Wednesday, April 30, 2014

five favorite Hoskins

      The passing of Bob Hoskins seems a bit confounding. I had recently made several references to his indelible performance in Mona Lisa (1986) right here on this blog. Then he up and bloody dies? Mona Lisa is a wonderful film, and one of my all-time favorites. It's filled with sadness, longing and (like all great noirs) more than a few twists and turns. Perhaps there's just something about the rain-swept streets of London's red light district that makes me ruminate more than usual.

I always saw something of myself in Hoskins' portrayal of George. Although he's an ex-con (which I am not), he truly does have a good heart and believes in seemingly extinct values like honor and loyalty (which I do). We know George is a tough guy physically, but when his heart gets trampled on it becomes almost too much for us to bear. That's the beauty of Hoskins' performance. He is able to make us genuinely care for a guy that for all intents and purposes could easily be just another goon. Hoskins did this effortlessly in countless films. Whether it was his straight-up gangster in The Long Good Friday (1980), or his tough but fatherly Sergeant-Major in Zulu Dawn (1979).

Of course there were the more popular roles in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Mermaids (1990) and Hook (1991) and I'd be remiss without mentioning his awesome portrayal of J. Edgar Hoover in Oliver Stone's ambitious but flawed Nixon (1995). One of my favorite Hoskins roles came without much exposure in Shane Meadows underrated Twenty Four Seven (1997) featuring Hoskins as a Northern English boxing coach. He wowed me again a couple years later in Atom Egoyan's Hitchcockian Felicia's Journey (1999) as an outwardly chipper man obsessed with watching his dead mother's cooking show.

His "We'll be back..." cameo in Terry Gilliam's Brazil (1985) won't be forgotten anytime soon either (above right).  Last Orders (2001) and Unleashed (2005) proved that Hoskins was still in fine form toward the end of his film career. He retired from acting in 2012 and had been suffering from Parkinson's disease at the time of his death at age 71. Hoskins also played Mr. Micawber (perhaps my favorite literary character) in the BBC David Copperfield (1999) opposite Daniel Radcliffe -- though they still couldn't seem to get Micawber's bald head correct. Like the irrepressible Wilkins Micawber, Hoskins was a hard man to keep down. I met an acquaintance who once worked with him and said "Bob" was as ordinary and likable a guy as you could ever hope to meet. It would seem his George in Mona Lisa wasn't that much of a stretch after all.

Bob Hoskins
1942 - 2014

Pennies from Heaven (1978)

Zulu Dawn (1979)

The Long Good Friday (1980)

Mona Lisa (1986)

Twenty Four Seven (1997)

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