William Hurt

William Hurt

Hurt signing autographs at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival
Born William McChord Hurt
(1950-03-20) March 20, 1950
Washington, D.C., United States
Nationality American
Education Tufts University
Juilliard School
Occupation Actor
Years active 1977–present
Height 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)[1]
Spouse(s) Mary Beth Hurt (m. 1971; div. 1982)
Heidi Henderson (m. 1989; div. 1992)
Partner(s) Sandra Jennings (1981–1984)
Marlee Matlin (1985–1986)
Sandrine Bonnaire (1992–1997)

William McChord Hurt[2][3] (born March 20, 1950) is an American stage and film actor. He received his acting training at the Juilliard School and began acting on stage in the 1970s. Hurt made his film debut as a troubled scientist in the science-fiction feature Altered States (1980), for which he received a Golden Globe nomination for New Star of the Year. He subsequently played a leading role, as a lawyer who succumbs to the temptations of Kathleen Turner, in the neo-noir Body Heat (1981).

In 1985, Hurt garnered critical acclaim and multiple acting awards, including an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award for Best Actor, for Kiss of the Spider Woman. He received another two Academy Award nominations for his lead performances in Children of a Lesser God (1986) and Broadcast News (1987). 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 playing a diversity 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). Other notable films in recent years have included A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), The Village (2004), Syriana (2005), The Good Shepherd (2006), Mr. Brooks (2007), Into the Wild (2007), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Robin Hood (2010) and Captain America: Civil War (2016).

Early life

Hurt was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Claire Isabel (née McGill), who worked at Time, Inc., and Alfred McChord Hurt, who worked for the State Department.[4] With his father, he lived in Lahore, Mogadishu and Khartoum.[5] After his parents divorced, his mother married Henry Luce III (a son of publisher Henry Luce) during Hurt's childhood. Hurt graduated from Middlesex School in 1968 where he was vice president of the Dramatics Club and had the lead role in several school plays. His high school yearbook predicted: "With characteristics such as these, you might even see him on Broadway." Hurt attended Tufts University and studied theology,[6] but turned instead to acting and joined the Juilliard School (Drama Division Group 5: 1972–1976).[7] Two of his classmates there were the late actors 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 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 has 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 has appeared as such in films such as Lost in Space, but has also been effective in other kinds of role, such as those 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.[8]

In June 2007, Marvel Studios announced Hurt would portray the Hulk character General “Thunderbolt” Ross in 2008's The Incredible Hulk alongside Edward Norton, Liv Tyler and Tim Roth.[9] Hurt reprised his role in Captain America: Civil War (2016).[10]

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 starring 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, Hurt 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.[11]

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.

Personal life

Hurt is fluent in French and maintains a home outside Paris. He is the step-grandson of Henry Luce, founder of Time magazine and actress-writer Clare Boothe Luce, through his mother's marriage to Henry Luce's son from his first marriage, Henry Luce III.[12]

Hurt was married to Mary Beth Hurt from 1971 to 1982.[12] In the 1980s, Hurt was involved in a lawsuit with Sandra Jennings, who alleged that the two shared a common-law marriage.[13] While he was still married, Hurt and Jennings had begun a relationship in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1981.[13] Jennings became pregnant in the spring of 1982 which precipitated Hurt's divorce from Mary Beth Hurt, after which Hurt and Jennings relocated to South Carolina, a state that recognized common-law marriages.[13] Hurt and Jennings remained officially unmarried, later separated and Jennings sued him in New York, seeking recognition of the "marriage" under South Carolina law.[13] The New York court, which did not recognize common-law marriage and was reluctant to recognize a common-law marriage originating in South Carolina, found in Hurt's favor that no common-law marriage existed.[13]

Hurt dated Marlee Matlin for one year, and they cohabited for two years.[14] In her 2009 autobiography I'll Scream Later, Matlin claimed that their relationship involved considerable drug abuse and physical abuse by Hurt.[15] In response to the accusations aired on CNN on April 13, 2009, Hurt's agent declined to respond, but Hurt issued a statement the following day, which said: "My own recollection is that we both apologized and both did a great deal to heal our lives. Of course, I did and do apologize for any pain I caused. And I know we have both grown. I wish Marlee and her family nothing but good."[16]

Hurt has four children: Alexander with Sandra Jennings, Sam and William with Heidi Henderson, and Jeanne with French actress, film director and screenwriter Sandrine Bonnaire.[12]

During the filming of Kiss of the Spider Woman, Hurt and a friend were threatened at gunpoint but were let go several hours later.[5]

Hurt is a private pilot and owner of a Beechcraft Bonanza.[17]



