HE was the actor who rose from humble roots in north London to become one of Britain’s biggest stars in Hollywood.
Tributes flooded in yesterday after the death of Bob Hoskins following a career spanning four decades. Much-loved films starring him include The Long Good Friday, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Mona Lisa.
Oscar-nominee Hoskins died at the age of 71, less than two years after announcing his retirement from acting after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Lindy King, his agent, said Hoskins had died from pneumonia in hospital on Tuesday night, surrounded by his family, including wife Linda, and children, Alex, Sarah, Rosa and Jack.
They issued a statement saying: “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Bob.
“Bob died peacefully at hospital last night surrounded by family, following a bout of pneumonia.
“We ask that you respect our privacy during this time and thank you for your messages of love and support.”
Hoskins, who was born in Suffolk after his mother was evacuated from the capital, grew up in north London and left school at the age of 15 to work in a series of odd jobs – including a stint in a circus – while dreaming of becoming an actor.
He claimed he got his big break by accident after being mistakenly called for a theatre audition, but he proved a natural and stage success led him into TV and small film parts.
His breakthrough role came in Dennis Potter’s 1978 TV drama series Pennies From Heaven in which he played lovelorn sheet music salesman Arthur Parker. His portrayal of doomed London gangster Harold Shand – a ruthless career criminal who runs up against the IRA while attempting to muscle in on the redevelopment of the capital’s docks – in The Long Good Friday made him a star of the big screen and he followed it with further stand-out roles in Mona Lisa and The Cotton Club.
His role as George, the petty criminal who becomes entangled with a high-class hooker, in Mona Lisa won him an Oscar nomination for leading actor.
By the mid-1980s, he was an established Hollywood star with appearances in blockbusters, including as a private detective starring alongside a cartoon character in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and opposite singer-actress Cher in Mermaids.
Hoskins continued to work steadily – appearing alongside Dame Judi Dench in 2005 wartime drama Mrs Henderson Presents, and in hit British films including Made In Dagenham and Outside Bet. He also played one of the seven dwarfs in Snow White and the Huntsman, his final film, alongside Kristen Stewart in 2012.
His role as a publican in Jimmy McGovern’s drama serial, The Street, earned him the title of best actor at the 2010 International Emmys.
The star – who had been married to Linda for more than 30 years – also moved into directing, taking the helm of two films, The Raggedy Rawney and Rainbow.
Dame Helen Mirren was among those paying her respects to the man she starred alongside in both The Long Good Friday and Last Orders.
She said: “Bob was a great actor and an even greater man. Funny, loyal, instinctive, hard-working, with that inimitable energy that seemed like a spectacular firework rocket just as it takes off. When I worked with him on his iconic film The Long Good Friday, he was supportive and unegotistic. He was never sexist, when many around at that time were. I had the honour of watching the creation of one of the most memorable characters of British film.
“I personally will miss him very much. London will miss one of her best and most loving sons, and Britain will miss a man to be proud of.”
Dame Judi Dench said: “I’m so very sorry to hear this news, and am thinking of his family at this sad time.”
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey paid tribute, saying: “The British film industry has lost one of its true greats.”