Bob Hoskins: Parkinson’s
British actor Bob Hoskins spent more than four decades in the entertainment industry, starting out on the stage and moving on to films and television. During his long and fruitful career, he won many awards, including BAFTA and Golden Globe awards. He eventually retired from acting after being diagnosed as having Parkinson’s.
The father-of-four was diagnosed with the condition in autumn 2011 and publicly revealed the reason for his retirement in August 2012. He told the press he was looking forward to spending time with his family but admitted he “wasn’t good at retiring” because he continually had people trying to talk him into taking another role.
However, he said he was beginning to take his health seriously, having been eating an improved diet. He also said he had cut down on alcohol and joked, “Getting older is not for sissies!”
© Entertainment Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo
Hoskins was born in October 1942 in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Leaving school at 15 with one O-level, he took several manual jobs, before becoming an actor in his early 20s. His first role was in a production of Romeo and Juliet at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, in 1968, when he played a servant. He won the role by accident, as he had gone to the audition just to support his friend but ended up being persuaded to try out for a part instead and was snapped up right away.
His first TV role came in 1975 when he successfully auditioned for the character of Alf Hunt, a removal man who had literacy problems, in the BBC educational drama series, On the Move, which ran until 1976. It was watched by 17 million viewers and got Hoskins’ face known on TV.
This was the stepping stone to his hugely successful career, as his next TV role was his breakthrough when he starred as amorous sheet music salesman Arthur Parker in the BBC drama, Dennis Potter’s Pennies from Heaven, in 1978.
His first major film success was The Long Good Friday, a British gangster film, in 1980. Starring as Harold Shand, a gangster aspiring to become a respectable businessman, Hoskins won the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actor and was nominated for a BAFTA Best Actor Award.
He also starred in Mona Lisa in 1986, in which he played George, a low-level gangster who is tasked with becoming driver and bodyguard for a high-class prostitute, Simone, but George starts to have feelings for Simone and it muddies the waters in terms of his family life, as he worries how it will affect his young daughter, Jeannie.
Things come to a head when he fears Simone isn’t all she seems to be and he begins to realise she’s using him, which leads to an explosive end to his Underworld connections. The film won massive critical acclaim and Hoskins won 10 best actor awards, including BAFTA, Golden Globe and Cannes Film Festival awards.
His other movie successes included playing Smee in Hook in 1991, reprising the role in Neverland on television in 2011. He also played Soviet political commissar Nikita Khrushchev in Enemy at the Gates in 2001 and violent psychopath Uncle Bart in the 2005 Jet Li action film, Unleashed.
One of the highlights of his career was starring as private investigator Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988. The film was a mixture of live action and animation, which meant Hoskins had to be trained in mime so that his interactions with the animated characters appeared realistic. He received a Golden Globe nomination and joked that he suffered hallucinations for months after filming ended!
Hoskins continued with a highly successful television career for almost 40 years. In the 1990s, he starred as British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill in the TV film, World War II: When Lions Roared, while he also provided the voice of Teddy in the British animated comedy series, The Forgotten Toys, from 1995 to 1999.
In 1996, he played Redmond in the American horror series, Tales from the Crypt, followed by his portrayal of the optimistic clerk, Wilkins Micawber, in the 1999 BBC Television two-part adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 1850 novel, David Copperfield.
His final TV roles were his Emmy Award-winning performance as Paddy Gargan in TV series The Street in 2009, in which he played a publican who stands up to a gangster. This was followed by his performance as Smee in Neverland in 2011.
His last movie role was in the 2012 fantasy adventure, Snow White and the Huntsman, based on the fairy tale, in which he played Muir, the elder dwarf.
Soon afterwards, he revealed his diagnosis of Parkinson’s. The incurable condition leads to parts of the brain becoming progressively damaged over time. The main symptoms include the involuntary shaking of various parts of the body (known as tremors), stiff and inflexible muscles, and slow movement.
On announcing his retirement, Hoskins said he had enjoyed a “wonderful career”, but was now retiring to spend more time with his family. He had made more than 80 films but admitted he didn’t take much notice when any were on TV. He said he often got a shock to see himself on the screen, having forgotten he had made some of them.
Despite being one of the most successful actors in the world, the star always played down the importance of his career, saying, “Actors are just entertainers,” and likening himself to “a serious Bruce Forsyth”.
Hoskins died from pneumonia in April 2014 at the age of 71, leaving his widow, Linda, whom he married in 1982.
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