Bob Hoskins death of pneumonia after about a two-year retirement due to Parkinson’s disease-related issues deprived us of on of the most unique acting talents of the last forty years. Capable equally of taking on unrelenting menace and light whimsy, Hoskins had a number of iconic touchpoints — but I always thought he did menacing better. Anyone whose memories of Hoskins are from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), Hook (1991), or worse Super Mario Bros (1993) must find a way to watch these.
1. The Long Good Friday (1980) – after nearly a decade of praised portrayals of hard men on British television, with some quirky filmic asides (1974’s Inserts, 1979’s Zulu Dawn), Hoskins was just about credited with reviving the moribund British film industry with this Cagney-esque tour-de-force as underworld boss Harold Shand. With support from Helen Mirren, Paul Freeman (Raiders of the Lost Ark), P.H. Moriarty (Quadrophenia, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and Pierce Brosnan in his debut film appearance, this is a timeless classic that transcends crime, much subtler than Pacino in Oliver Stone’s 1983 Scarface.
2. Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1982) – full-Hollywood recognition did not come immediately for Hoskins, but his cult credentials for already assured, and he continued to work from strength. Here, as Pink’s manipulative manager in the Alan Parker film, he is decadent and disturbing, as is the film and Floyd album.
3. The Cotton Club (1984) – Hoskins was one of the most consistently good performers in this more than occasionally bloated Francis Ford Coppola blockbuster move, again portraying a boss with anger issues but also continuing to modulate, with shafts of lightness in his excellent interplay with Fred Gwynne (television’s The Munsters).
4. Brazil (1985) – as Smoor, the head ‘official’ air conditioning repairman who continually torments Jonathan Pryce, Hoskins pre-sages the Rabbit and Mario roles but with much more devilish intent, fully committed within Terry Gilliam’s nightmarish, Orwellian-carnival.
5. Mona Lisa (1986) – almost the big pay-off, as Hoskins lost the 1987 Best Actor Oscar to Paul Newman’s role-repeat in Scorcese’s The Color of Money (Bob did win a BAFTA). The breakthrough film for Neil Jordan is a little more of its time than Long Good Friday, but still sports a can’t-lose cast including Michael Caine, Robbie Coltrane, Cathy Tyson and Clarke Peters (The Wire, Tremé).
6. The Inner Circle (1991) – Mona Lisa may have propelled Hoskins into the Hollywood establishment, but here he acknowledges his outsider (and Communist) family roots in his creepy portrayal of Stalin’s Himmler, State Security Chief Lavrentii Beria (he would later portray Khrushchev in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 2001 Enemy At The Gates).
7. Nixon (1995) – in the service of balanced opinion, Hoskins is equally chilling as J. Edgar Hoover, a force behind the rise to ultimate power of Anthony Hopkins’ Orange County (Not-A-Crook).
The next year, Hoskins portrayed Verloc in The Secret Agent. Directed by Christopher Hampton (Oscar-winner for the screenplay of Dangerous Liasons), this was a re-boot of an earlier 1936 filmic telling of the Joseph Conrad novel, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and titled Sabotage. Starring Oskar Homolka as Verloc, Sabotage is available VoD.
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