Bob Hoskins, the English actor known for his roles as a soft-hearted ex-con in the great crime pic Mona Lisa, as the hardboiled detective who falls for a cartoon femme fatale in the breakthrough live-action/animated hit Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and as the pirate sidekick Smee in Steven Spielberg's Hook, died Tuesday, April 29, in London. He was 71 and had retired from acting in 2012, after appearing as one of the dwarves in the Kristen Stewart fantasy, Snow White and the Huntsman. (Hoskins was Muir, the blind dwarf, his face and body digitally transmuted.)
Hoskins, the son of a teacher and a truck driver, left school at 15 and worked odd jobs. A decade later, in one of those legendary “discovery” tales, he accompanied a friend to a London audition and ended up getting handed a script, and then the part. Theater work led to TV, and in 1972, when he was almost 30, he was cast in his first film, as a recruiting sergeant in the
Up the Front
. In 1978 he won the lead in the brilliant BBC adaptation of the
Pennies from Heaven
, nominated for best actor by BAFTA, the British Academy for Film and Television Arts.
Must-see Hoskins titles include The Long Good Friday, the 1980 John Mackenzie film in which the old school Cockney played an old-school gangster looking to go "legit," working opposite Helen Mirren; Mona Lisa (1986), with Hoskins, Oscar-nominated, as an ex-con assigned to chauffeur around a call girl (Cathy Tyson), only to discover he's fallen for her and wants to protect her, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Robert Zemeckis' homage to Hollywood noir, in which Hoskins acted, and interacted, with a bunch of cartoon characters, and the tough, under-seen troubled-youth boxing pic, Shane Meadows' Twenty Four Seven (1997). Hoskins brought heft to portrayals of historical figures Nikita Kruschev (Enemy at the Gates), Winston Churchill (World War II: When Lions Roared) and J. Edgar Hoover (Oliver Stone's Nixon). He was an unlikely leading man opposite Cher in 1990's Mermaids, and a go-to character actor for the likes of Spielberg, Terry Gilliam (in Brazil) and Fred Schepisi (Last Orders).
Hoskins tried his hand at directing, too, debuting, in 1988, with The Raggedy Rawny, about an Army deserter who joins a band of gypsies, and then, in 1995, the children's fantasy, Rainbow. Hoskins was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2011. He died from complications of pneumonia.