Only in a world gone mad would a diminutive, hairy, bald, tubby cockney become one of the world’s greatest film stars, but the 1980s were just that. A topsy turvy world with crazy dreamscapes fuelled by cocaine, champagne and hair gel. That’s not to say Hoskins was there by accident, no, this was earned. He was as British as social awkwardness and as electric to watch as faulty pylon that sounds like Beethoven’s 5th. As a child of the 1980s I had become very used to seeing Bob Hoskins everywhere. He was always busy (obviously subscribing to the Michael Caine school of “how much will you pay me?” which was then followed by “yes”) and much like Caine, always brilliant, when perhaps the projects were not. For such a small bloke, he had a massive personality and an even larger acting range.
Bob Hoskins died today and it is absolutely rubbish.
In 1988 I was 11 and I went to see Who Framed Roger Rabbit. One of the first things that I just couldn’t reconcile was that Hoskins was essentially acting to nothing for the majority of the film. Not only was he acting to nothing, but he was also reacting to nothing, making eye contact with nothing and being thrown around by nothing. Sounds easy, right? No. Not at all. Anyone who has seen the Star Wars Prequels will tell you that reacting to nothing can easily come across very badly indeed. Most of the actors in the Prequels are as energised as a dog that has just realised that it has slept through a carpet fitting. While you can put a lot of that on the director, anyone who has watched the behind the scenes clips of Hoskins throwing himself around like a petrol circus on fire, will tell you that most of that is Hoskins putting his all into selling us that he is living in a cartoon world and being chased by cartoon weasels. This wasn’t just acting, this was living a part. Hoskins made that film work, without his commitment and dedication it wouldn’t have worked at all.
As Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday, Hoskins delivered THE performance of a British gangster. He resembled a gruff old wolf who had eaten his fair share of little pigs and was now looking to blow London down and reap the rewards. It is a mesmeric performance and one that tears through the film like a nail bomb. Each line Hoskins fires out is like a hot coal into the other actors’ hands and his facial expressions are enough to melt metal from twenty yards. It is obviously based on experience as Hoskins was a friend of the actor/gangster John Bindon and even acted as a character witness as Bindon’s trial (where he was up for murder). So good was Hoskins that Bindon was found not guilty. If you haven’t seen Hoskins as Harold Shand, you really must. It is one of those performances that is so breakout that it has been on the run since 1981. The end scene in which Hoskins acts with just his eyes is a master-class for any actor and once again comes down to Hoskins being able to sell something. This time it’s fear, horror and acceptance in a very short space of time. Amazingly Hoskins didn’t work for a year after it was made.
M’colleague Tim has paid already a wonderful tribute to that performance on this very site.
Hoskins soon became Hollywood royalty and had some famous roles over the years such as Smee in Hook, J.Edgar Hoover in Nixon, Spoor in Brazil, George in Mona Lisa and Alan in Twenty Four Seven (a beautiful performance).
I am very sad that Bob Hoskins is gone. It doesn’t seem right that he won’t be around anymore. He was a fixture of film and a British institution. I will miss him very much.
He also seemed like a really lovely bloke.
I leave you with the reggae song “Talking to the Police” Bob recorded for the soundtrack of The Long Good Friday.
Originally posted 2014-04-30 15:55:08. Republished by Blog Post Promoter