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‘Roger Rabbit’ star Bob Hoskins dies at 71

Bob Hoskins with one of his most famous co-stars, in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'
Bob Hoskins with one of his most famous co-stars, in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'
Courtesy Touchstone Pictures/Walt Disney

Oscar-nominated character actor Bob Hoskins has died, reports CNN, among other outlets. The veteran thespian died of pneumonia two years after having retired from acting following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. He was 71.

Hoskins was certainly best-known as the live action star of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” in which he co-starred with a number of animated characters. That movie, produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by the then up and coming Robert Zemeckis, was a huge hit. Hoskins, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance, was so convincing as an American private detective that many audiences didn’t even realize he was British.

British he was, though, to the core. According to IMDb, Hoskins was born in 1946 in Suffolk, where his mother lived after being evacuated from German air raids. Hoskins dropped out of school at the age of 15, but not before having a love of literature and theater instilled in him by a former English teacher. Supposedly his acting career started by accident, when Hoskins was watching auditions for a play, and was mistaken for one of the auditioners by a stage manager who put a script in his hands and said he was next. He got the part.

Hoskins began to enjoy some early success on stage and expanded to television in the seventies. In 1978 he won a breakthrough role in the BBC miniseries “Pennies from Heaven,” which eventually led to the feature film “The Long Good Friday.” Incredibly, Hoskins made at least one TV and/or movie appearance every year until his retirement, and his range was staggering. He was wonderful as heavies, and in fact was Brian De Palma’s first choice to play Al Capone in “The Untouchables,” until the studio found out Robert De Niro wanted the part. Hoskins had a signed contract, and was reportedly paid a quarter million dollars not to play the role De Niro got over $2 million for. That was one he ended up not getting. The list of roles he got is longer.

A few, and it’s only a few, of his notable appearances would include playing Iago in a TV movie of Shakespeare’s “Othello” in 1981, playing a rock ‘n’ roll manager in “Pink Floyd the Wall” (1982), a hard-nosed Cockney cop opposite Tom Selleck’s jewel thief in “Lassiter” (1984), the owner of “The Cotton Club” (1984), Benito Mussolini in the TV movie “Mussolini and I” (1985), an ex-con hired to drive a high-priced prostitute in “Mona Lisa” (1986), a Hollywood screenwriter in “Sweet Liberty” (1986), a Catholic priest who witnesses an IRA assassination in “A Prayer for the Dying” (1987), “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988), a shop owner who falls for Cher in “Mermaids” (1990), the pirate Smee in Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” (1991), Mario Mario in “Super Mario Bros” (1993), Winston Churchill in the TV movie “World War II: When Lions Roared” (1994), J. Edgar Hoover in Oliver Stone’s “Nixon” (1995), Sancho Panza in the TV movie “Don Quixote” (2000), Nikita Kruschev in “Enemy at the Gates” (2001), Pope John XXIII in the TV movie “The Good Pope: Pope John XXIII” (2003), Odin in “Son of the Mask” (2005) and a Hollywood gangster in “Hollywoodland” (2006). He again played Smee in the Peter Pan-themed TV production “Neverland” in 2011. His last role was as “Muir” in the movie “Snow White and the Huntsman” in 2012.

Hoskins was nominated for an Oscar, and won the Golden Globe, for his role in “Mona Lisa.” Hoskins is survived by a wife and four children.