William Hurt: who did Marvel actor play in Avengers, which other movies did he star in - and cause of death

Hurt’s first appearance in a Marvel film was as General Thaddeus Ross in the 2008 movie Incredible Hulk

William Hurt in 2016 (Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Amazon Studios)William Hurt in 2016 (Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Amazon Studios)
William Hurt in 2016 (Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Amazon Studios)

Academy Award-winning actor William Hurt has died aged 71, a week before his 72nd birthday.

Hurt was nominated for the best actor Oscar three years running in the late 1980s, and in recent years starred in several instalments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero franchise.

Here is everything you need to know about him.

Who was William Hurt?

William Hurt was born in 1950, in Washington, D.C., and attended the Christian Tufts University in Massachusetts.

There he studied theology, but turned instead to acting and joined the Juilliard School, a private performing arts conservatory in New York City regarded as one of the world's leading drama, music and dance schools.

Hurt began his career in stage productions, only later acting in films; his film debut was as a troubled scientist in Ken Russell's 1980 science-fiction feature Altered States, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination for New Star of the Year.

Hurt remained an active stage actor throughout the 1980s, appearing in Off-Broadway productions, and was nominated for the best actor Oscar three years running in the late 1980s.

He was nominated for 1985’s Kiss Of The Spider Woman - for which he also won the Oscar and Bafta - Children Of A Lesser God in 1986, and Broadcast News in 1987.

Hurt was nominated again for a best supporting actor Oscar for his performance in crime thriller A History Of Violence in 2005.

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.

William Hurt in 2017 (Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SBIFF)William Hurt in 2017 (Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SBIFF)
William Hurt in 2017 (Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SBIFF)

After Matlin won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Children of a Lesser God in 1986, Hurt reportedly asked her to consider what it meant to win the Oscar after just one film, when others won only after many years of hard work.

"What makes you think you deserved it, Marlee?", he allegedly asked her in the limousine after the ceremony; Matlin also said that their relationship involved considerable drug abuse.

The actor replied with a statement issued to Access Hollywood at the time, stating: “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.”

Who did he play in Avengers?

His first appearance in a Marvel film as General Thaddeus Ross was opposite Edward Norton in the 2008 movie Incredible Hulk.

He later reprised the role for performances in Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and Black Widow.

Marvel paid tribute to Hurt as “an amazing talent”.

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

Who else has paid tribute?

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

“He was so kind to my sister and I. 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,” Stiller tweeted.

“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.”

Other members of the industry described the death as a “major loss” and shared personal experiences of working with Hurt.

Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo wrote it was “another Major loss to the acting community. Great actor. Great mind”, while fellow Marvel alumni Kat Dennings tweeted: “Ughggghhh I love William Hurt WHY.”

Hurt’s fellow best actor Oscar-winner Russell Crowe reflected on his experience starring as the titular hero in Sir Ridley Scott’s 2010 film Robin Hood alongside the American.

“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.”

What happened to him?

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

He died peacefully and of natural causes, according to a statement shared online by his son Will.

“It is with great sadness that the Hurt family mourns the passing of William Hurt, beloved father and Oscar winning actor, on March 13, 2022, one week before his 72nd birthday,” his family said in a statement first shared by Deadline.

“The family requests privacy at this time.”

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.