Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, 26 October 1942.
Attended Stroud Green School, Finsbury Park, London.
Married 1) Jane Livesey (divorced), two children; 2) Linda, two children.
Worked in a variety of jobs, then became actor with the Unity Theatre,
London; later theater work for the Royal Court Theatre, the Royal
Shakespeare Company, 1976, and the National Theatre, including
Guys and Dolls
, 1982; 1972—film debut in
Up the Front
; 1974—in TV mini-series
Shoulder to Shoulder
Pennies from Heaven
, 1981; 1987—directed first film,
The Raggedy Rawney
Best Actor Awards from Cannes Festival, New York Film Critics and Los
Angeles Film Critics, and British Academy of Film and Television Arts
Award for Best Actor, for
Hutton Management Ltd., 200 Fulham Road, London SW10 9PN, England.
Up the Front (Kellet) (as recruiting sargeant)
The National Health (Gold) (as Foster)
Inserts (Byrum) (as Big Mac)
Royal Flash (Lester)
Zulu Dawn (Hickox) (as Sgt. Maj. Williams)
The Long Good Friday (Mackenzie) (as Harold Shand)
Othello (Jonathan Miller—for TV) (as Iago)
Pink Floyd—The Wall (Alan Parker) (as rock 'n' roll manager)
The Honorary Consul ( Beyond the Limit ) (Mackenzie) (as Colonel Perez)
The Cotton Club (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Owney Madden); Lassiter (Roger Young) (as Becker)
Brazil (Gilliam) (as Spoor); The Dunera Boys (Lewin); Io e il duce ( Mussolini and I ) (Negrin—for TV) (as Mussolini)
Mona Lisa (Neil Jordan) (as George); Sweet Liberty (Alda) (as Stanley Gould)
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (Clayton) (as James Madden); A Prayer for the Dying (Hodges) (as Father Da Costa)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (Zemeckis) (as Eddie Valiant)
Heart Condition (Parriott) (as Jack Mooney); Mermaids (Benjamin) (as Lou Landsky)
Shattered (Petersen) (as Gus Klein); The Favor, the Watch, and the Very Big Fish (Lewin) (as Louis Aubinard); Hook (Spielberg) (as Smee); The Inner Circle (Konchalovsky) (as Beria)
Passed Away (Peters) (as Johnny Scanlan); Blue Ice (Mulcahy) (as Sam García)
Super Mario Bros. (Morton and Jankel) (as Mario Mario)
World War II: When Lions Roared (Sargent—for TV) (as Winston Churchill); The Changeling (Simon Curtis—for TV) (as De Flores)
Nixon (Oliver Stone) (as J. Edgar Hoover); Balto (Wells—animation) (as voice of Boris); Ding Dong (Todd Hughes) (as himself)
The Secret Agent (Hampton) (as Mr. Verloc, +co-pr); Michael (Ephron) (as Vartan Malt)
Spice World (Spiers) (as himself); 24 7: Twenty Four Seven ( TwentyFourSeven ) (Meadows) (as Alan Darcy)
Parting Shot (Winner) (as Gerd Layton); Captain Jack (Young) (as Jack); The Forgotten Toys (Ralph—for TV) (as Teddy); Cousin Bette (McAnuff) (as Cesar Crevel)
A Room for Romeo Brass (Meadows) (as Home Tutor); Live Virgin (Marois) (as Joey Quinn); Let the Good Times Roll (Ibelhauptaite); Felicia's Journey (Egoyan) (as Joseph Ambrose Hilditch); David Copperfield (Curtis) (as Mr. Micawber—for TV); From Star Wars to Star Wars: The Story of Industrial Light and Magic (Kroll) (as himself); The White River Kid (Glimcher) (as Brother Edgar)
Don Quixote (Yates) (as Sancho Panza —for TV); Noriega: God's Favorite (Spottiswoode) (role—for TV); American Virgin ( Live Virgin ) (Marois) (as Joey); Enemy at the Gates (Annaud) (as Kruschev)
The Raggedy Rawney (produced in 1987) (+ ro as Darky, co-sc)
Rainbow (+ro as Frank Bailey)
Tube Tales (with Gaby Dellal—for TV)
Interviews in Time Out (London), 12 October 1985 and 23 November 1988.
Interview in Film Directions (Belfast), vol. 8, no. 32, 1986.
Interview with D. Hill, in Stills (London), March 1987.
Interview in Première (Paris), June 1988.
Interview in Interview (New York), February 1990.
Interview in Time Out (London), 23 June 1993.
Interview in Time Out (London), 13 November 1996.
