Date of Birth : Jan 22nd 1940
Academy Award-nominated and BAFTA Award-winning English actor. He is one of England’s best-known, most prolific and sought after character actors, and has had a versatile career spanning over 40 years. He is highly respected for his many Shakespearean roles.
Hurt was born in Shirebrook near Chesterfield, Derbyshire to Phyllis (née Massey), an amateur actor and engineer, and Arnould Herbert Hurt, a mathematician who became an Anglican clergyman. John has an older brother, Michael, a monk based in Ireland, and an adopted sister, Monica. His father, Arnould, was a vicar at St. John in Sunderland, but in 1937 he moved his family to Derbyshire, where he became Perpetual Curate of Holy Trinity church. When John was five, Arnould became the vicar of St Stephen at Woodville in South Derbyshire and remained there until 1953.
Hurt had a strict upbringing. The family lived opposite a cinema, but he was not allowed to see films. He was also not permitted to mix with local children because, in his parents’ view, they were ‘too common’. At the age of eight, he was sent to the Anglo-Catholic St Michaels prep school at Sevenoaks in Kent, and while there, he decided to become an actor. His first role was that of a girl in a school play, The Bluebird (L’Oiseau Bleu) by the Belgian Maurice Maeterlinck.
In 1959, Hurt won a scholarship allowing him to study for an Art Teachers Diploma (ATD) at Central St Martins College in Holborn, London. Despite the scholarship, paying for his studies was financially difficult, so he persuaded some of his friends to pose nude and sold the portraits. In 1960, however, he won a scholarship to RADA, where he trained for two years. He was then cast in small roles on TV.
In 1962, Arnould left his parish in Cleethorpes to become headmaster of St Michael’s College in Belize, Latin America. Monica went to teach in Australia, and Michael (who had attended Cambridge University) became a Catholic monk. In that same year, Hurt first performed on the London stage and also married for the first time, to the actress Annette Robertson, because she had claimed to be pregnant. The marriage ended in 1964, after eighteen months, since the pregnancy had proved to be false. At that time, Hurt was performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company; he was also entering on many years as an alcoholic, though he has since rid himself of his addiction.. In 1967, he began his longest relationship, with the French model Marie-Lise Volpeliere-Pierrot. It lasted fifteen years and ended with her untimely death in a riding accident on 26 January 1983.
Soon afterwards, (on 24 January 1990), Hurt married an American production assistant, Jo Dalton, whom he had met while filming Scandal. With her, he had two sons: Alexander John Vincent (born 6 February 1990), and Nicholas Dalton (born 5 February 1993). This marriage ended in 1996 because Jo had an affair with a gardener, Arthur Shackleton, when Hurt briefly returned to Donna Peacock in Kenya. Hurt’s drinking had also been a problem.