Ring, TheThe Big Brass Ring William Blake Pellarin George Hickenlooper
Do Not Disturb Walter Richmond Dick Maas a.k.a. Silent Witness
2000 Contaminated Man David R. Whitman Anthony Hickox
Miracle Maker, TheThe Miracle Maker Jairus (voice) Derek W. Hayes and Stanislav Sokolov
2001 Rare Birds Restaurateur Sturla Gunnarsson
A.I. Artificial Intelligence Allen Hobby, ProfessorProfessor Allen Hobby Steven Spielberg
Simian Line, TheThe Simian Line Edward Linda Yellen
2002 Tuck Everlasting Angus Tuck Jay Russell
Changing Lanes Doyle Gipson's AA Sponsor Roger Michell
Nearest to Heaven Matt Tonie Marshall
2004 Blue Butterfly, TheThe Blue Butterfly Alan Osborne Léa Pool
Village, TheThe Village Edward Walker M. Night Shyamalan
2005 King, TheThe King David Sandow James Marsh
History of Violence, AA History of Violence Richie Cusack David Cronenberg Austin Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
North Texas Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Utah Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – International Cinephile Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Neverwas Peter Reed, Dr.Dr. Peter Reed Joshua Michael Stern
Syriana Stan Goff Stephen Gaghan
2006 Good Shepherd, TheThe Good Shepherd Philip Allen, CIA DirectorCIA Director Philip Allen Robert De Niro
Legend of Sasquatch, TheThe Legend of Sasquatch John Davis (voice) Thomas Callicoat Also co-producer
2007 Mr. Brooks Marshall Bruce A. Evans
Beautiful Ohio Simon Messerman Chad Lowe
Noise Schneer, MayorMayor Schneer Henry Bean
Into the Wild Walt McCandless Sean Penn Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2008 Vantage Point Harry Ashton, PresidentPresident Harry Ashton Pete Travis
Incredible Hulk, TheThe Incredible Hulk Thaddeus Ross Louis Leterrier
2009 Countess, TheThe Countess György Thurzó Julie Delpy
2010 Yellow Handkerchief, TheThe Yellow Handkerchief Brett Hanson Udayan Prasad
Robin Hood William Marshal Ridley Scott
2011 River Why, TheThe River Why Henning Hale-Orviston Matthew Leutwyler
Late Bloomers Adam Julie Gavras
Hellgate Warren Mills John Penney
2013 The Host Jeb Stryder Andrew Niccol
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Julian Rigby Ned Benson
Fire in the Blood Narrator (voice) Dylan Mohan Gray Documentary
Days and Nights Herb Christian Camargo
2014 Winter's Tale Isaac Penn Akiva Goldsman
2016 Race Jeremiah Mahoney Stephen Hopkins
Captain America: Civil War Thaddeus Ross Anthony and Joe Russo
2018 The Miracle Season Ernie Found Sean McNamara
Avengers: Infinity War Thaddeus Ross Anthony and Joe Russo Cameo
2019 Avengers: Endgame
The Last Full Measure Tom Tulley Todd Robinson
2021 Black Widow Thaddeus Ross Cate Shortland
2022 The King's Daughter Père La Chaise Sean McNamara


Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1977 The Best of Families James Lathrop Miniseries
Kojak Jake 2 episodes
1978 Verna: USO Girl Walter Television movie
1989 Saturday Night Live Himself Episode: "Glenn Close/Gipsy Kings"
1998 Lee Marvin: A Personal Portrait by John Boorman Himself Documentary
2000 Frank Herbert's Dune Leto I Atreides, DukeDuke Leto I Atreides 3 episodes
2001 The Flamingo Rising Turner Knight Television movie
Varian's War Varian Fry Television movie
Nominated for Satellite Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
2002 The King of Queens Taber, Dr.Dr. Taber Episode: "Shrink Wrap"
Master Spy: The Robert Hanssen Story Robert Hanssen Television movie
2004 Frankenstein Waldman, ProfessorProfessor Waldman Television movie
2006 Nightmares & Dreamscapes Jason Renshaw Episode: "Battleground"
2009 Damages Daniel Purcell 10 episodes
Nominated for Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor – Drama Series
Endgame Willie Esterhuyse Television movie
Nominated for Satellite Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
2011 Moby Dick Captain Ahab 2 episodes
Too Big to Fail Henry Paulson Television movie
Nominated for Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated for Satellite Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
2013 Bonnie & Clyde Frank Hamer 2 episodes
Nominated for Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
The Challenger Disaster Richard Feynman Television movie
2015 Humans George Millican 7 episodes
2016 Beowulf Hrothgar 5 episodes
2016–21 Goliath Donald Cooperman 14 episodes
2018–20 Condor Bob Partridge 11 episodes
2021 Mythic Quest Peter Cromwell Episode: "Peter"
TBA Pantheon Stephen Holstrom (voice) Filming; Posthumous release

Audiobook narration

Year Book Role Notes Ref(s)
1989 The Polar Express Narrator Cassette tape only
2006 The Sun Also Rises
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