William Hurt, Oscar-Winning Actor, Dies at 71

Hurt won his Oscar for the 1985 film “Kiss of the Spider Woman”

william hurt
William Hurt in 2005 (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

William Hurt, Academy Award-winning actor whose films included “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Broadcast News” and “A History of Violence,” died Sunday at the age of 71, his family confirmed in a statement.

“It is with great sadness that the Hurt family mourns the passing of William Hurt, beloved father and Oscar winning actor, on March 13, 2022, one week before his 72nd birthday. He died peacefully, among family, of natural causes. The family requests privacy at this time.”

Born in Washington D.C. and a graduate of Julliard, Hurt began his acting career on stage before making a breakthrough in film in Lawrence Kasdan’s erotic neo-noir “Body Heat” in 1981. Four years later, after performances in “Gorky Park” and Kasdan’s “The Big Chill,” Hurt won an Oscar, BAFTA and Cannes Award for his lead performance in the LGBT drama “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

In “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” Hurt played Luis Molina, a gay man imprisoned during the Brazilian military dictatorship who shares a cell with a leftist revolutionary named Valentin. Molina is offered his freedom by the dictatorship’s secret police if he can extract information from Valentin that can lead to the capture of his comrades, but soon becomes emotionally compromised as he falls in love.

Roger Ebert wrote in his review that Hurt “creates a character utterly unlike anyone else he has ever played – a frankly theatrical character, exaggerated and mannered – and yet he never seems to be reaching for effects.” The performance began a three-year domination of the awards circuit for Hurt, earning additional Oscar nominations in 1986 and 1987 for his work in “Children of a Lesser God” and “Broadcast News.”

Two decades after his Oscar win, Hurt would receive his fourth Oscar nomination for his supporting role opposite Viggo Mortensen in David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence.” He also found success in television, earning an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination in 2009 for his supporting performance on the second season of the FX thriller “Damages.”

In 2008, he introduced himself to a new generation by joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Gen. Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross in “The Incredible Hulk.” He would go on to reprise the role in “Captain America: Civil War” in 2016, with additional cameos in “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame” and “Black Widow.”