Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Hard Goodbye to our Valiant: Remembering Bob Hoskins

A hare-y situation: image courtesy of

R.K. Maroon: How much do you know about show business, Mr. Valiant?
Eddie Valiant: Only that there is no business like it, no business I know.

I was very distressed to hear news about Bob Hoskin’s passing this morning at the relatively young age of 71 due to pneumonia.Though he announced his retirement from acting in 2012 due to being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, I'm sure many of us hoped we would have the pleasure of his company for awhile longer.

Hoskins singlehandedly revived the film noir genre (one of my favorites) to a whole new audience with his wonderful performance Eddie Valiant, a hardworking/hard boozing flatfoot private eye in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. An unlikely choice for a leading man, barrel-chested and standing 5’6”- but an unconventional film calls for an unconventional hero. I’m hard-pressed to imagine anyone else in the role. Cool World (1992), a similar real world/toon merging trying to ride on the coattails Roger Rabbit’s success, cast the dashing young Brad Pitt for their private eye, but unfortunately due to Pitt’s stilted acting and the horrible quality of the animation, Cool World was destined for the bargain bin. 

Hoskins never rose to the white-hot stardom of the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman (who also passed away earlier this year, also far, far too soon), but he was always AROUND, embellishing films with his gruff voice and cantankerous charm. While Valiant is Hoskins’ best-known role, my very first exposure to Hoskins was as Iago in the 1981 TV Movie of Shakespeare's Othello (featuring, bizarrely, an overly stuffy Anthony Hopkins as Othello in blackface). Hoskins was the easily best part of the whole performance, impish, growling, and devious as all get-out. If it weren’t for Hoskins,1991’s Mermaids would have been nigh unwatchable. As Cher’s boyfriend, Lou Landsky, he adds a reality check to all the sentimental mush and angst being sprayed around liberally, almost choking the film completely. And was there ever a better live-action Smee to compliment the nefarious charm of Dustin Hoffman’s embodiment of Captain Hook in 1991’s Hook
Hoskins in 2012. Image courtesy of

I'll wrap up this small tribute with an interview Hoskins gave shortly after Roger Rabbit came out (apologies, but the only link I could find to it has subtitles) that shows not only the dedication to his craft, but the wonderfully kind and good-natured person that he was. When asked what it was like acting around a bunch of characters that weren’t actually there, he explains that he had to “hallucinate” the characters to interact with them, and working with his young daughter, who had invisible friends of her own at that time, to achieve this level of believability in the make-believe. Of course, this would be enough to drive anyone a little batty: 

"After doing it for six months, for sixteen hours a day, I sort of, um, lost control of it. I had weasels and rabbits popping out of the wall at me, you know?"

Toby sez: Rest in peace, Mr. Hoskins. The world will never be the same without you. 

1 comment:

  1. P.S. I can't believe I forgot to mention Hoskin's role as gangster Owney Madden in The Cotton Club (1984), set in Prohibition-era New York. A must-see, particularly for Boardwalk Empire fans!