Bob Hoskins – The Great Non-Professional Actor

Two successfully directed films by Hoskins prove that he was not merely an instinctive actor but also that he thought profoundly about film

Neil Jordan’s masterpiece Mona Lisa (1986), an exciting combination of a crime drama and an unusual love story, definitely confirmed Bob Hoskins as a great actor. He starred as a criminal who just came out of prison and got a job as a driver of a beautiful prostitute Simone. At first they do not get along, he doesn't fit in with the high class customers Simone services and is completely unfit for the crime plot they both find themselves in. With the power of his personality and persuasiveness of his behavior and acts Hoskins created fascinating role for which he earned many awards, including the one from the British Academy (BAFTA) and the Golden Globe as well as an Oscar nomination. This role was the definitive acknowledgement of his impressive acting skills that were already indicated by one of his first roles on the big screen - the role of a middle aged gangster who tries to leave the world of crime and become legitimate but suddenly somebody starts killing his associates in the excellent thriller The Long Good Friday (1980) by John Mackenzie. Besides many other of his great roles, even today most film lovers remember Bob Hoskins for those two crime dramas. Some articles written about his opus mention as one of the main characteristics of his interpretations the fact that he portrayed gangsters so well, especially those that speak in the typical London slang – cockney. Many are even under the impression that the talented nonprofessional actor portrayed mostly such characters because they were the closest to him. The only correct thing is that Hoskins did not graduate from any acting academy, or even high school as he left school at the age of fifteen and worked on many different jobs to earn his living. However, he was interested in literature and theatre and became an actor in the late 1960’s accidentally when he accompanied a friend to some audition and was mistaken for the candidate. They invited him to act and he did that so successfully that he was immediately hired for the play. Afterwards, he continued to act in many plays, even in Shakespeare’s. In the 1970’s he started to act on television, and achieved great success in 1978 in the mini-series by Dennis Potter Pennies from Heaven directed by Piers Haggard. This success offered him the chance to star as the leading man in the film The Long Good Friday.

During his rich and successful career, Hoskins did not play only gangsters who hide a golden heart beneath their rugged appearance. He proved to be an excellent comedian in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) as well as in the film adaptation of the video game Super Mario Bros. (1993) by Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton, which received very bad critiques and even Hoskins pointed it out as his worst mistake in the career. However, these days it is a bit less badly perceived, mostly thanks to Hoskins’ performance. An even more unusual role was the role of a detective in the animated and live action feature film Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) by Robert Zemeckis who said that in spite of all the technical achievements what really brought life to the animated characters was Bob Hoskins’ interpretation. He was great as Cher’s partner in the unusual film Mermaids (1990) by Richard Benjamin. In Oliver Stone’s Nixon (1995) he was an impressive diabolical chief of FBI J. Edgar Hoover, and a scary Lavrentij Beri, the last of Stalin’s chiefs of the The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) in The Inner Circle (1991) by Andrei Konchalovsky. Nevertheless, he portrayed some other even more powerful politicians such as Winston Churchill in Joseph Sargent’s TV film World War II: When Lions Roared (1994). His role of the impresario of a very peculiar London theatre in the entertaining film by Stephen Frears Mrs Henderson Presents (2005) was very different from those previous ones but equally successful. Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991), which we will see within this In memoriam program, shows how much he brought to the quality of films that he starred in in supporting roles.

Two successfully directed films The Raggedy Rawney (1988) and Rainbow (1995) by Hoskins prove that he was not merely an instinctive actor but also that he thought profoundly about film. (Tomislav Kurelec)