LONDON — British actor Bob Hoskins, best known for roles where he alternated gruffness and tenderness in “The Long Good Friday,” “Mona Lisa” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died of pneumonia on Tuesday. He was 71.
His agent said he died in hospital, surrounded by family. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and retired from acting in 2012.
Hoskins’ breakthrough came in Dennis Potter’s TV series “Pennies From Heaven” in 1978, and his movie career took off with 1980 gangster pic “The Long Good Friday,” in which he starred alongside Helen Mirren.
Short and stocky, he joked that Danny DeVito would play him in his life story, but it was the right look for a number of roles as gangsters and regular guys in films that included Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” Richard Benjamin’s “Mermaids,” alongside Cher, in 1990, as Smee in Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” in 1991, and 1993’s “Super Mario Bros.,” which he called his worst role ever. Working in the U.S. almost as much as in Britain, he appeared in “The Cotton Club,” “Maid in Manhattan” and “Nixon.”
Perhaps his most memorable performance was as the Cockney cabbie who fell in love with a black callgirl in Neil Jordan’s 1987 “Mona Lisa,” for which he was Oscar-nommed and won best actor awards at Cannes, the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes.
Roger Ebert’s review singled him out: “‘Mona Lisa’ stars Bob Hoskins as George. You may remember him as the ferocious little mob boss in ‘The Long Good Friday,’ where he had it all fixed up to go respectable and then someone started blowing up his pubs. Hoskins is one of the very best new British actors, and this is a great performance.”
I never thought it was possible to become an actor until I saw Pennies From Heaven as a kid. RIP Bob Hoskins, brilliant,inspirational, kind.
— Eddie Marsan (@eddiemarsan) April 30, 2014
His most recent perf was in 2012’s “Snow White and the Huntsman,” which starred Kristen Stewart.
He also directed two films, “The Raggedy Rawney” and “Rainbow.”
Raised in London, he worked as a truck driver and window cleaner before starting out in a London theater production. He first came to wider attention for his work in BBC series “Pennies From Heaven.”
In a statement, his wife, Linda, and children Alex, Sarah, Rosa and Jack said they were “devastated by the loss of our beloved Bob.”
“Bob died peacefully at hospital last night surrounded by family, following a bout of pneumonia,” they said.