Bob Hoskins passed away from pneumonia yesterday. He was 71, and he’d been retired for the last couple of years after a Parkinson’s diagnosis, but he leaves behind a pretty impressive body of work, to say the least. For most people, I imagine, his best-known role would be his virtuoso work playing Eddie Valiant alongside an animated menagerie:
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was an iconic movie, but it was hardly his only big hit. And for me, he was at his best alongside Helen Mirren in The Long Good Friday, as the gangster trying desperately to hang onto relevance while things literally blow up around him:
And in Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa, Hoskins inhabited the role of the sad ex-con driver who gets caught up in his relationship with his client, a prostitute he ferries to and from her sessions:
Not to mention being one of the sinister Central Services guys coming to “fix” Jonathan Pryce’s air conditioning (but lacking a 27B-6) in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil:
So much more, though: The song plugger in the sheet music era whose mind veered into musical production numbers in the original TV version of Dennis Potter’s Pennies From Heaven, the silent movie maker in the mini-series Flickers, Mermaids, Hook, the cuckolded ex-con in the sitcom Thick as Thieves, all the way up to 2012’s Outside Bet and Snow White and the Huntsman and… oh, yeah, what he called “the worst thing I ever did”:
However the movie turned out, he DID make a pretty convincing Mario.
What Hoskins portrayed best was a rough-around-the-edges image with an inner humanity, whether as the gruff detective exasperated by, but ultimately befriending, a goofy animated rabbit, or the gangster discovering that ‘fings aren’t what they used to be anymore, the salesman whose dreary life is in sharp contrast to the Technicolor musicals in his mind, or the hapless driver falling in love with someone he shouldn’t. He was a master at showing the inner turmoil and confusion of men who appear simple on the surface. That’s not easy to convey, but he did it time and again, and that’s what we’ll remember. That, and taking on Judge Doom.