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Versatile Brit 'a great actor and an even greater man'

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Bob Hoskins

MATT DUNHAM, FILE / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Bob Hoskins

LONDON -- British actor Bob Hoskins, whose varied career ranged from noir drama Mona Lisa to animated fantasy Who Framed Roger Rabbit has died aged 71.

A family statement released Wednesday by publicist Clair Dobbs said Hoskins died in a hospital after a bout of pneumonia. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2012.

A versatile character actor capable of menace, quiet poignancy and Cockney charm, Hoskins appeared in some of the most acclaimed British films of the past few decades, including gangster classic The Long Good Friday. His Hollywood roles included Mermaids and Hook.

Helen Mirren, who starred alongside Hoskins in The Long Good Friday, called him "a great actor and an even greater man. Funny, loyal, instinctive, hard-working, with that inimitable energy that seemed like a spectacular firework rocket just as it takes off."

"I personally will miss him very much, London will miss one of her best and most loving sons, and Britain will miss a man to be proud of," Mirren said.

Born in 1942 in eastern England, where his mother had moved to escape wartime bombing, Hoskins was raised in a working-class part of north London. He left school at 15, worked at odd jobs and claimed he got his break as an actor by accident -- while watching a friend audition, he was handed a script and asked to read.

"I got the lead in the play," Hoskins told the BBC in 1988. "I've never been out of work since."

Hoskins initially worked in theatre, but began getting television and film roles in the 1970s. He came to attention in Britain as star of Pennies from Heaven, Dennis Potter's 1978 TV miniseries about a Depression-era salesman whose imagination sprouts elaborate musical numbers.

His movie breakthrough came in 1980 thriller The Long Good Friday, playing an East End gangster hoping to profit from redevelopment of London's docks. It contained one of his most memorable speeches, a Cockney-accented dismissal of American culture: "What I'm looking for is someone who can contribute to what England has given to the world: culture, sophistication, genius. A little bit more than an 'ot dog, know what I mean?"

The film is ranked 21 in the British Film Institute's list of the top 100 British films of the 20th century.

His best-remembered Hollywood role was as a detective investigating cartoon crime in 1988 hit Who Framed Roger Rabbit, one of the first major movies to meld animation and live action.

His last role was as one of the seven dwarves in Snow White & The Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 1, 2014 C6

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