Few film actors reach the level of stardom that the great British actor Bob Hoskins attained. Consider the fact that Hoskins, while being immediately identifiable, was nothing like his cohorts except in the one defining way that made him the respected thespian he was. Just about all male leads are handsome or somehow sexually alluring. Hoskins, instead, was as “everyman” a figure in film as there ever has been. Just to look at him was to realize that depth of character has little to do with physical appearance. Hoskins was a solid and grounded performer who was gifted with the ability to be equally affable, coarse, sympathetic and menacing. His range was so broad that he could star completely convincingly against an animated rabbit (“Who Framed Roger Rabbit”) and cause Helen Mirren to rise to his level playing opposite him in “Mona Lisa”, one of the greatest acting performances in all of film.
Hoskins was never a one trick pony. He was able to interpret roles in a manner that made the idea of any other actor creating them untenable. It is easy to say that someone is “one of a kind”, but I defy you to think of any other actor who was the kind Bob Hoskins was. No, not even Michael Caine, who is closely the most common-man Brit of all other actors. Hoskins occupied a very singular space in the history of cinema. He rose to levels almost unheard of* for an actor mastering style that has no real connection to appearing sexy or charming or witty or whatever alpha male prerequisite has sold performances for most film actors from John Barrymore to Brad Pitt. No, in his most serious dramatic performances, Hoskins didn’t rely on facile charm. Instead he pushed forward that unlikable or rough characters have more depth and reason to fascinate the audience than mere pretty boys.
Bob Hoskins may very well be remembered for two movies aimed at a younger audience, “Super Mario Bros.”, a film he forever regretted starring in, and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, a film that no doubt surprised viewers who only knew Hoskins as the star of “The Long Good Friday” and “Mona Lisa”. If you aren’t familiar with this terrific actor than I highly recommend you see those last two films. More gritty and realistic dramas have never been committed to film and the thing that makes them rise high above other films of their ilk is the presence of Mr. Bob Hoskins, a definite original and a world class actor.
Mr. Hoskins passed on yesterday due to complications of pneumonia. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for years and that disease had impacted his ability to accept roles. My sincere condolences go out to his family and friends. If any actor was worth another decade of quality portrayals it was this man.
* There is one actor that comes to mind that had the same range, sense of gravitas, sometimes light touch and was noted for both playing gangsters and not selling his craft through mere looks: Edward G. Robinson. I think both men, though from different eras of cinematic stardom, would have been proud to be compared.