William Hurt: Ben Stiller and Mark Ruffalo lead tributes to Oscar-winning actor after death aged 71

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Ben Stiller and Mark Ruffalo have led tributes to William Hurt following the Academy Award-winning actor’s death aged 71.

The star died a week before his 72nd birthday peacefully and of natural causes, according to a statement shared online by his son Will.

Ben Stiller said he hoped Hurt was “having a laugh somewhere now” with Stiller’s deceased parents Jerry and Anne Meara. Hurt had befriended Jerry Stiller in 1984, when the pair starred together in the original Broadway production of David Rabe’s Hurlyburly.

“He was so kind to my sister and I,” Stiller tweeted. “He spent time at our apartment, and came to visit my parents up in Nantucket. He would talk to us about acting, and the crest or process. He talked to us as if we were adults, not kids of his friend. He made a huge impact on both of us.”

“Watch his movies if you can and see a different kind of movie star, for whom the work was more important than status. He did great work. I hope he and Anne and Jerry are having a laugh somewhere now.”

Mark Ruffalo, who starred with Hurt in numerous other Marvel movies, wrote that the actor’s death is “another major loss to the acting community. Great actor. Great mind”.

“Rest In Peace to an amazing talent William Hurt, beloved Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross in our Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Marvel Studios’ official account tweeted.

Hurt first played Ross opposite Edward Norton in the 2008 movie The Incredible Hulk, then later reprised the role for performances in Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame and Black Widow.

Liv Tyler and William Hurt in ‘The Incredible Hulk’ (Marvel Enterprises/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Liv Tyler and William Hurt in ‘The Incredible Hulk’ (Marvel Enterprises/Kobal/Shutterstock)

But it was his efforts decades earlier which brought him critical acclaim – he was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar three years running for Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1985, Children of a Lesser God in 1986 and Broadcast News in 1987.

He won the Best Actor Oscar and Bafta for Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1985.

Hurt’s fellow Best Actor Oscar-winner Russell Crowe reflected on his experience starring in Ridley Scott’s 2010 film Robin Hood alongside him.

“On Robin Hood, I was aware of his reputation for asking character based questions, so I had compiled a file on the life of (Hurt’s character) William Marshall,” Crowe tweeted.

“He sought me out when he arrived on set. I handed him the stack. Not sure if I’ve ever seen a bigger smile. RIP.”

Comedian Patton Oswalt said Hurt was “a beyond brilliant film and stage actor”.

“Then he went and guested on TheKOQ and was so deadpan, low-key hilarious. ‘This is good cake. And I’m not a cake guy.’ RIP,” he wrote.

Actor Albert Brooks, who appeared alongside him in Broadcast News, wrote: “RIP William Hurt. So sad to hear this news.

“Working with him on Broadcast News was amazing. He will be greatly missed.”

Holly Hunter and William Hurt in ‘Broadcast News’ (Kerry Hayes/20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Holly Hunter and William Hurt in ‘Broadcast News’ (Kerry Hayes/20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock)

Bryce Dallas Howard, who starred alongside Hurt in M Night Shyamalan’s 2004 film The Village, said Hurt’s “undeniable presence on screen broke the mould a thousand times over”.

In a post on Instagram, she added that the actor was “someone who gave everything and went out of his way to support me and others. I’ll always remember his generosity of spirit and his love of stories and truth – that passion ignited the same love of stories for me.”

Hurt was accused of physical and verbal abuse by his ex-partner Sandra Jennings in 1989 and of the same by Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin, his girlfriend in the mid-1980s, in her 2010 memoir I’ll Scream Later.

The actor replied to Matlin with a statement at the time, saying: “My own recollection is that we both apologised and both did a great deal to heal our lives. Of course, I did and do apologise for any pain I caused. And I know we both have grown.”

Star Trek star Jonathan Frakes appeared to acknowledge Hurt’s history as he described him as a “complicated, compelling, brilliant actor”.

Hurt revealed in 2018 he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer which had spread to his bones.

His family requested privacy following the death.

Additional reporting by Press Association