The Good, the Bad & the Badass: Bob Hoskins
Last week, we took a look at the career of director of the great Gene Hackman. This week, we turn our focus to another great character actor, who sadly passed away this week...
I was sad to hear early this week that the great Bob Hoskins had passed away. Being a child of the eighties, Mr. Hoskins was a big part of my childhood from having starred in the great WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT. One of my earliest memories is having seen this in theaters with my mom and sister and I remember being utterly transported into this strange world where humans and cartoons lived side-by-side. Looking back at it now, ROGER RABBIT probably seems quaint but in 1988, this blend of live action and animation was mind-blowing. And unlike a lot of modern blockbusters, the film had real heart, thanks in large part to Hoskins, who made a superb Eddie Valliant – a broken down, alcoholic private detective plagued by guilt over the death of his brother at the hands of a toon. Considering he had to act opposite a cartoon – which during production was just Charles Fleischer walking around in a bunny suit – Hoskins did a great job making it seem like Roger was real.
However, even without WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, Hoskins had a great career. Before coming to Hollywood, he was renowned in his native Britain, with now-classic roles in movies like THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY and MONA LISA. After ROGER RABBIT, Hoskins became an unlikely leading man, and he made dozens of films in Hollywood. Another movie I watched a lot as a kid was HEART CONDITION, which saw Hoskins as a racist cop whose life is saved by the transplant of an African-American district attorney’s (played by a young Denzel Washington) heart. This is a weird movie, as it’s basically a buddy-cop movie where one of the partners happens to be a ghost, with Washington coming back from beyond the grave to help solve his murder. It’s goofy but fun. And of course there’s SUPER MARIO BROS, but in respect to Hoskins, who despised the experience, let’s not focus on that...
While many of you would probably think WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT is a shoe-in, I beg to digress. If I was choosing his “best film” then obviously it would be WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT. However, here I’m focusing on Hoskins’ “best performance” and anyone who’s seen THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY can tell you that’s the best part he ever played. As a tough gangster whose world is torn apart over an especially violent Easter Weekend, Hoskins is incredible. This is one of the great gangster performances of all time, up there with anything by James Cagney, Robert De Niro or Al Pacino. He’s like a pitbull here (and ably supported by a young and gorgeous Helen Mirren as his moll). The final scene where he’s taken away (by a young Pierce Brosnan) to his death is a master class in film acting. Without saying a word, you see him run a whole gamut of emotions, from anger, to fear, to final acceptance of his dire situation. It’s brilliant.
One movie I don’t get all the love for is HOOK. Hoskins played Captain Hook’s right hook (get it?) man Smee. Now, I’m not saying Hoskins isn’t great in it. He is (and so is Hoffman as Hook actually), but it’s a minor part and a dull film. Steven Spielberg has gone on record saying that it’s one of his worst films and I agree. It’s a pretty dull, lifeless film, and not one of the things Hoskins should be remembered for.
Neil Jordan's MONA LISA was the film that really put Hoskins on the map, with him being nominated for an Academy Award for his turn as a newly sprung working-class mobster who goes to work as a driver for a high-class call girl. When she asks him to help her find a street-walking colleague, he descends into a hellish cesspool of sadism that he's ill-equipped to deal with, finding himself now in the cross-hairs of a maniacal pimp (played by a young Clarke Peters) and his gangster boss (an amazing Michael Caine). If you haven't seen this, it's well worth checking out. Probably if it hadn't been for this, he would have never gotten the chance to do WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT.
Having already highlighted THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, I’m going to go back to ROGER RABBIT. My all-time favorite scene in that film involves Hoskins – who played Valliant relatively straight throughout – doing a wild song and dance act in order to do-away with The Weasels, who he literally makes die with laughter. God, what a brilliant scene.
Sadly, Mr. Hoskins – who had been retired for a few years due to his struggle with Parkinson’s disease – passed away this week at the age of seventy-one. Rest in peace Mr. Hoskins, and thanks for all the memories.