Yesterday when I read about the death of Bob Hoskins I let out an accidental and audible sigh of “oh”. I was saddened to hear that he had unexpectedly been forced to retire from acting in 2012 because of worsening Parkinson’s disease and I was heartbroken to hear of his untimely passing.
There’s been a number of sad deaths from the world of entertainment recently but I somehow felt Bob Hoskins on an almost personal level. Thinking about why this was it dawned on me that it was because of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Everyone loves Who Framed Roger Rabbit? For a lot of people it will be the role of Eddie Valiant that they remember Mr. Hoskins for. The film came out when I was 2 years old and was one of the first films that I ever loved. At a young age when you see an actor portraying a character in a film you just think that they are that person. Eddie Valiant and therefore Bob Hoskins only existed in the world of Roger Rabbit. So it was with some surprise that I would see him pop up in Hook and Brazil (yeah I watched Brazil entirely too young). What was Eddie Valiant doing making Sam Lowry’s life a misery in Brazil?
Bob Hoskins was the very first actor who introduced me to the world of acting and the concept that a person goes from one film to the next inhabiting the lives of others for our entertainment. I can remember my absolute delight in discovering that he was playing Super Mario. Even as kids we knew the film sucked. It wasn’t anything like the Super Mario we all loved and were wanting. But when you find out he made the film for his kids that makes everything all right.
It was only in my teenage years that I would finally watch, arguably, his two greatest roles as Harold Shand and George in The Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa respectively. Earlier roles in his career but it opened up a whole new world of Hoskins to me. Both characters walk with an assured swagger that belays the constant threat of violence underneath that when they both finally erupted were genuinely frightening. I never fell to get become anything less than giddily excited when Harold Shand is introduced to us with THAT music and THAT tracking shot of him in the airport. When required he could easily bring menace to the screen. As J. Edgar Hoover in Nixon he managed to stand toe-to-toe with Anthony Hopkins masterful performance. In Unleashed, he could still turn on the gangster charm to enliven an average thriller. In Mona Lisa he came as close as I’ve seen any performer to showing what actual heart break looks like in scenes which still remain fresh in my mind despite it being some years since my last viewing.
He was always a welcome presence on screen no matter how small the role. When he popped up in Shane Meadow’s incredible A Room For Romeo Brass his character brought with him a very real sense of calm in a film filled with gut wrenchingly tense moments. When he popped up for around five seconds in Spice World the Movie I wish I could have left with him. There was something about the cadence with which he spoke and his overall calmness on screen that made him a comforting character to watch. That is apart from perhaps his most underrated role as Joe Hilditch in the fantastic Felicia’s Journey. Creepy and tragic, Hoskins imbued the character with real sadness, mostly because we always expected Hoskins to be the rock we could cling to. His psychotic role made the entire affair and grossly unpleasant experience in the best way.
A fine actor and by all accounts a gentleman to boot. A man who truly has left us to soon but what he has left will be enjoyed by audiences for generations to come.
Mr. Hoskins, thank you.