In a statement released to media outlets this morning by representatives of British actor Bob Hoskins, it has been revealed that the 69-year-old thespian has decided to retire from acting after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease late last year.
“Bob Hoskins wishes to announce that he will be retiring from acting, following his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease last autumn,” the announcement states. “He wishes to thank all the great and brilliant people he has worked with over the years, and all of his fans who have supported him during a wonderful career.”
“Bob is now looking forward to his retirement with his family, and would greatly appreciate that his privacy be respected at this time.”
Though American audiences may not immediately recognize the name, you’d absolutely recognize Hoskins’ face. He played the lead human role in 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and much to his later regret was the actor tapped to play gaming icon Mario in the inarguably catastrophic Super Mario Bros. film adaptation. Like most good British actors of his generation though, Hoskins has been working almost non-stop in the film biz for the past four decades, compiling a list of credits that spans almost every cinematic genre in existence.
If we can take a moment to eulogize the man’s career, we’d have to say that the biggest highlight of Hoskins’ film work would have to be 1980’s The Long Good Friday. Again, this one might not be familiar to American audiences, but any of you who enjoy gangster movies should seek this film out as it’s legitimately one of the best. In it Hoskins plays Harold Shand, a British gangster whose prosperity is threatened by an unknown criminal group. He retaliates and cuts a bloody swath through his new foes, but instead of a simple revenge flick, The Long Good Friday is a complex portrait of a man trying to do the right thing, despite a lifetime of doing just the opposite. Shand is not a good person, but Hoskins is such a brilliant actor that even though you’ll quickly develop a hatred of his character, it’s just not possible to look away. He’s mesmerizing in his immorality, and though few of us are like the Shand character, it becomes worryingly easy to empathize with his violent, cold actions.
Then again, perhaps Hoskins’ greatest contribution to cinematic history are the numerous productions in which he vastly elevated the material and performances around him with his mere presence. 2005’s Unleashed (aka Danny The Dog) is a great example: Without Hoskins Unleashed is a pretty standard Jet Li action movie, but with Hoskins it’s a story about a terrifying mob boss who raises an orphan specifically to be a pit fighter, only to have said orphan rebel and dismantle his entire criminal organization. Hoskins does frightening apoplectic rage better than almost anyone, and it should be a testament to his abilities that in Unleashed he not only steals the show from Jet Li’s acrobatic martial arts stunts, but also the perpetually awesome Morgan Freeman.
While we fully understand Hoskins’ desire to leave acting before his newly-diagnosed Parkinson’s Disease degrades his quality of life too extensively, we’re certainly going to miss his work. Bob Hoskins was one of the best, and the film legacy he leaves behind will forever stand as a testament to the man’s massive wellspring of talent.