Moline, Karen, Bob Hoskins: An Unlikely Hero , London, 1988.
Hitchens, Christopher, "Tough Guys Do Dance," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1987; see also January/February 1989.
Denby, David, "England's Little Big Man," in Premiere (New York), April 1989.
Current Biography 1990 , New York, 1990.
Frutkin, Alan, "Bob Hoskins," in Advocate (Los Angeles), 23 January 1996.
* * *
Britain can boast precious few contemporary film stars with the screen presence to bring off that extraordinary, seemingly endless
Hoskins's roles, and especially that of Shand, are often memorable for their Cagneyesque sense of barely suppressed violence, their sense of seething passions simmering just beneath the surface of working class resentment. But what is sometimes overlooked is his ability to incarnate ordinary, everyday people and, more to the point, to do so in a way that makes them compulsively interesting, watchable, and endearing. This was one of the reasons which made the television mini-series Flickers , about the early days of British cinema, and Pennies from Heaven (infinitely preferable in every way to the feature film version) such memorable experiences and, doubtless, such milestones in Hoskins's acting career. As Kenith Trodd, the producer of the latter, put it, "because [Hoskins's character] Arthur Parker was an Everyman figure he had to be both very squalid and very identifiable. He had to be loved, despised and pitied, and Bob had the quality to get that over." The novelist and screenwriter William Boyd has also picked up on this quality in the actor; remarking on his "gritty ordinariness" and "potent banality" he notes that he has "an ability to play the ordinary man with a kind of tender veracity which is unrivaled."
It should also be pointed out that Hoskins has by no means confined himself to roles such as these (although he brings many of the same qualities to them)—one has only to think of his gruff but fatherly doomed sergeant major in Zulu Dawn (writer-producer Cy Endfield's "prequel" to Endfield's smash hit Zulu ); his portrayal of real-life gangster Owney Madden in The Cotton Club (a supporting performance that stole the film out from under its more famous star, Richard Gere); his Irish priest in A Prayer for the Dying ; the neurotic Jewish screenwriter in Sweet Liberty; the fruity, power-mad J. Edgar Hoover in Stone's Nixon ; the low-key but villainous spy in The Secret Agent (a more faithful rendering of the Joseph Conrad novel on which Hitchcock's classic Sabotage was also based); and especially the vulnerable, suffering character playing opposite Maggie Smith in The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne to realize just how versatile and adaptable an actor Hoskins actually is. And even if, in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? , Hollywood presented us with a rather different Hoskins to the inimitable Arthur Parker of Pennies or the lovable Cockney rogue who falls for a London streetwalker of Mona Lisa , both films are a remarkable testimony to Hoskins's tremendous screen presence. Many other actors would have disappeared beneath the elaborate special effects of a Roger Rabbit , whereas Hoskins not only remains triumphantly visible, he shines.
The same is true of Hoskins's performance as the cartoonish pirate Smee, aide to Dustin Hoffman's insufferably mugging title character, in Spielberg's Hook. All but Hoskins seem swallowed up in this gargantuantly bloated—and remarkably tedious—variation on the J. M. Barrie fable Peter Pan. Even Hoskins's performance in Super Mario Bros. , a feature film based on—of all things—a video game, has much to recommend it, although apart from the obvious money factor, why an actor of Hoskins's gifts would consent to appear in like this and Spice World (the cinematic debut and swan song of the flashin-the-pan British all-girl rock band The Spice Girls) is a mystery.
Only Hoskins's turn in the television docudrama World War II: When Lions Roared evidenced the possibility that occasionally a role may indeed be beyond his versatile grasp. His performance as Churchill, especially when contrasted with Michael Caine's remarkably well-realized Stalin, was more caricature of the man than realistic portrait.
Despite such lapses of taste in choosing projects such as the aforementioned Hook, Super Mario Bros. and Spice World , Hoskins' star power has not been diminished, and he's used it off and on to help resurrect the moribund British film industry by producing and/or writing and directing home grown productions of his own — such as The Raggedy Rawney , a labor of love for Hoskins that took several years to find a distributor, but was, unfortunately, not a financial success outside of its native land. He has also used his stature in the industry as a versatile character actor capable of carrying a film on his shoulders to help get works with seemingly limited commercial potential of other filmmakers off the ground, as with Canadian director Atom Egoyan's Felicity's Journey. Hoskins' star turn here as an Everyman on the outside and serial killer on the inside involved in a subdued but tense game of cat-and-mouse game with the young runaway he's targeted as his next victim earned the unorthodox superstar his best notices since the halcyon days of The Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa.
—Julian Petley, updated by John McCarty