Oscar-nominated actor Hoskins was known for ‘Roger Rabbit’ and more

By John Anderson / New York Times News Service

Published May 1, 2014 at 12:01AM

Bob Hoskins, the bullet-shaped British film star who brought a singular mix of charm, menace and Cockney accent to a variety of roles, including the bemused, live-action hero of the largely animated “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” has died at 71.

Publicist Clair Dobbs released a statement by his family Wednesday saying that he had died in a hospital, where he had been treated for pneumonia. A much-honored, Oscar-nominated actor, Hoskins had announced his retirement in August 2012 after learning he had Parkinson’s disease.

Hoskins, who had virtually stumbled into acting, found early acclaim as the kind of ruthless British gangster he played in 1980 in his startling breakthrough feature, “The Long Good Friday,” and later in Neil Jordan’s 1986 film “Mona Lisa,” which earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor. But his filmography also included more playful roles. He was the pirate Smee in two variations of “Peter Pan” — Steven Spielberg’s 1991 “Hook” and the 2011 British TV production “Neverland.” And he played Cher’s unlikely love match in “Mermaids” (1990). It was Zemeckis who cast Hoskins as the pulp-fictional, cartoon-hating detective Eddie Valiant in the landmark hybrid “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” in which Hoskins shared the screen with animated characters, including the voluptuous Jessica Rabbit, her voice that of Kathleen Turner.

In a 2009 interview with Nigel Farndale for The Telegraph of London, Hoskins said his doctor had advised him to take five months off after finishing the film.

“I think I went a bit mad while working on that,” he said. “Lost my mind. The voice of the rabbit was there just behind the camera all the time. You had to know where the rabbit would be at every angle. Then there was Jessica Rabbit and all these weasels. The trouble was, I had learnt how to hallucinate.”

Hoskins received a number of prestigious acting awards over his four-decade career, including the Bafta, Golden Globe and Cannes Film Festival prize as best actor for “Mona Lisa,” in which he played an ex-convict hired by a crime boss to act as chauffeur and unlikely bodyguard for a high-priced call girl (Cathy Tyson). He also received an International Emmy Award for “The Street” (2006); the Canadian Genie award for the director Atom Egoyan’s “Felicia’s Journey” (1999), based on the William Trevor novel; and a Screen Actor’s Guild nomination as part of the cast of Oliver Stone’s 1995 “Nixon,” in which he played J. Edgar Hoover.

Survivors include his wife, the former Linda Banwell; their children, Rosa and Jack; and two children, Alex and Sarah, from his first marriage, to Jane Livesey.

Robert William Hoskins was born Oct. 26, 1942, in the historic Suffolk town of Bury St. Edmunds, to which his mother, Elsie Lillian, had been evacuated during heavy bombing in World War II. An only child, he was reared in London, where his father, Robert, was a bookkeeper and his mother was a cook at a nursery school.

As soon as he started acting, he said, he knew it was for him.

“I fit into this business like a sore foot into a soft shoe,” he told The Telegraph in 2009. “But when I started I thought, ‘Christ, I ought to learn to act now I’m doing this for a living.’ I was a completely untrained, ill-educated idiot. So I read Stanislavski, but I thought it was all so obvious. Same with Strasberg. He just seemed to be saying, ‘Look busy. Impress the boss.’ I soon realized actors are just entertainers, even the serious ones.”