Year Title Role Director Notes
1980 Altered States Edward Jessup, ProfessorProfessor Edward Jessup Ken Russell Nominated – Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor
1981 Eyewitness Daryll Deever Peter Yates
1981 Body Heat Ned Racine Lawrence Kasdan
1983 Big Chill, TheThe Big Chill Nick Carlton Lawrence Kasdan
1983 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 Actor in a Leading Role
Cannes Film Festival - Best Actor Award
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
1988 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
1990 Alice Doug Tate Woody Allen
1991 Until the End of the World Sam Farber, alias Trevor McPhee Wim Wenders
1991 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
1994 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
1996 Michael Frank Quinlan Nora Ephron
1996 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
1998 Dark City Frank Bumstead, InspectorInspector Frank Bumstead Alex Proyas
1998 One True Thing George Gulden Carl Franklin
1999 The 4th Floor Greg Harrison Josh Klausner
1999 Sunshine Andor Knorr István Szabó Nominated – Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
1999 Big Brass Ring, TheThe Big Brass Ring William Blake Pellarin George Hickenlooper
1999 Do Not Disturb Walter Richmond Dick Maas a.k.a. Silent Witness
2000 Contaminated Man David R. Whitman Anthony Hickox
2000 Miracle Maker, TheThe Miracle Maker Jairus Derek W. Hayes & Stanislav Sokolov Voice only
2001 Rare Birds Restaurateur Sturla Gunnarsson
2001 A.I. Artificial Intelligence Allen Hobby, ProfessorProfessor Allen Hobby Steven Spielberg
2001 Simian Line, TheThe Simian Line Edward Linda Yellen
2002 Tuck Everlasting Angus Tuck Jay Russell
2002 Changing Lanes Doyle Gipson's AA Sponsor Roger Michell
2002 Nearest to Heaven Matt
2004 Blue Butterfly, TheThe Blue Butterfly Alan Osborne Léa Pool
2004 Village, TheThe Village Edward Walker M. Night Shyamalan
2005 King, TheThe King David Sandow James Marsh
2005 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
2005 Neverwas Peter Reed, Dr.Dr. Peter Reed Joshua Michael Stern
2005 Syriana Stan Goff Stephen Gaghan
2006 Good Shepherd, TheThe Good Shepherd Philip Allen, CIA DirectorCIA Director Philip Allen Robert De Niro
2006 Legend of Sasquatch, TheThe Legend of Sasquatch John Davis Thomas Callicoat Voice only
2007 Mr. Brooks Marshall Bruce A. Evans
2007 Beautiful Ohio Simon Messerman Chad Lowe
2007 Noise Schneer, MayorMayor Schneer Henry Bean
2007 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
2008 Incredible Hulk, TheThe Incredible Hulk Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross Louis Leterrier
2009 Countess, TheThe Countess György Thurzó Julie Delpy
2010 Yellow Handkerchief, TheThe Yellow Handkerchief Brett Hanson Udayan Prasad
2010 Robin Hood William Marshal Ridley Scott
2011 River Why, TheThe River Why Gus's Father Matthew Leutwyler
2011 Late Bloomers Adam Julie Gavras
2011 Hellgate Warren Mills John Penney
2013 The Host Jeb Stryder Andrew Niccol
2013 The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Julian Rigby Ned Benson
2013 Fire in the Blood Narrator Dylan Mohan Gray Documentary
2013 Days and Nights Herb Christian Camargo
2014 Winter's Tale Isaac Penn Akiva Goldsman
2016 Race Jeremiah Mahoney Stephen Hopkins
2016 Captain America: Civil War Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross Anthony Russo
Joe Russo
2016 The King's Daughter Père La Chaise Sean McNamara Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1977 Kojak Jake 2 episodes
1978 Verna: U.S.O. Girl Walter Television movie
2000 Frank Herbert's Dune Leto I Atreides, DukeDuke Leto I Atreides 3 episodes
2001 The Flamingo Rising Turner Knight TV film
2001 Varian's War Varian Fry Television movie
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
2002 The King of Queens Taber, Dr.Dr. Taber Episode: "Shrink Wrap"
2002 Master Spy: The Robert Hanssen Story Robert Hanssen Television movie
2004 Frankenstein Waldman, ProfessorProfessor Waldman Television movie
2006 Nightmares and Dreamscapes Jason Renshaw Episode: "Battleground"
2009 Damages Daniel Purcell 10 episodes
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor – Drama Series
2009 Endgame Willie Esterhuyse TV movie
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
2011 Moby Dick Captain Ahab 2 episodes
2011 Too Big to Fail Henry Paulson Television movie
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
2013 Bonnie & Clyde Frank Hamer 2 episodes
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
2013 The Challenger Richard Feynman Television movie
2015 Humans George Millican 7 episodes (main cast)
2016 Beowulf Hrothgar 5 episodes
2016 Goliath[18] Donald Cooperman


  1. "William Hurt".
  2. Obituary - "Survivors include two sons from his first marriage, the actor William McChord Hurt and James Harlan Hurt, both of New York; and five grandchildren"
  3. "FindACase™ - SANDRA JENNINGS v. WILLIAM MCCHORD HURT (02/14/91)".
  4. "William Hurt – Profile, Latest News and Related Articles". Eonline.com. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  5. 1 2 "William Hurt: In Every Role, A New Life To Inhabit". NPR. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  6. "William Hurt". All Movie Guide. New York Times.
  7. "Alumni News: September 2007". Juilliard.edu. Archived from the original on November 11, 2011. William Hurt (Group 5)
  8. "William Hurt returns to Portland for 'Vanya'". Portland Tribune. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  9. "William Hurt Joins Incredible Hulk Cast as General Thunderbolt Ross". Marvel.com. 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2015-05-07.
  10. "Marvel Studios Begins Production on Marvel's 'Captain America: Civil War'". Marvel.com. 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2015-05-07.
  11. "AFM '09: See Carey Elwes in 'Shadows' Promo Trailer". Bloody-disgusting.com. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  12. 1 2 3 "Overview for William Hurt". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 Jennings v. Hurt, N.Y.L.J., Oct 4, 1989, at 24 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. County), aff'd, 554 N.Y.S.2d 220 (App. Div. 1990), appeal denied, 568 N.Y.S.2d 347 (N.Y. 1991)
  14. Matlin, Marlee. I'll Scream Later. (2009)
  15. "Marlee Matlin: Baby sitter's abuse led to life of drugs, violence." CNN. April 14, 2009
  16. Grossberg, Josh. "William Hurt to Marlee Matlin: "I Apologize for Any Pain I Caused"." Eonline.com. April 14, 2009
  17. "A Plane-crazy America". AOPA Pilot: 79.
  18. Elavsky, Cindy (September 21, 2015). "Celebrity Q&A". King Features. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
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