An actor has three things to use, their looks, their voice, and their talent. Take out one of those three and it’s much more difficult to turn in a good performance.
John Hurt couldn’t use his own face, as the disfiguring makeup obscured it. Yet he still was nominated for Best Actor for his role as John Merrick. Didn’t win, but it shows what a talent he is.
Because of that film I have followed his career, and that of Anthony Hopkins, closely. I love their films, most of them anyway. Shoot, Hurt’s first credited film role, as Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons, was a bang up supporting performance. Too bad he was wasted in Alien, I’d like to have seen how his character would have evolved.
I have two favorite scenes in TEM. The first is when Merrick continues reciting the psalm, past the part he was “taught” by Dr. Treves, and he explains to him, and the hospital administrator, played by the reknowned Sir John Gielgud, that he knows the Book of Common Prayer very well indeed.
Then I like the little smirk on Gielgud’s face as he has the hospital board assembled, and introduces the Princess of Wales. The board then proceeds to listen to her message from the Queen.