English actor Bob Hoskins, of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit,’ dead at 71

Bob Hoskins played a cynical detective in the 1988 comedy "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." Credit: Buena Vista/Getty Images
Bob Hoskins played a cynical detective in the 1988 comedy “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
Credit: Buena Vista/Getty Images

An English actor arguably best known for playing a gruff American in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” Bob Hoskins has died at age 71 from pneumonia. Hoskins had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease since 2011 and had retired in 2012.

Hoskins was, like many great English screen actors, a stage rat whose first break into the mainstream was on television. It wasn’t until 1978, at the age of 36, that he got a meaty role via “Pennies from Heaven,” Dennis Potter’s acclaimed miniseries that juxtaposed the miserable life of Hoskins’ 1930s sheet music salesman with his fantasies of himself performing in lavish musical numbers. The series was remade, with impressive bleakness, in America in 1982, with Steve Martin taking over. 

Luckily, around that time Hoskins had been finally enjoying his own screen success. His ferocious turn as a Cockney mob boss whose organization is coming undone in 1980’s “The Long Good Friday” was the first of many hoods and spark plugs he would play throughout his career. Among these was “Mona Lisa,” Neil Jordan’s 1986 intimate crime drama, where he oozed warmth as a sympathetic ex-con who falls for a prostitute (Cathy Tyson) he’s been hired to chauffeur.

Performances like these coaxed director Robert Zemeckis to take a chance on making Hoskins the human center of his innovative live action-animated mash-up “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” in 1988. Ditching his signature accent, Hoskins played Eddie Valiant, a cranky lug whose hatred of toons is inevitably whittled away when he has to protect one from certain doom (by way of the psychotic Judge Doom, played by Christopher Lloyd).

Hoskins’ technical chops aside — it’s not easy acting with figures who aren’t even there, much less as well as he did — his is a real hard-boiled performance, filled with depth and precision. It’s a real performance, not a stunt, and he’s one reason that some commentators have argued for the film as the true, albeit spiritual, sequel to “Chinatown,” as both deal with capitalist advances in old Los Angeles. (“Chinatown” deals with water works, “Roger Rabbit” with highways and the dismantling of most of the city’s public transportation.)

English actor Bob Hoskins, seen in 2010, has died at the age of 71.
English actor Bob Hoskins, seen in 2010, has died at the age of 71.

Alas, Hoskins’ stocky build and age didn’t lead to many more starring roles, either in Hollywood or back home. (Although he did play a racist who can see a ghostly Denzel Washington in “Heart Condition” and Mario in the 1993 “Super Mario Bros.” movie.)

He was at heart a character actor, not to mention an always welcome presence, whose volatility or good humor — depending on what the role called for — enlightened any film he was in. Among the films, some of lesser quality, he periodically improved were “Pink Floyd The Wall,” “Brazil,” “Mermaids,” “Hook,” “Shattered,” “Nixon,” “Michael,” “Spiceworld,” “Cousin Bette,” “Last Orders,” “Unleashed,” “Hollywoodland” and “Doomsday.”

On a note no one should take seriously, his lone nomination from the loathsomely lazy Razzies was for a small role in “Son of the Mask,” one of many live action-animated numbers that owe their existence to “Roger Rabbit.”

Of the few other times he was pushed to the front of a picture, there was Shane Meadow’s English drama “Twenty Four Seven.” And he was bone-chilling — both congenial and menacing, often at the same time — as a paternal serial killer in Atom Egoyan’s art-drama “Felicia’s Journey.” Both films were reminders of the talent that was typically pushed to the sidelines.

Hoskins’ last film was a supporting role in “Snow White and the Huntsman.” On a bright note, Netflix Instant currently offers “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” — if nothing else from his CV.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Local

VIDEO: NYPD seeks shooter in East New York…

Cops are on the lookout for an unknown shooter who aimed and missed hitting a man on a bicycle, instead nearly striking a nearby officer in East New York.

Local

NYS state forces thrift shops comply with ban…

Nine New York City thrift shops were reprimanded by the state attorney general for selling children's clothes with drawstrings around the neck and waist.

Movies

Review: The semi-good times don't last in the…

Despite the occasional blast of Iggy Pop and The Buzzcocks, the YA move "If I Stay" — with a near-dead Chloe Grace Moretz — soon turns maudlin.

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 11,…

Caleb's not a ghost. Spencer might still be an attempted murderer. And Hanna's going to die next week. In other words, we actually got some…

Movies

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

Marvel Entertainment's Stan Lee is adding outposts to his creative empire to interest a new generation of children in super heroes of all shapes and sizes.

Television

Mira Sorvino explores immortality on 'Intruders'

Mira Sorvino's new show "Intruders" centers around a secret society that achieves immortality by taking over the bodies of other people.

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

NFL

David Wilson returns to triple jump, sets sights…

Giants fans know David Wilson can jump. They are just more used to seeing him go for backflips, not distance.

Style

11 timeless gifts for registries or just because

Gifts to prove you're a style maven once and for all.

Parenting

How everyday moments can inspire kids' creativity

"The Artist's Way for Parents" author Julia Cameron gives advice on how parents and children can be creative together.

Tech

How to stay safe online

Stop worrying about keeping your online passwords safe, and start worrying about keeping your username a secret. Actually, worry about both. According to Shaun Murphy…

Tech

OpenTable now lets you pay your bill via…

The restaurant app OpenTable added the ability to pay your bill (and tip) with your phone, thus cutting back on a few dining annoyances.