The news of Bob Hoskins’ death is a further reminder that they genuinely don't make 'em like they used to. It's hard to imagine any contemporary actor bursting to prominence with the same coiled energy that characterised an early '80s Hoskins heyday spanning The Long Good Friday, Brazil and Mona Lisa. When he announced his retirement in 2012, we asked Empire's twitter followers to name their favourite Hoskins moments. As a tribute to the North Londoner, we've reassembled the results here. Here's your tribute to Blighty’s finest.
Battering Les Battersby in a skip for Shane Meadows' Twenty Four Seven (1997) - @BustedShoe Not just a fine actor, Hoskins also has an eye for an up-and-coming director. His Mona Lisa producer Stephen Woolley put him in touch with a young Midlander called Shane Meadows for the director’s first film, Twenty Four Seven. “He was doing a piece of theatre in the West End”, remembers Meadows, “and I went backstage where he met me. I just sat with him getting pissed on this wine in his dressing room. He always said that, because I was the same shape as him - this little, short, slightly receding guy with stocky shoulders – he saw a little bit of himself in me. At the end of the meeting he said, ‘I don’t care about the money, I love the script, I think you’re great, let’s do it.’ And his word was his bond.”
“The mafia? I shit 'em!” in The Long Good Friday (1980) - @Therealjohnnew Possibly the greatest of all Hoskins’ meltdown moments – and your most-requested Bob bit - comes as East-End hood Harold Shand’s Mafia contacts prepare to skip town and shatter his Thatcherite dreams in the process. “Shut-up, you little streak of paralysed piss,” he rages, introducing the Cosa Nostra to a new line in cheeky Cockney banter. Special relationship? Not so much.
The look of sheer resignation on his face when being driven away at the end of The Long Good Friday (1980) - @GarethMcKenna An utterly dazzling piece of non-verbal acting, Hoskins’ face dominates the screen for more than a minute as Harold Shand realises that his time has come, in the shape of Pierce Brosnan’s IRA goon. Sudden anger, Shand’s go-to emotion, gives way to shock which duly turns to fear and, ultimately, sadness. It’s an epitaph that’s arguably more moving than the character deserves.
“Smee, Smee. What About Smee? Smee! Smee! Smee. Smee. What about Smee? Smee's me. What about me?” Hook (1991) - @CM_Ste (and @SilentHamish) Bob ratcheted up the cheeky-chappie quotient as Hook’s henchpirate Smee and, god bless us, we loved him for it. A kind of Mutley to Dustin Hoffman’s Dick Dastardly, he helps keep his melodramatic boss’s foul schemes ship-shape.
I love his movies but a mention has to go to his performance in the music video for 'Sheila' (2007). Amazing what he can do in three minutes - @LiamCallananana Bob shows his tender side in the promo for Jamie T’s single, lip-synching his way along the Thames in his formals like a lovelorn Harold Shand and encountering some unhappy couples as he goes. Happily he resists the urge to hang said couples from bleedin’ meat hooks.
Any time his eyes were focused perfectly on that non-existent rabbit. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) - @BrendonConnelly “It was bloody murder to shoot,” Hoskins remembered of Robert Zemeckis’ ‘toon triumph. “Acting against something that wasn’t there was very difficult... you can’t just move around wherever you want. Occasionally I had people with their hands up my back actually moving me to make sure I was in exactly the right place.” In the company of Roger, Jessica, Daffy, Bugs, Mickey and co, and occasionally operated from behind, he still manages to ground the Toon Town mayhem like Sam Spade on laughing gas. And Bogey never got to drive a cartoon taxi.
The song-and-dance routine to get the Weasels laughing themselves to death at the end of Roger Rabbit is sublime - @annawaits As @Sollozzo01 points out, Bob Hoskins is probably the only actor to get kicked in the nuts by a toon. There isn’t an award for this – or for laughing a weasel to death – and cinema is poorer for it.
Always loved Hoskins as nasty J. Edgar Hoover in Nixon… (1995) - @andysubitch82 The Brits ruled the White House in Oliver Stone’s underrated biopic, with Hoskins and Anthony Hopkins forming an ‘axis of weasel’ in the highest echelons of US government. Six years before he played Kruschev in Enemy Of The Gates, here was Bob doing sleazy, grasping politico like he was born for it. He may not have been as close a physical match as Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio’s J. Edgar but he was a whole lot more fun.
So many moments in Felicia’s Journey (1999), perhaps just the guilty way he steals a grape or the icy look to camera near the end - @kingoftheducks Bob Hoskins has played some scary men down the years but none quite as likely to send an ice-storm up your spine as Brummie bachelor Joe Hilditch. He may seem like a common-or-garden sort, but on closer examination it feels like this particular common-or-garden might be full of other peoples' bones. Playing Dr. Frasier Crane's ‘girlfriend’ (s10 E15, ‘Trophy Girlfriend’) in full-on cigar-chomping PE instructor mode- @lastcaress1972 One of Bob’s funniest cameos comes when Frasier Crane summons his shouty P.E. teacher from the deep recesses of his subconscious. Terrifying for Frasier; hilarious for the rest of us. Best Bob Hoskins moment is easy... from Brazil (1985), when central services turn up at Sam’s apartment. Great actor in a great film - @JordanBowers15 If the sight of Bob dressed as a plumber brings back terrifying memories of Super Mario Bros., join the club. As Central Services’ U-bend buff Spoor, however, he’s more likely to be knocked out of his stride by some uncompleted paperwork than a rogue Goomba. It’s a short cameo that, like so many Hoskins turns, lives long in the memory.
(Thanks too to @SqueakySneaker, @ScozzaThompson, @Revis24Cuadros, @kennywah, @mc_tone and @rkambury)