For everything that you find dreadful, there's usually something that is rather marvellous as well
With one of acting’s most diverse bodies of work, John Hurt was a force of nature throughout his career. He played everything from John Merricks in The Elephant Man to a dragon in Merlin to more traditional roles in both film and stage productions.
Born in Derbyshire, John had a passion for drama from a young age. His parents were less keen on the idea though and encouraged him to think about becoming an art teacher, rather than an actor. They weren’t alone in their beliefs - one headmaster told John that “you may be alright in school plays, but you wouldn't stand a chance in the profession.” Luckily he didn’t listen for long and and by 1962 he had his first acting role.
Through the 1960s and 1970s he built an impressive resume. He played Caligula in the BBC’s I, Claudius, he was the first person to die in 1979’s Alien and he won a Golden Globe for his performance in Midnight Express. In 1980 he took one of the most challenging and most iconic roles of his career, John Merricks in The Elephant Man. John Merricks was thought to suffer from a condition called Proteus Syndrome which left him with severe deformities. John Hurt was so affected by playing the role that he became a patron of the The Proteus Syndrome Foundation, hoping he could help other people suffering from the condition.