He was always the consummate performer, that actor’s actor who did not have particular ambitions beyond acting because he was so competent at it to begin with. Robert William “Bob” Hoskins, Jr. (born 26 December 1942) was an Englishman who could play your average working stiff with gusto, adding just the right amount of idiosyncrasy, reserve and mystery, even, to the roles he took on.
But what makes a great actor, among other things, is versatility. And so Hoskins was just as believable playing MGM boss Eddie Manix in 2006’s “Holywoodland” as he was playing Joe Hilditch in “Felicia’s Journey.”
What was notable about Hoskins beyond his extraordinary abilities as a no-nonsense and faultless performer is that he did not appear to choose which films to play a part in. The films chose him. That could possibly explain why his filmography is rather without any guiding principle; he wasn’t above appearing in popular cinema as he was in more cerebral, or independent projects.
He has appeared in films such as “The Long Good Friday” (1980), “Mona Lisa” (1986), “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988), “Mermaids” (1990), “Hook” (1991), “Nixon” (1995), “A Christmas Carol” (2009), “Neverland” (2011). I imagine actors like Ray Winstone and Tom Hardy took a cue from Hoskins.
His last role was in “Snow White and the Huntsman” (2012). Ben Kingsley tended to play characters who were more refined, but in terms of the raw skill set Hoskins and Kingsley were equals.
Hoskins also directed two films, both of which he starred in: The Raggedy Rawney (1988) and Rainbow (1996).
Hoskins received a BAFTA Award (England’s Academy Awards) for Best Actor in a Leading Role and a Golden Globe statuette for Best Actor for role in “Mona Lisa”.
He did also receive a nomination for Best Actor at the Oscars as well as an Emmy.
I particularly remember him as that Hilditch character in Atom Egoyan’s “Felicia’s Journey” (1999), which I mentioned above already. Hilditch is a lonely catering manager who incessantly plays the tapes of an eccentric TV chef, until a strange friendship begins with a young girl.
Hoskins’s performance was so studied and yet so nuanced that I will always remember it, not without a frisson or two.
Hoskins had retired from acting permanently a few years ago already. Let us hope that his Parkinson’s Disease allowed him a little bit of respite, at least. He’s given us many a moment of pleasure watching him so ably perform that which he was so good at: the act.
The video below offers a behind the scenes look at “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” before and after the animation composite.