Every time we see William Hurt in a movie, we think to ourselves, "That's a damn fine underrated actor." So, on the event of Mr. Brooks, in which Hurt plays Kevin Costner's hallucination, we're taking this opportunity to review some of Mr. Altered States' coolest roles.
• The Big Chill (1983)—When I told my mom that I saw William Hurt doing Chekhov at Portland's Artists Repertory Theatre earlier this year, she got very excited and told me that she had a crush on Hurt ever since "that movie about all the friends who get back together... the one with the soundtrack...." Yeah, Mom, I liked that one, too, even if it seared the image of a crying, nude Glenn Close into my mind.
• Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)—After The Big Chill, Hurt went bananas by starring in four amazing movies, four years in a row. It started with Spider Woman (plot keyword: "Male Nudity"), continued with Children of a Lesser God ("Sign Language"), Broadcast News ("Corporate Ladder"), and came to rest with The Accidental Tourist ("Self-Discovery"). This is considered Hurt's golden era, but it was for his role in Spider Woman that Hurt won the Oscar for Best Actor.
• Smoke (1995)—This flick is cool-guy central, with Hurt chewing up screentime with the likes of Harvey Keitel and Forest Whitaker. Hurt plays Paul Benjamin, a cigar-chomping widower whose depressing existence is interrupted by a wayward kid who bum rushes his way into everybody's life. Lots of great Brooklyn scenery, smart writing, and a Tom Waits song ensue.
• A History of Violence (2005)—We had actually kind of forgotten about Billy Boy for a while, until he popped up in the third act of this Cronenberg flick as the sociopathic brother of Viggo Mortensen. Before this, nobody knew Hurt had such a wicked streak in him, or that he could steal such a great movie with only 15 minutes of screentime. No word yet on what my mom thought of his sinister role.