Farewell, Bob Hoskins…you had me at “Mona Lisa”!

It’s one of those moments that stays locked in a young actor’s mind, so I feel the need to talk about it now. It was one of those things that helped form me, and my choices, as a 20-year-old performer. The moment was experiencing Bob Hoskins performance, during that summer of 1986, in Neil Jordan’s “Mona Lisa”. And he should’ve taken the damn Oscar that year. Mr. Hoskins had been a film performer for well over a decade by that point, including acclaimed performances in 1980’s “The Long Good Friday” and 1983’s “The Honorary Consul”. But “Mona Lisa” was my introduction to this talented 43-year-old(at the time)Brit—and he blew me away. The Golden Globes, BAFTA, Cannes, and the New York, L.A., and National Society of Film Critics all agreed—bestowing their Best Actor award on Mr. Hoskins balding, middle-aged crown that year. But the Academy Awards, despite recognizing the superb acting, decided to go with one of their own instead. And Hoskins would never get another chance.

Mr. Hoskins did, however, receive much benefit from his kudos—by becoming an unlikely movie star. Diminutive, somewhat overweight and sometimes masking his strong Cockney accent, Bob would still land the “human” lead in 1988’s mega-hit “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, and headline in a role as Cher’s lover(!!!)in 1990’s comedy favorite, “Mermaids”. Major showcases followed in 1991’s “Hook” from Steven Spielberg, 1995’s “Nixon” from Oliver Stone, and 1999’s “Felicia’s Journey” from Atom Egoyan. But never another Academy Award nomination—and that remains a crying shame.

Hey, Paul Newman was a great film actor—but this just goes to show why I despise the Academy’s penchant for so-called “career” awards. Of course, Mr. Newman was the one that grabbed the 1986 Best Actor Oscar, for portraying “Fast” Eddie Felson for the 2nd time in Martin Scorsese’s “The Color of Money”—a sequel to Robert Rossen’s classic 1961 “The Hustler”. In fact, “The Hustler” received nine Academy Award nominations that year, garnering two, as well as recognition as one of the year’s best films, along with noms for Newman, Piper Laurie, Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott(all failed to win). Almost no one finds “The Color of Money” superior to its predecessor, but it was obvious Oscar had decided Newman’s 7th Best Actor attempt was the one—finally winning the statue for Scorsese’s solid, but unremarkable, follow-up.

They couldn’t predict the future, but they could’ve anointed Newman for his 1994 performance in “Nobody’s Fool”. Everyone loved Paul in that, and he amassed honors from the National Society and New York Film Critics for his work. But, like it or not, that was the season of Tom Hanks iconic work in “Forrest Gump”, giving Hanks his 2nd Best Actor win in-a-row(after 1993’s “Philadelphia”). Newman would also get a Supporting Actor nomination, playing second fiddle to Mr. Hanks in 2002’s “Road to Perdition”, plus he grabbed an Honorary Oscar the year before winning, and later took the prestigious Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 1994 ceremony. So, 1986 should’ve been all about Hoskins—and I’m still bitter 28 years later. Especially after his untimely passing last week, from pneumonia, at the age of 71. Mr. Hoskins had announced his retirement from performing in 2012, after a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis the year before. That makes the tepid(but box office rich!)”Snow White and the Huntsman” his last official film role(as Muir the dwarf). But “Mona Lisa” was his crowning achievement, to almost everyone except the Academy, and anyone that considers themselves an admirer of exceptional movie performances should Netflix queue it now. Rest in peace, Mr. Hoskins! I’m forever indebted, for what you taught me in my youth!


4 comments on “Farewell, Bob Hoskins…you had me at “Mona Lisa”!

  1. Excellent tribute to a fine actor, I still can’t believe he’s gone.

  2. So right…we’ve lost a wonderful actor in Bob Hoskins!

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